Class at Fairmount Park

My students try to capture me on camera as I whiz by on the Razor scooter at Fairmount Park, Riverside.Photograph by Brian Stoa or is it Bryce?

My photography class met at Fairmount Park Tuesday morning.

I hope I don’t speak for myself. It was great to get out of the modular classroom. In fact when the weather cools off more, I’m planning on more field trips. Photography is best taught hands-on.

Lectures and powerpoint presentations, no matter how well done, get old.

I had 2 concepts which I wanted to teach.

  • Depth-of-field control
  • Panning the camera to convey motion


This first exercise was simple enough.

  1. Find a suitable subject with camera on tripod, focus on one subject in the foreground with widest aperture.
  2. Then without re-focusing the lens, take the same picture by setting the smallest aperture of the lens compensating by lowering the shutter speed to get the equivalent exposure.

Here’s are 2 sets of pictures from my students. These 1st set is from Ellie.


Ellie used my Canon 40D and a 50 mm lens with the camera on tripod. Exposure iso 100


Exposure iso 100, 1/2 sec f22. Numerical values for shutter speeds and apertures are actually reciprocals, so f22 is the smallest opening. It yields the greatest depth-of-field

Exposure iso 100, 1/500 sec f1.4. Conversely, f 1.4 is the widest aperture on the lens and it yields the shallowest depth-of-field.

Next 2 pictures are from Tony. He placed his cellphone on a handrail, focused the lens on it and set the camera on the tripod.

The great depth-of-field is achieved by taking the 1st picture with a small aperture f22


Leaving the lens focused at the same spot, Tony took this 2nd picture with a wide open aperture, compensating by using a faster shutter speed.


Camera handling: panning with action

While we huddled in the shadows to work on panning, we got some passersby who were actually quite happy to ride back and forth for us.

Even one of Riverside’s finest cruised by.

Here’s the gist of what we did.

Ellie, who had my camera, panned the cruiser as it passed.
We set up on this pathway under the trees.

Ellie’s exposure for the panning picture of Edwin and me was iso 100 1/10 sec f 16

There were 2 possible angles to take the picture.

Pretty quickly everyone figured out that facing south was better than north because of the background.


Here’s what I mean.

I walked with Edwin on the scooter.

The lake in the background was so much brighter, it took away from “us” the subject of the picture.

Compare that to the pictures of me taken by Jessica and Ellie.

Jessica framed me as a vertical.

Ellie gave me room on the right to “move into.”

I’ll let you decide which composition you prefer.

On the above picture, according to the metadata, Ellie exposed at 1/20 sec @ f9.5


Notice how just by changing the “position we shoot from,” the picture is made better.

The subject just pops out because of the darker background.

The weather didn’t cooperate that day. Next field trip we take, I’ll see if we can tackle stopping action.

The Razor scooter doesn’t go fast enough plus freezing someone going by on a scooter doesn’t produce great pictures unless they’re flying off ramps and making dangerous X-Games style jumps.

How to Pan

Why pan instead of freezing the motion?

Most common reason: a creative way to convey motion.

Here’s another reason–one that is practical. You’re in a dark place, like a gym, and you’ve set your camera to its maximum ISO 1600? Your shutter speeds to get a good exposure is so low, you have no choice but to shoot at 1/30 sec with your widest aperture.

Manually focus, compose your picture so that your subject is off-center. If he is moving left to right, place him on the left. Give him room to move into. As you look into the viewfinder, follow the motion of your subject, in this case left to right. How fast or quickly you move with the motion depends on the speed of your subject.

You want to keep the same rate so that your subject remains in the same spot in the viewfinder. Release the shutter when you see your subject about a third into the viewfinder and continue to follow through. Your “following through” motion is important because that gives you the blurring of the background.

In the picture above, I used an 80-200 zoom lens at the 200 mm focal length setting, exposed at ISO 100 1/60 sec @ f16. Finding a vantage point that was higher and shooting down gave me a seamless green background without the usual clutter. Since this was for a dressage event, I had plenty of opportunity to get the perfect pan as riders were passing the same obstacle over and over again.

5 thoughts on “Class at Fairmount Park”

  1. I got an honorable mention! Being used as an example bad or good is a great honor. This blog was so much fun to read because it reminded me of everything that we learned like a review sheet or summary of our experience. These blogs are going in scrapbook.

  2. You mean the look of terror before I crashed QuaChee? We’re planning on meeting at the park again next Tuesday, I’ll be posting more. I’m toying with the idea of adding video. We’ll see.

  3. Next time we try this at the park, hopefully the temperatures won’t be so high. For October, I can’t believe we’re still in the 30ËšC.

    Must be raining in KL. I read there was a lot of flooding in Penang. Enjoy the Raya cakes, Ron!

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