Shooting Challenge: Isolated Motion Blur

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Isolated Motion Blur

When you don't want blur, it's the worst. But when you can control it—even isolate it in the frame—blur can be beautiful. For this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll capture a clear subject in a world of motion blur.


The Challenge

Capture a sharp moving subject surrounded by blur.

The Technique

This is true photographic technique. It's not just about setting the right shutter speed (though don't set that too fast, or it won't work!). To capture a moving target with a backdrop of blur, you'll need to pan your camera in real time while shooting bursts. The idea is to match your subject's speed with your own movement.

Read more on how to do that here or here. But ignore some of the tips, as we're only interested in sharp moving subjects and blurred backgrounds. (So no cheats by just having a person stand still in traffic or something.)

The Example

Our lead shot is by flickr's Robert S. Donovan. It's actually not a perfect example of the technique. It's what happens when you're 90% of the way there with your pan. (The subject is sharper than the background, but still not perfectly sharp.) It's also possible that the shutter speed was a touch too slow. The payoff is so much better when you keep shooting until you capture the 100% perfect shot. Be patient. Push through. You'll get it.

The Rules

0. No watermarks. They're so ugly.
1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, September 17th at 10AM Eastern to with "Motion" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameOne.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameMotionWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!


I love this technique but I don't get to do it a lot. Here's one I shot last winter on my walk to work.