Special Effects

We’ve been having some unusually nice weather for November, so I’ve been taking advantage of the extra time outdoors by working on some cool-looking techniques. I kinda-sorta like the results, but they’re not for everyone, especially those who are prone to motion sickness.

The first technique is panning. I gave it a try after reading this tutorial back in August – I had the perfect subject (the bicycle leg of a triathlon), but when I got the camera home, I was pretty dissatisfied with the results. At that point I was ruthless about deleting unwanted pictures, which in general isn’t a bad thing, but now I’m wondering if the shots were as bad as all that.

I gave it another try – with cars this time – in mid-October, and liked one of the shots pretty well (except I would have chosen a better car to be featured.) I liked the background even better.

Panning car

Vroom Vroom Vroom

The panning technique is meant to give a feel of motion. Basically, you get it by choosing a slow shutter speed, focusing on the subject, following it with the camera, and choosing an opportune moment to click the shutter while still following the subject. Here’s another one I took yesterday – the car is somewhat more representative of Ithaca, and there’s a waterfall in the background that you can’t really see because of the motion blur.

Panning Car

Lookin' cool in those shades

The next technique is zoom burst. I first read about it in blogger buddy Prantik’s blog last spring, and then read this tutorial. This morning I went out, tripod in hand, specifically to give this effect a try.

Egg-statue with zoom burst

The aliens have landed

For zoom burst, you use a slow shutter speed (again), stabilize and focus the camera, and zoom out while the shutter is open. Stopping the zoom at a different focal length, and giving it a little time there, gives a two-sized appearance reminiscent of the 70’s school portraits with the extra heads.


Just not feeling good

I think the panning technique could be used to good effect by taking out the background and forcing the viewer to only focus on the moving object. The zoom burst – um – is really all about the technique, but it’s fun to do anyway.



  1. I like the last image of your zoom burst. I gave this technique a try before but wasn’t as successful as yours and I felt like I abused the lens too much.

  2. These shots are why I want an SLR. Can’t afford one right now. Retired. Limited funds and all that. I do all my photography using a cheapo little, low-end Sony Cyber-shot camera. Nevertheless, I’ve tried panning shots, so far haven’t gotten anything I’d want to share in public.

    When I do one day get that camera, I’ll be back to learn some of this fascinating stuff from your blog.

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