Panning: Auto Racing and a New Experience

I am a memeber of a group here in Miami aptly named...  "Shoot Miami".  Anyway, they were invited by FARA Racing to come and photograph a FARA Race this past Sunday (8/29/2010).  I decided to go and give it a try but with no experience it took me an hour or so to really understand what I was doing.  When cars race by at 100+  mph or so they can be difficult to capture and still have a sense of movement.  You could raise your shutter speed up to 1/1000 or 1/2000 sure and have a nice crisp image.  The issue with that of course is if you do that the car that is racing by actually looks like it is setting in a parking lot.  That is not the point of auto racing photography.

I finally settled on a shutter speed of about 1/160 to 1/200 in order to get the desired effect.  There is a technique in photography called panning and it is where you follow your subject with your camera, press the shutter button and follow on through.  This shows a blurred (moving) background but the subject maintains sharpness.  No, these images are not overly artistic but they accomplish what is intended.  The background is blured, the tires look like they are spinning and the cars are in focus. 

If you decided to do something like this understand that trial and error will be the norm until you get the hang of it all.