I exposed this image of a Thalys at speed crossing a arched bridge over Hollands Diep minutes before the fading orange ball of the sun melted into North Sea coastal fog.
Thalys is an international high-speed train branding applied to services connecting Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris, and Köln-Brussels-Paris. Technologically speaking the train is a French-built TGV, but specially painted and decorated for Thalys services.
This was an evening run from Amsterdam to Paris. Hollands Diep is the coastal estuary fed by Rhein and Meuse Rivers. This bridge features a pronounced sweep up and over the water. Beyond it is an older (and busier) truss that has two main tracks for ordinary rail services (freight and passenger).
I panned this train with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm fixed telephoto. The light was fading rapidly, so I set the ISO to 800, adjusted the white balance manually and pre-focused in anticipation of the fast moving train. My exposure was f4 at 1/250 of a second.
Earlier in the evening I’d seen a Thalys fly across the bridge and I recognized that the structure of the bridge mimicked the paint scheme on the train, so I released the shutter to allow for an arching visual flow between train and bridge. This is accentuated by the low light.
Here’s a panned view of an Irish Rail intercity railcar near Islandbridge, Dublin that I exposed a little while ago (February 18, 2013). A pan of a 22K-series ICR? No, this isn’t a litany of complaint regarding the common Rotem-built Irish Rail intercity vehicle. Rather, it’s an example of one of my favorite techniques for showing motion. I learned to pan from my father, who used the technique to compensate for slow speed Kodachrome film. In the early 1960s, he made some stunning rainy-day images of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Baldwin ‘Sharknose’ diesels working the New York & Long Branch. Check my Vintage Diesel Power by Voyageur Press to view some of these photos.
The trick to making a successful pan is to manually select a moderately slow shutter speed (1/15th to 1/60th of a second), then follow a train with the camera, gently releasing the shutter at an appropriate moment. I find that pivoting my whole body helps makes for smoother motion. Key to this exercise is planning to continue the panning motion after the shutter is released. Stopping too soon may result in unplanned blurring of the main subject. Also, I usually pick a fixed point in the frame to follow the front of the train. My Canon 7D has lines on the viewfinder screen that aids this effort. I’ll discuss the panning technique in greater detail in a future post.