View Full Version : Help a newbie - photographing moving cars, wide angles, day and night

04-08-2006, 12:15 AM
Howdy folks, I'm new both to this forum and to photography. Well to be honest I'm not really "into" photography, I just like taking pictures of important events to keep in my extensive photo library. Memories and all that :)

Anyway, in the past I have just used my friends cameras on auto mode and most of my photos come out ok - nothing spectacular but good enough. For my 21st birthday my parents got me my very first camera - a Panasonic DMC-LX1. I'm stoked with the camera, it's really nice quality, takes good shots and feels great. I've read the issues with the camera concerning noise, but I have kept the ISO setting to 80 or 100 and it's not too much of a problem for me anyway - I don't tend to view the photos at 100%, I just fit them to my monitor. I'm loving the 16:9 aspect ratio!

Anyway, my question is this. In a couple of weeks I'm going to a major rock 'n' roll festival and hot rod event here in New Zealand called the Whangamata Beach Hop. I'm wondering if anyone can give me some tips on taking top quality photos for the event, which is always the highlight of my year. It will involve mostly day time shots, often of moving cars (slow, generally cruising the streets at 30-40km/h) and if it's anything like the last couple of years the weather should be beautiful with lots of sunlight.

There is a night cruise which I would love to photograph aswell. Previously this has been where my photos have turned to crap. It seems to be really hard to get good shots of cars at night on a busy street. This isn't the most important part of the event for me, but it would be nice to get some good pictures of this.

Do you think I should be using the 16:9 aspect ratio for this? Or am I better to stick to the more standard 4:3?

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for the tips! :D

04-09-2006, 08:35 PM
OK, I looked up your camera, I think I can tell you what you want to know.

Now the first thing I would say would be to use a polarizer on the lens, but that doesn't look like it's an option on your camera (maybe with an adaptor). It can make a large difference in the amount of glare on a car, depending on your position.

As for shooting cars traveling at 30-40 kph, the closer your are to the car, the faster the shutter speed. You'll want the shutter speed as fast as possible. I would suggest going into aperture priority mode ("Av", usually) and setting the aperture as wide-open as possible (lowest possible number). The camera will compensate for the large aperture by choosing a fast shutter speed to prevent the sensor from taking in too much light. The fact that you expect lots of sunlight bodes very well, as it will allow you to use a very fast shutter.

The night shots, they will be tougher. Night is when you want a tripod. To freeze cars on a street at night, you are basically sunk. You can boost your ISO to max, but I don't think you'll be able to do it. You could set yourself up by a stoplight with a tripod and take pictures while they're sitting there for you, but then you are limited to who gets stopped at the light. There isn't much I can say.

In general, practice. That's the best thing I can tell you. Go shoot some cars this week, or next weekend. It doesn't matter if you think they look great or not, the practice will help you, especially in framing moving cars.

As for your last question, the answer is "whichever is bigger". If you shoot at the larger setting, you can always crop it to the other aspect ratio. If you shoot at the smaller aspect ratio, you can't ever get those lost pixels back.

Looking at DPreview (first thing to come up in Google), the top 16:9 resolution is 3840 x 2160, the top 3:2 is 3248 x 2160, and the top 4:3 is 2880 x 2160. The vertical numbers are the same for all three. The 16:9 has the most pixels, so shoot in that. If you want a 3:2 or 4:3 shot you can crop it down to that later.

Enjoy, and make sure to post any good shots you get.