When you think of photographing a fast moving subject the first thing you probably think about is a fast shutter speed. The faster the subject, the faster shutter speed you need. But have you ever gone the other way with it? Remember that when you are photographing an event, you are also telling a story and one great method for telling the story of a fast moving subject is through the use of panning. The pan shot has been around for decades and is ideal for subjects that move directly across your path. It’s not a guaranteed winner every time but with some practice, you can get a shot that will freeze the subject enough while blurring the moving background behind them and convey their movement and speed to the viewer. Favorite subject for this technique are cars, motorcycles, cyclists, etc.
You can also get good results from things like horse races or even a baseball player running down the baseline.
The actual act of capturing a panning shot is pretty simple. Set your camera to shutter priority (that’s Tv mode for you Canon users) and then start with a fairly slow shutter speed like 1/30 of a second. Set your camera’s drive mode to continuous and your auto focus to continuous. As the subject of your photo starts to approach, lock them in with the focus (usually by pressing the shutter release half way). Once they are close, start shooting as you follow them with your lens. Once they are past you, stop shooting and then evaluate your shots. Depending on the speed of your subject you will most likely need to make an adjustment to your shutter speed. Just remember to follow the subject across your path as smoothly as you can and try to follow through with your shots, don’t just stop once they are slightly past you. The follow-thru will help keep the panning motion smooth. With a little practice you will be telling your story in a whole new way.