Thursday, August 18, 2016

Photographing cycling in the velodrome - lots of motion panning here!

Remember yesterday when I wrote that time moves at a different pace here at the Olympics? Well, I was just about to write that I was at the velodrome yesterday, and I just looked at the folder date and it was four days ago. Holy cow! It all bleeds into one really long "day".

So...four days ago, I made a quick visit to the velodrome. I was with a friend, coming back from a different event, and we decided to drop in and check out the venue. Even though he did not have photographer credentials and could not join me in the shooting area, I really wanted to take some shots, so I asked if he minded if I shot for 15 or 20 minutes. And knowing that I could not resist taking photos, he graciously stood by and let me do my thing.


This first shot was taken with the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens. I was standing right at the edge of the track, and wanted to give you all a wide view of the inside of this place. Whats better than a fish eye lens to do that?


I also took a couple of shots leaning over the railing with the fish eye lens. I was at ISO 2000 at f/5.6 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second. This is all fine and good, but it does not show the motion or speed of the riders.



Since I had photographed at a velodrome once before (at the London Olympics), I knew that the best shots here would be taken at a slower shutter speed and panning the lens with the riders, therefore showing the motion. So I put on my Canon 70-200mm lens on the Canon1D X Mark II and grabbed this shot.  It is cool, but I needed them on a turn to create a more pleasing composition.


Once again, I switched lenses, this time going to the Canon 24-70mm lens and shot some images to figure out the composition I wanted. This shot gave me what I wanted from the symmetry, but as you can see, I was testing at a fast shutter speed and freezing the action once again. Now that I got the look I wanted, it was time to slow it down.


I set the camera to an ISO of 125 and an aperture of f/7.1. I also set the camera to an exposure comp of +.3 to brighten the image a bit. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second. I then followed the riders as they made the turn and fired off a bunch of shots as I panned with leader of the pack. Compare this to the previous image and see how much more dramatic it is.


Using the slow settings, I did still follow them out of the turn nearest me, onto the straight-away. I have always loved how motion panning blurs the crowd and everything else, other than my subjects.


Now...those darned photographers on the track are less of a distraction, since they are blurred.


The other cool effect of motion panning is that usually only one of your subjects will be tack sharp, and the others will fall way out of focus. In this photo, I was actually a little off, as the front tire of the leader is perfectly sharp, but I wanted the sharpness on his helmet.


Motion panning is not an easy technique, as the lens of my camera has to be moving at the EXACT same speed as the rider to get the shot. I probably took 200 shots to get the nine that you see here.


I like this image, but once again I was sharper on the tires than the riders.


After a little more patience and practice, I got the shot. Tack sharp on the upper portion of the rider with motion everywhere else. But this was still a little tighter than I wanted.


This last shot was what I was striving for. The leader of the pack is nice and sharp, with everyone else showing motion. Fun stuff!

Next time you are photographing someone on a bike, or you are standing on a street corner with your camera, try slowing you shutter down and creating motion. With a little bit of practice, you too will get a really cool shot.

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6 comments:

Sam Barker said...

That takes some serious skill. Amazing shots!

Steve McClanahan said...

Jeff, I love it! I'm a huge fan of motion blur and I credit you for making it a part of my photography. I used your bobsledding motion blur tips (from Sochi) to capture moving cyclists and cable cars here in SF.

Jeff said...

I especially like some of the shots where you were panning so the crowd and bystanders are more blurred than the bikers! These are seriously wonderful photos.

John said...

Thank you for this, I'm (hopefully, and waiting on press credentials) shooting at a track in Canada for the nationals, going to be my first time in a velodrome and I'm glad I was right on my choices of glass.

Did you find the 200 too short at any time?

Jeff Cable said...

John - if you want to shoot tighter on the riders when they are away from you, you will need more than 200mm. I find the best shots are with them coming at you and lust passing you.

Alexas Heals said...

Wonderful shots.Thanks for sharing this.Its a very nice post and informative post.Keep it up.