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.