Action/Panning Photos...Wider Aperture=Better?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by MGriff240, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. MGriff240

    MGriff240 TPF Noob!

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    Well I've been involved in drifting for the last year or so, and now that I'm decent with a camera I've been able to get on-track. My first event a few weeks ago was definitely an eye-opener for me...I basically learned how to pan on-the-spot.

    I talked to a respected photographer in the sport and he stressed getting a f/2.8 lens to help speed up the focus of the lens. Would the 2.8 really make THAT much of a difference over a 4 or 5?

    Here's the best two shots I've been able to get with my 55-200 f/4-5.6.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That second shot is really good, especially for a first timer effort.

    For panning, any lens will do. A wide aperture is not necessary at all, usually you will end up around f8-f11 depending on lighting. You want to use shutter priority and set it to your desired shutter speed, something like 1/100, and let the camera decide the aperture. Depth of field is irrelevant since you're blurring the background anyway, but it helps to have a good DOF from a narrower aperture so you can keep the car in focus more easily.

    A lens with IS/VR mode 2 is very helpful for panning as it will eliminate up/down vibrations and let you pan freely in the left/right direction.

    The times when a f2.8 lens will help is if you're trying to get an action shot at fast shutter speed to show something like g-forces during fast cornering or a wheel lifting off, or just general racing shots. Panning is great but you don't want all your shots to be pans or it will look a bit old pretty quick.
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think depth of field does have an impact on the look of the photos. In your second shot, you have an excellent bit of smoke from the rear tire,and beautiful blurring of the wheels, and a nice shutter speed that makes the background nicely blurred with the panning...BUT that red-roofed shed and the yellow shed are kind of distracting. The photo would look much different if the background were much more outside the depth of field band--but that is tough to do a 1.5x body and slower-aperture consumer lenses where you are shooting in the f/8 aperture range. If the second photo had been shot with say, a 300mm lens at f/4.5, the background would be more out of focus. But with consumer-type lenses like the 55-200mm or 70-300 or 80-400 lenses, at longer distances like 50 meters, the lenses have maximum apertures like f/5.6 or so, and to get slower shutter speeds, you need to drop the aperture down to f/8,and then you've got a lot of depth of field. Using a longer lens focal length will make the background angle *narrower* than shooting from closer distance with a wider angle lens, so using your 80-400 in the 300 to 400mm zone would give a different degree of background; the ability to control the width of the background is one of the main benefits of the long tele-zooms like the 70-300 and 80-400mm lenses.

    I think the best panning shots I have seen have almost all been done with VR or IS lenses, which eliminate up-and-down camera movement, and keep the image stabilized at slower panning speeds. My preference is toward the more-blurred panning style rather than the faster,crisper look. There are a lot of factors, but basically it boils down to image magnification and shutter speed,as well as the angle of the movement in relation to the camera. The bigger the car, the faster the speed needs to be to stop blurring, and the more at right-angles the movement is, the faster the speed is needed to prevent excessive blurring.

    You might have to resort to a neutral density filter (or a polarizer) to get speeds slow enough to get you into the more impressionistic blurred panning range--that is, if you want to try that type of style. Everybody has their own preferences. I really love that burning rubber in that second photo--that totally makes that shot!
     
  4. MGriff240

    MGriff240 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the input guys.

    I didn't think that aperture would play much of a role in the shots when I'm stopping down to around 8-10 anyway, but thanks for clearing that up.

    As for the Image Stabilization...My 55-200 doesn't have it (it's the budget Nikkor) and my 80-400's OS is screwed up so I can't use that. With the 55, I've just been getting into a really stable stance and holding my breath. :lol:

    Derrel, you're saying that shooting from further away with a greater focal length will give me a shallower DOF? That's what I ultimately want to go for; Crisp focus on the car, creamy blur in the background.
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    That's not quite what I was getting at. I was suggesting that you might try using a longer focal length lens. At long distances, depth of field is quite deep. So it is difficult to heavily defocus the background at longer shooting distances, especially with shorter focal length lenses used at smaller apertures like f/8 to f/11, on small-sensor cameras like APS-C d-slrs. What I was suggesting is that using a longer focal length gives a narrower angle of view *behind* the foreground subject. You can get the same-sized car in the foreground from 40 meters with a 200mm lens, or from 80 meters with a 400mm lens, but with the 400mm lens shot, the background will be narrower in angle than with the shorter, wider-angle lens.

    The background will also tend to be a bit more out of focus, due to a strange phenomenon regarding the absolute SIZE of the aperture hole in a longer lens as opposed to a shorter lens. This is under the heading of background blur, and not depth of field. A lot of people will argue this point, but a longer lens, like a 400mm lens at f/8 has an actual aperture width of 50mm at f/8; at 100mm, the f/8 value (the f/8 ratio of width to focal length) is an aperture size measuring 12.5mm across. With the SAME-sized foreground object, ie the same-sized automobile in the foreground, using a long telephoto lens the background will be 1) narrower in degrees of angle shown on the final picture and 2) MORE-blurred. Many beginners will argue this point vehemently, but here's proof.

    Bokeh and Background Blur - Bob Atkins Photography

    Note: ALL the shots have the same,exact foreground image size, and ALL shots were made at the f/2.8 f/stop, but on lenses of 50,85,and 135mm lengths. The relative aperture is f/2.8 in every photo, but the actual WIDTH of the f/2.8 f/stop grows larger as focal length goes up, so the photos were made with 17.8mm aperture with the 50mm lens, 30.4mm with the 85mm lens, and 48.2mm with the 135mm lens. So...it's not too much of a surprise why sports shooters gravitate to 300,400,and 600mm telephotos; they give better foreground/background separation and produce more-blurred and narrower-angle of view behind the subjects. I got into a rather involved on-line argument with a fellow about this subject some time back; people really ought to look at Mr. Atkins' example photos here and see for themselves how pronounced this background blur and angle of view effect is. This sample is worth looking at.
     
  6. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Darrell's correct. In practical terms, besides what Darrell has explained, an f2.8 lens will give you a couple of things, if you want/need them. The ability to shoot in lower light levels and/or the potential ability to freeze the vehicle more. From the size of the photos posted it is hard for me to tell if the wheel motion is frozen completely.

    It all depends on the look that you want to achieve.
     
  7. MGriff240

    MGriff240 TPF Noob!

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    That Bob Atkin's link is simply awesome. Thanks for the explanation, I'm pretty sure I understand the concept.
     
  8. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Are you talking about the OP's shots? Because if so, then the wheels are clearly not frozen...
     
  9. MGriff240

    MGriff240 TPF Noob!

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    And that's the point. :mrgreen:
     
  10. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The other thing is that the 2.8 lens will be a better quality lens over all (the faster lenses tend to be), which means the autofocus will almost certainly be quicker too - irrespective of the actual aperture you have the lens set to.
     

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