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I'm shooting photos for Peletonia (outdoor cycling event) using a Canon Rebel T3. How can I get the best results? Are there particular settings that are important?

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    What kind of location will you be able to get (distance, how clear will your view be), will they be coming at you, or across your field of view, and what kind of len(s) do you have to shoot with? – Linwood Aug 4 '17 at 20:21
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    @dmkonlinux I didn't downvote, but I think there are probably three factors. First, the site's standards have gone up significantly since 2011. Second, those questions at least ask how to do it, whereas this question asks for "settings". That might sound like a minor difference, but... there's not really magic settings that give "best results". And third, originally, this didn't even have the word "question" spelled correctly, which... come on. There are plenty of things which could be improved, making this question and the site in general more useful to everyone. – Please Read Profile Aug 5 '17 at 5:20
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    OK thank you for answering @mattdm, as a fairly new user myself it can be disheartening to see a question down voted without guidance and I just wanted to understand better. To ask for magic settings might seem a bit newbie and broad but sometimes the succinct can be easier to follow for beginners than the verbose, but I see how the question is not quite in the style of the site. – dmkonlinux Aug 5 '17 at 5:41
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Rule no 1

You need to track the motion with the camera, it will help composition and make your shots sharper even at faster shutter speeds.

Shutter speed

To somewhat freeze a speeding cyclist, you need a shutter speed of 1/500 s to 1/1000 s. Maybe less if they are driving towards you. Fast shutter speed cyclist (lumia 1020 cell phone, 1/1083 s, 25 mm equivalent) This is in a corner, after an uphill, so his speed is less than average. And note that distance is about 2 meters.

To show motion, you can start at 1/100 s to 1/50 s, chimp, and adjust to taste. Mid shutter speed cyclist pan (1/80 s, 93 mm equivalent)

When the cyclists are far from you, use a longish lens and follow the movement, then just click photos when the composition is right. Cyclists from afar (Nikon D90, 1/50 s, 30 mm equivalent) See an actual tele lens shot (300 mm equivalent).

When they are riding close past you, use a normal to wide angle lens. Now the panning movement becomes a fast throw. And targets at different distances have different apparent speeds, so you will always get something sharp in the shot, but everything is never sharp. This creates this kind of warp speed photos: Warp speeding cyclist (1/40 s, 42 mm equivalent)

Are you under or over following movement?

  • If the upper part of a wheel is sharper, you are over following.
  • If the lower part of a wheel is sharper, you are under following.

Three cyclists demonstrate motion tracking (1/125 s, 200 mm equivalent)

  • The first rider is closest to us, his apparent speed is largest, and his front wheel's lower part is sharper.
  • The last rider is farthest from us, so his apparent speed is lowest, and his front wheel's upper part is sharper.

Image Stabilization

If you have a pro lens with a dedicated setting for panning, use it. Most consumer zooms try to auto detect panning, it works well when tracking motion that is predictable and steady. But if the motion is mostly towards you, the camera motion is very slow and the automatic setting might freeze your pan (You get a blurred subject against a sharp background). In this case your only option is to turn the Stabilization off.

Also when the cyclists are driving close to you (the quick throw pan) the stabilization will not work properly, but the fast camera movement doesn't really need stabilization. In this case just switch it off.

Focusing

You have two options:

  • Use continuous auto focusing. Many sports photographers use the thumb button focusing.
  • Pre-focus at the place you want your subject in. This is especially handy when shooting motion blur in sunlight, so you are at f/22 to f/32, and depth of field is really large.

See more examples with exif data for example from my flickr albums: TS-Kortteliajot 2017 and TS-Kortteliajot 2016

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