Farm From the Road: The Story Behind the Image / by Todd Henson

Farm From the Road (Mount Jackson, Virginia)

My brother and I were on a trip to see the Fourth of July fireworks from Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park. We were curious what the valley would look like from the mountains. On our way there we passed through Mount Jackson, Virginia. We knew of a covered bridge in the area and wanted to see it. But the bridge didn’t end up the highlight of that drive, at least not for me.

We passed by the farm in the photo above, with the green fields in the foreground. Something about it caught my eye. As a kid I’d always been fascinated by the foreground blur seen from the passenger seat of a car. Something about the farm brought back that memory. So I asked my brother to turn around and drive down the road again. This time I had my camera ready, set with a slow enough shutter speed to allow the foreground green crops to blur while we drove by.

To capture a sharp view of the farm I panned the camera from the car, keeping the lens pointed at the farm while we moved by in the car. This takes practice. You need the right shutter speed to give the effect you want, and you need to keep your camera steady as you pan. My brother kept the car as steady as he could and I kept the camera as steady as I could. I used a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second, which in this light required an aperture of f/18 at ISO 200.

We probably drove over the stretch of road 3 or 4 times before deciding to move on. I’ve no clue what we might have looked like to someone at the farm. But I’m pleased with the results. It was a fun day, and we still had the fireworks to look forward to the following evening.

For this image we were moving slowly, maybe 35 miles per hour, and the subject was at a distance, so I was panning very slowly. But you can also try photographing subjects much closer to the car, or from a faster moving car, requiring you to pan much faster and creating much more motion blur in the foreground or background.

Have you ever shot from a moving car? Give it a try sometime (just be sure you’re a passenger). It can be a lot of fun, and you never know what you might create.