Catching that Moving Target

This is one of the thousands of seagull inhabitants of Mono Lake in central California which I photographed a few summers ago. I pulled up this photo as I was assembling samples of “panning” to show my photography students.

Panning is a technique where one tracks (with the camera) a moving subject at the same speed it is travelling, rather than being stationary and waiting to “catch’ the moving object as it comes into range.

By following the motion at the exact same speed, one can record the subject with full clarity, while at the same time showing movement in the background. This can produce a way more interesting photograph on many levels. Because the subject is clear and the background is blurry, the subject separates out from the background and appears more three-dimensional than if the background is clear too. It is also visually more interesting because motion, speed and the passage of time is captured within the image.

It takes practice to perfect, but is a useful skill to have. The auto-focus should be set to “AI Servo” or “continuous,” so that the camera will continuously re-focus (as long as the shutter button is depressed part way) as the subject moves along.

Image registered with U.S. Office of Copyright. Any use requires licensing from Martha Lochert.

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