People always talk about creating a story with your photography, and when someone views your images they should be able to feel the atmosphere and emotions of what was going on when you took the image. One of the best ways of creating this through your photography is to use the slow shutter/panning technique. I’m sure we have all tried to take photos at night that all turn out to be blurry, well that’s because of the lack of light that your camera’s shutter has to stay open for longer to allow more light onto the sensor. Well, with the panning technique you use the same principal, just deliberately and with purpose.
This is usually performed best on a late afternoon drive where the sun is starting to set and you are unable to bag those perfectly crisp shots without pushing your ISO up to 4000 and running the risk of noisy photos. If you take a look at the image above, you can still clearly tell that the subject is a Jackal, but it gives you a different type of image to the countless others that you may have of a Jackal. The technique is very simple, and involves using a smaller aperture. As most wildlife photographers shoot in Aperture Priority (AV on Canon cameras) to control the depth of field, you can use a small aperture, or large F stop, to reduce the amount of light coming through your lens. A small aperture would be around f11, f16, f22 and would depend on the amount of light available, as well as the effect that you are trying to create. As the above image was taken during midday, the aperture had to be very small in order to restrict as much light as possible to get a small enough shutter speed to create this effect, and was thus shot at f25 to give an exposure of 1/40s. This particular image was taken with the Canon 100-400L lens, which in my opinion is one of the best wildlife lenses out there as it gives you such a wide spectrum of focal lengths to create different types of images with only 1 lens. This lens can be found here on the CameraHub website.
The best way to still keep your image as sharp and clear as possible is to focus on the part of the animal that has the least amount of up and down movement. This is the shoulder, as the shoulder generally moves along on the same level pane, giving you a good focal point to lock onto. The second crucial factor to keeping a sharp image is to pan across along with the animal at the same speed that the animal is moving. This way you are not moving too fast or too slow, and able to maintain a well focused image. As always, the best way to learn new techniques is to put it into practice! Even if it’s with your dog or child in the backyard, you can still put the same principals to the test.