Panning in Shibuya!

Panning is a hypothetically simple photography technique to show the fast motion of a subject and bring out the subject from other elements. It can be achieved by rotating the camera horizontally and shooting with low exposure length.

What you should master in with trial and error is two things:

1-    Adjusting your exposure length (shutter speed) based on the speed of the subject, your distance from the subject, and your lens focal length.

2-    You should also adjust the camera rotation speed properly based on the same attributes. The suggestion here is to start moving your camera with the subject for a while to get synchronized withe the subject speed and then start shooting.

Applying the technique on fast steady subjects like a car or a bike or even a fast skier is not too difficult, because even with a short exposure length (e.g. 1/100 sec or higher speed) you can have a blurred background and a smooth moving subject. Here is one of the shots I have tried on a snowboarder:


The technique becomes more difficult when the subject moves slowly. In this case you need a longer exposure length (sometimes 1/10 sec or even lower speed) and the probability to get a jerky subject will be higher. In my recent trip to Japan, Shibuya scramlble crossing was an ideal lab to try panning on the slow and erratic moving subjects. It is literally the world busiest crossing and when the light gets green for pedestrian, hundreds of people start crossing in different directions. So with a friend we stayed almost 1.5 hour in the crossing and tried the panning technique. It was so much fun and of course among many shots I tried just some of them became acceptable. When I was targeting a person, suddenly he/she would go faster or if she was running suddenly would stop. So here you need the third criteria to take a good photo besides the two mentioned ones: Chance!

Here are some of the shots:




And definitely my favorite shot:



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