The Panning Game
Panning is such an essential technique in photography. It is so important, it must be practiced over and over again! When you feel you have a solid panning technique, you need to then push it forward. How do you do that? You find faster subjects and get physically closer to them. I was fortunate this past weekend to have Larry in his “The Ghost” scream by me while I was on the strip to do just this, practice with a close, fast subject. When he’s screaming down at me like in the above photo, there really is no panning happening at all. It’s a snap for today’s camera technology and technique.
Shooting with the D4 and 80-400VR3 as The Ghost came alongside, its speed vastly pushed the speed of my panning action, causing me to swing much faster and really challenging my panning skills. How challenging? You don’t see the broadside images of The Ghost here because I missed the shot, I only captured part of The Ghost as it came directly broadside. It’s simple geometry really. As the subject gets closer and you’re shooting with a longer lens, the speed of the subject passing you by greatly increases the closer it comes. It’s that speed that we need to practice for because some of the great shots with the best blurred background is when the subject is broadside, like this photo of The African.
So why did I capture that shot the day before and missed it the next day? Because I was MUCH closer the second day so when The Ghost went passed, it was hauling ass. The day before when The African went by, it was MUCH further away and going slower. This is all part of the panning game and if you want to win, you’ve gotta practice. Why? There are few times when you can set up the pan, controlling a subject to go by as a set distance and speed like I had with these aircraft (Thanks Larry for the help!). Most of the time, you’re photographing a free wheeling subject, a subject that can do whatever it wants to do. In those cases, you want to nail the photo the first time because you usually don’t have a second chance. Like any game, the more you practice that better you are at playing.