Tag Archives: pan photography

Another SEPTA PCC Pan.

It’s dusk and too dark for a conventional photograph without boosting the ISO to high levels.

So, I opt for a panned image, where I use a comparatively slow shutter speed and move the camera to follow the motion of the subject.

I’ve found that it helps to pick a point on the vehicle and stay with it.

It also helps to begin panning well before the shutter is released and continue to pan without changing your overall motion after the picture has been made.

This last part is crucial. Many pans are ruined when the photographer stops panning (or slows) at the very moment the shutter is released, which unfortunately can be a natural inclination that must be overcome with practice.

I exposed this pan-image of a SEPTA Route 15 PCC car on Girard Avenue on November 5, 2017.
Screen shot showing Lumix LX7 EXIF data including shutter speed, ISO and f-stop.

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Pan Am Panned—Office Car Special at Speed.

There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.

I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.

The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.

Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.

Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Nocturnal Basel Tram Pan

Using my Panasonic Lumix LX7, I exposed this pan photograph of a city tram on the streets of Basel, Switzerland in April 2017.

I’d set the camera at ISO 250, and with the ‘A’ (aperture priority) mode set the aperture to its widest opening (f1.7), which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second.

By panning (moving) with the tram, the relatively long shutter speed places the background in a sea of blur while keeping the tram car comparatively sharp.

Basel, Switzerland has a complicated narrow gauge tram system. Lumix LX7 photograph, April 2017.

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High-Hoods on the Move.

A short visit to Norfolk Southern’s Abrams Yard near Norristown, Pennsylvania a few weeks back made for an opportunity to see a pair of high-hood GP38-2s on the move.

Once a common and standard type, the high-hood road switcher has been on the wane for decades and they are now rare on class-1 railroads.

I made these pan shots using my FujiFilm X-T1.

By employing a relatively slow shutter speed and moving my camera in unison with the locomotives, I can convey the sense of speed and motion while setting the subject apart from the background.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.
Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.
Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.

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A 30-year Old Gem; Amtrak Pan, New Cars on the Move.

One of the advantages of making a panned photograph is the ability to instantly transform a dull scene into a dynamic photograph.

I made this photograph of an eastward Amtrak train under wire on the old New Haven Railroad near New Haven, Connecticut at 9:38am on December 27, 1986.

Amtrak's Material Handling Cars (MHCs) were some of the newest equipment on the move in 1986.
Amtrak’s Material Handling Cars (MHCs) were some of the newest equipment on the move in 1986.

At the back of the train was a pair of relatively new Material Handling Cars, which where then allowed in high-speed service.

Rather than simply expose a flat light photo of the cars on the back of the train, I selected a slow shutter speed and kept the camera in constant motion with the train to make this panned view.

Aiding my ability to make this pan photograph was the Leica M3 camera that had a very soft shutter release. My exposure was 1/25th of a second at f5.6 on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

I’d be willing to wager that there are very few panned photos of new Amtrak MHC cars under wire!

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Railroad Photography Lesson: Making Modern Ugliness Interesting—Take a Pan photo.

Railroad photography isn’t necessarily aided by a windswept empty car park, a host lighting poles, catenary masts, fences, not to mention the metal monstrosity posing as a footbridge.

This was the scene at Readville, Massachusetts on Sunday, Morning, December 6, 2015.

An MBTA train heading for Boston was due shortly. Since locomotives operate on the south-end of consists, I set up for a trailing pan photo. I focused on the new engine and allowed the setting to settle into a sea of blur.

Readville, Massachusetts on Sunday December 6, 2015.
An MBTA HSP46 passes Readville, Massachusetts on Sunday December 6, 2015.

This is one means of making the ugliness more interesting.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. Contrast controlled in post processing using Lightroom.
Exposed at 1/60th of a second using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. Contrast controlled in post processing using Lightroom.

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Thalys High Speed Train, The Netherlands, September 2013


Presenting a Modern Railway Vision.

Thalys high-speed train.
Thalys crosses Hollands Diep south of Dordrecht, The Netherlands in September 2013. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO 800 f4 1/250 second.

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.



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