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Context

I live in the suburbs and don't have a great place to catch vehicles going fast (20-30mph fast for a short distance but until they stop), due to the amount of nearby stop signs. There is no airports close by.

Question

I want to improve my airshow photo shooting skills but they aren't many more for the end of this year. I want to practice panning shots but don't have a great area for it locally. Is there anything I can do to practice for it, or will I just have to try it on cars and slower vehicles?

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  • Are there any birds where you live? – osullic Oct 12 '15 at 7:58
  • Only a few. How would I go about panning with birds that seem to move randomly? – unsignedzero Oct 12 '15 at 17:50
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I used to live in a large city suburb and over time found some very interesting subjects to practice panning.

I appreciate that these subjects are not high speed planes, but with the challenges of a suburban area, may provide some benefit and improvement for your next visit to an airshow or motoring event.

  1. Skateboarders, Roller skaters and Roller bladers in the local park.
  2. My kids, nephews and nieces in the playground - The Slide, Seesaw, Merry-go-round, swingset and jumping castles.
  3. Local fairgrounds are an awesome place to pan with all the various rides all lit up during the night .
  4. Cyclist are a brilliant subject when panning.
  5. Motorcycles are generally a nice and small but fast enough to pan.
  6. Dogs in the park in the evenings are awesome to pan when their owners throw the balls for them to catch.
  7. Local basketball courts can be fun.
  8. Getting a kid to run around with a party handheld windmill.
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Panning isn't so much about how fast, in terms of feet-per-second or miles-per-hour, your subject is moving. It is more about how many angular degrees per second your subject moves relative to the axis of rotation of your camera. A car moving at 20-30 mph will move the same angular distance per second as a plane moving at 200-300 mph if it is 1/10 as far from your camera as the plane is. So get closer to the street if need be and use the same lens you want to use at the air show. So what if the entire car is not in the picture? Just pick a certain part, like a door handle for example, and pan on it.

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You might want to try a racetrack. The cars move fast and predictable (usually at least ;-) which makes panning practice easier. If you can't get a sharp shot, try to zoom out a little.

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