Tracking Motion


During a photography workshop, the task was to capture motion.The particular style that was focused on for this workshop was freezing the object moving, such as a bike and blurring the background to create lines that represent the movement.  

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Capturing fast paced movement is an area that I find to be a large weakness, but this is something that must be improved upon in order to capture effective action wildlife photographs. During a gallery visit in December, I viewed a gallery by an inspirational wildlife photographer, Sue Flood. She had captured birds jumping into the water and other animals in motion that I found very interesting to view. I knew this was something I had to learn in order to capture detailed images of the moving animal, therefore this workshop was particularly beneficial to me.

The technique was to blur the background but keep the subject in focus. This was done by tracking the subjects from one side to the other as they went past. I used this method with cars going past in Wrexham. A slow shutter was used at 1/40 to blur the background, with an aperture of f8 to create a shallow depth of field and the ISO was set to 400 due to the lighting being cloudy and dark.

Emotional Response

I was excited to learn this technique as I was already planning on practising but being part of a workshop made it much easier to learn. I understood the concept but at first, when I began practising I found it difficult follow the cars without being too slow. This became frustrating as I then became too fast when tracking the cars. However, I knew that it was not something that could be done immediately, and tried to remain patient.

I was worried that I would not be able to develop the skills of tracking the cars at the correct speed to get the car in the frame and follow at a consistent pace for the lens to be able to keep the car in focus. Before this workshop, I experimented at home using a dog running past instead. I became disheartened when I could not get any of the shots in focus. Although after continuously trying for a few hours during the workshop I began to see improvements.

When I saw the first image that had captured the car in focus with motion blur in the background I felt very satisfied and relieved. This then motivated me to carry on which led to more shots that were successful.

The feeling of achievement was extremely motivating, which then created excitement with the possibilities with other subjects, such as race horses and how the images will appear after much more practice.

Looking back I think that this was a fun experience that is exciting. I feel that the images could be improved, but I understand that this will come with practice. I found the cars, not the most interesting as they were mundane vehicles, but if I went to an event with more interesting subjects, such as motorcycle and horse racing it would be much more satisfying to capture them in motion and more appealing to view in the final images.


A positive that came out of the workshop was that I have been able to learn a new skill that will be highly useful for wildlife photography. My target was to begin learning how to capture successful fast paced movements, which this has enabled me to do.

From this, I have improved my tracking skills. I am able to follow the cars much easier and successfully than when I first began. I have begun to follow at a consistent pace with the cars, having much more control than I previously did. With more practice, I will be able to naturally follow a variety of fast moving objects that can be applied to a wide range of situations, such as sports and wildlife.

Another positive experience was that there was no one from the public that had any issues. I was unsure to how the people in the cars and others walking past would react to myself and the rest of the class taking pictures. Only some noticed the camera and looked in my direction, but that was the only interaction they had. It is always a concern that people will not react in a polite manner when realising pictures are being taken, but this time it was successful. To try to avoid any issues from the public I should wear my university card on display so that the public are aware that I am studying the photography. I will also be aware of what the people are doing and how close I am, ensuring I do not invade personal space and break privacy regulations. I would especially ensure that the camera is not directed at anyone’s house, which could lead to them believing I am invading their household space.

A negative was that the method was difficult to achieve sharp cars with a heavily blurred background. The more I practiced resulted in better outcomes, which I think is how the problem will be resolved. More practice will gain more experience and skill with capturing the speed of the cars with a slow shutter. The camera had to be set to a slow shutter in order to create the motion lines in the background. The camera would lock onto the car when focused and keep it in focus as you track the movement. However, if you do not follow the car very well then the camera can lose focus, which I think happened with many of my images. I will continue to experiment and practice this technique to get used to the motion and produce better outcomes.

Another issue I found was the low lighting. In order to compensate for the cloudy day, I had to raise the ISO to 400 and take pictures of lighter shaded cars to ensure they are not underexposed. I found after editing, much noise was featured, which I am not happy with. I did not want to use a larger aperture because I wanted the whole car to be in focus. The shutter speed was f40, but I could have possibly used an even slower shutter which would allow more light to enter the lens which would resolve the issue.


The theory behind capturing method blur consists of the camera settings control of the camera from the photographer. There are various ways to capture motion that have different effects. To understand the technique I used in this workshop I was provided with written articles explaining how to achieve the desired effect The documents showed examples of camera settings that were used to capture motion blur with a sharp subject. The white balance was set to Auto so that the photographer does not have to concentrate on any light changes whilst taking the pictures. The shutter was slow, starting from f40 and the iso varied depending on the lighting of the location. Spot metering was used in the examples so that the camera would focus on the moving subject and servo was set so that multiple shots could be taken continuously.

The research I set my camera to match the settings in the article. After becoming more used to the technique I then began to experiment, such as I made the shutter f30 in order to try to create more motion blur. I kept the other settings the same as the article as I thought that it worked well during the time of the shooting. The article helped me understand the fundamentals in achieving successful action shots. I found it very helpful and made the process easier and faster to find the correct settings for the occasion.


From this experience, I was able to learn a valuable technique that I intended to learn for wildlife photography. I think for a first try it went successfully and will continue to practice in order to improve the quality of the images. I think the main issue that could have been improved was to focus on the tracking of the cars more so that I keep a steady pace that would allow the camera to focus on the moving car. Many Images were blurred, but with practice, I think better tracking that is not too fast or slow will improve this problem.

To improve the experience I would change the location to somewhere that had more interesting subjects. The cars were not interesting to photograph, however,  I was focusing on the technique, instead of thinking of what the viewers would like to view in an image. Although, next time I would choose something that was more appealing, such as sports cars, sports activities or animals. This will allow me to have another chance to improve the technique but also capture interesting subjects that would make the experience much more enjoyable.


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