Practice panning. I’ve found this increases the ratio of success. Trams are good subjects for practicing. They come by a frequently and at regular intervals. They operate in urban environments with interesting backgrounds. If one set of pans isn’t satisfactory, no problem, there’ll be another tram along shortly. Also, trams tend to be double-ended, allowing opportunities for panning coming and going.
Dublin is blessed with a modern tram system. The LUAS is well suited (and aptly named— translated from the Irish roughly means ‘speed’) for panning. LUAS Citadis trams built are by Alstom, and are a standard European model. I find these reasonably photogenic, so far as trams go and they glide along smoothly. Over the years I’ve made a variety of LUAS pans. I exposed this pair of tram pans yesterday afternoon (February 18, 2013) along Dublin’s Benburb Street using my Canon 7D fitted with 40mm Pancake lens (which as result of the 7D’s smaller sensor size provides a 35mm film camera equivalent of about 60mm lens)
Here’s a few tips for making clean pan photos:
1) Use a 50mm lens or short telephoto. (Making pan photos with wide-angles and long telephotos is much more difficult)
2) Manually select a shutter speed between 1/15th and 1/60th of a second. (the longer the shutter is open, the greater the effect of blurring, but the harder it is to obtain a clean pan).
3) Make a series of experimental photos to practice the panning motion.
4) Pan by pivoting the entire body.
5) Pick a point in the frame to line up with the subject; try to hold the subject to that point during the entire pan.
6) Begin panning well before the subject is photographed and plan to continue panning until well after the shutter is released. Don’t stop suddenly.
7) If using an SLR/DSLR, plan on making a single frame and not a series of motor drive exposures. (The mirror flapping up and down is distracting and may simply result in a series of badly blurred images instead of a single sharp one).
8) Pay careful attention to the background and how it relates to your subject.
9) Repeat steps 1 to 8 as often as is practicable.
I’ll divulge a few more panning tricks in a later post.