Pan pan pan

In an aircraft, a “pan” call is a request for assistance without an immediate emergency – i.e. you are lost. Tune to 121.5 MHz, put out a pan call, and some controller will help you figure out where you are, and save the day.

Although the word comes from the same Greek word, in photography, panning means something else entirely. It means “moving with the subject while using a slow shutter speed”.

I have talked about it before, of course, but let me refresh your memory, and give you some more recipe detail.

  1. Use an appropriate lens (this does depend on subject, location, and situation, but often it is slightly wide angle, like 35mm).
  2. Set your camera to S/Tv mode (shutter priority).
  3. Select a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second.
  4. Pre-focus where the moving object will be in front of you. Either pre-focus and hold, or pre-focus and then set focus to manual (“M” with the switch on your lens).
  5. Wait for the subject to enter your field of view – point there, where the subject enters.
  6. Now aim at the front of your subject and follow along with the subject.
  7. When subject is straight in front of you, while you are still moving, click.

Takes a bit of practice but it works very well. Here, from an Oakville walking tour the other day:

Oakville Panning Photo (Photo: Michael Willems)

You do this, in other words, when you want to show motion; when a static picture would look odd. Motion blur can be good!


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