Studying Motion at Milestone Mx1


Edgar Lano used a zoom set at 100mm and an exposure of 1/60 sec @ f20, ISO 400 to pan this youngster

In the all-important basic lesson about studying motion and shutter speeds, we met at a Milestone Mx—a dirt bike riding track.

Stopping action is simply using a fast shutter speed, timing when to release the shutter and picking a peak action moment.


Peak action captured by Esmeralda at a place like Milestone Mx requires careful selection of camera angles to eliminate cluttered backgrounds and distractions like powerlines. ISO 100 1/500 sec @ f5.6.

Panning is a little trickier.

But Milestone Mx is excellent not just because the dirt bike riders love the attention, but there are varying levels of skills.

The more skillful ones will actually "hotdog it" or show off for folks with cameras

The riders  just go around and around the track in the same direction pretty much predictably along the same path.

That means my lots of chances great for practicing.


So how exactly does panning work?

Generally speaking if you’re using a lens about 100 mm , you want a shutter speed of 1/60 sec as a starting point. At that shutter speed, your aperture might be at least f16 or even smaller f22 if it’s sunny out and you’re at ISO 100.

The idea is to intentionally choose a lower shutter speed so that when you move the camera in the same direction as your moving bike rider during the exposure, the background will be blurry from the motion.

All that remains then is for you to adjust your follow-through-motion (left to right or vice-versa) to keep the dirt bike rider in the same spot on in your viewfinder.

It sounds simple enough but here are some variables to consider.

If you want to accentuate the blurriness of the background, the longer the focal length, the more the blur.

So if you shoot 1/60 f11 with a 50 mm lens, the background won’t appear so blurry as if you shot with say a 100 mm or 80 mm.

Milestone Mx

A selection of pictures from Milestone Mx fieldtrip

4 thoughts on “Studying Motion at Milestone Mx1”

  1. Andy,
    Thanks again for your contribution. Most of my students don’t even own a flash outside of that pop-up “crab’s eye” on their camera, so I have to dispense with the use of flash.

    Besides at this stage, I would rather they wrap their heads around the idea of finding uncluttered backgrounds.

    Using on-camera flash at max sync speed in my mind creates another set of problems.

    The shadow from on-camera flash tends to make the scene unnatural because the shadow it casts is so distinct.

    It might be better to move that flash off-camera and still pan with a slow shutter speed and still make it appear natural looking.

    Here’s what I had in mind:

    Flash off to the right. 1/60 sec @ f 16. The light under the tree was ugly and spotty but the off-camera flash evened out the lighting.

  2. Interesting. Some of the gang nailed it on several of the jump shots, but they could have easily gone up to sync speed and filled with a flash at full zoom or with an extender. It’s a good lesson in clean backgrounds too. Even if you’re panning your brains out, a trailer or 20 cars will still show up.

    Now…send ’em out in the woods with dappled shade, limited shooting lanes, chiggers, spiders, snakes, poison oak/ivy, and flying rocks. That’s where the real action is!! =0)

    I try to run at f5.6 and sync at 1/250th. I’ve found that anything wider open than 5.6 and the USM motor can’t seem track focus and you wind up with a lot of stinkers. (Think Lightroom and the X key) Of course, it goes without saying that you have to then work around the ambient stuff to avoid ghosting and then 10 more things can go wrong, but it’s beautiful when everything works.

    Mark Kariya and Shan Moore are great in the woods.

  3. Job well done, Peter. Your well directed guidance to your students are giving good results in their photo technics – fantastic panning photos. Congratulations to you and to them.

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