When you spend a good deal of your time photographing from a tripod, you can find your panning skills a little rusty. Learn to pan is way more about muscle memory than anything your brain can come up with to get a clear shot. Like most things in photography, practice makes perfect and I haven’t been really good about practicing my panning. I had recently done a little bit of work at Photoshop World with some cars, but that is about it.

So take a little bit of rust and add into the mix two other huge variables. The first is I am shooting with an 80-400mm lens from the folks over at at 400mm. The angle of view is narrow, focal length is longer than anything I normally shoot with. I am also in a drift boat floating in the Snake River. While we were in the lazy part of the river, the boat is gently going up and down, left and right. It didn’t make much of a difference while we were fly fishing. I would almost venture to say I didn’t even notice the boat rocking.

The day was grey and the clouds were low and void of much texture. If you have been in Seattle in January, you know what I am talking about. We hadn’t seen much wildlife and the fishing was a little slow. So when a bald eagle appeared around the bend, I quickly dropped the fishing pole and grabbed the camera. That rocking back and forth in the boat I hardly noticed was now a nauseating swish from side to side. Exasperated in the view finder, it seemed with every little rapid and pull of the oars the eagle was in the frame and then out again. I braced myself as best I could and began to pan with the eagle as it flew by. A little manual adjustment of the auto-focus and I rolled down onto that trigger. As you can see from the top shot above, even at 400mm the eagle was still a ways out from us. But when I cropped in on the computer, I was surprised that I got anything in focus.


Shots where I panned turned out better than expected and ones I didn’t not so much They are so out of focus Photoshop won’t even open them  🙂

One thing is for sure, I am going to spend some time with the pigeons and crows in the neighborhood practicing my panning so that the next time an eagle flies overhead,  I get it tack sharp. Always more to learn and improve at with photography.

This experience also makes me want to head up to the Skagit river in a few months and spend more time with the eagles. So graceful, so amazing. One more project on the to-do-list. Yeah me.