Tag Archives: panning technique

Night Photos of a New Orleans Trolley Car—Wide and panned.

The other evening, I made these panned views of a streetcar in New Orleans at night.

I set my FujiFilm XT1 at ISO 3200, the shutter speed dial to ‘A’ and the exposure compensation dial to +1/3 (to compensate for the dark sky). The camera auto-selected my shutter speed based on available light, which was about 1/12thof a second.

To keep the trolley sharp, I panned car as it passed me. I was careful to maintain my pan for the full duration of each exposure and avoid speeding up or stopping as I released the shutter.

I had the shutter release set for ‘CH’ (Continuous High) so the camera continued to expose images as I panned.

I’ve selected the most effective of my burst of images.

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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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DAILY POST: East Brookfield, Massachusetts Moments Before Sunrise.

A Broadside Pan of Modern Locomotives with Autumn Foliage.

CSX Evolution-series locomotive.
CSX Q422 rolls east at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

Early in the morning of October 22, 2013, I noticed that CSX’s Q422-22 was working the east end of Palmer yard. It was too dark to make a conventional image, and the location of the train not suited to make a night photograph, so I headed east.

CSX’s Q422 is not a train I often see. This is a carload train that runs from Selkirk Yard (near Albany) over the former Boston & Albany main line to Worcester. It is one of many symbol freights on the B&A route that tends to be nocturnal.

When I was photographing in the 1980s, Conrail operated a similar train which carried the symbol SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester). This tended to run in the mid-morning and normally followed the intermodal parade.

I made many images of the old SEPW, which back in 1984 typically operated with sets of four GE B23-7s (rated at 2,250 hp each).

Memories of those days flashed through my mind as I drove east toward daylight. I followed the line up the Quaboag River Valley, as I have many times in the past. At West Warren, there was a glow in the eastern sky, but it was still pretty dark, so after a few test shots I continued eastward.

I considered a favorite location at Brookfield, near milepost 67, but decided against it because it was too head on (stay tuned for an image at this location in an upcoming  post).

I’ve found that in very low light, it helps to photograph trains off-axis to minimize the effect of locomotive headlights. When ambient light levels are low (at dawn, dusk, and very dull days) the relative brightness of headlights can result in undesirable flare which can be especially annoying with digital photography.

Recent undercutting work at East Brookfield resulted in clearing of a small hill that has made for a great broad-side photo location. This is set back from the tracks and provides good elevation. Here, I set up and waited.

Before long I could here the chug of  General Electric diesels across the Brookfield flats and then my scanner chirped something to the effect of: “CSXT Q422-22, Clear Signal CP64.”

To get the effect of speed and set the locomotives off from the background foliage, I exposed this image at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

As CSX’s Q422 ascended Charlton Hill on it last leg of the trip to Worcester, I headed in a north-westerly direction toward Millers Falls. I’ve learned that make the most of a New England autumn, it helps to keep moving.


For more on photographic panning technique see the following Tracking the Light archive posts: Irish Rail Intercity Railcar Panned; February 18, 2013; and More Secrets on Pan Photos.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution CSX and other America railway networks.

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