Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Pan (Visual)

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 23, 2011

The term “panning” in visual terms means to swing from one object to another in a scene.  In still photography, panning is used to suggest fast motion, and bring out the subject from other elements in the frame.  In moving pictures or video technology, the use of a camera to scan a subject horizontally is called panning.

On March 2, 1963 the Ottawa Citizen provided camera tips to their readership in an article written by Irving Desfor entitled, “Tricks in Fast Shooting.”  The article stated in part:

In order to get sharp pictures of people in fast action, it is generally true that you must shoot at a high shutter speed.  But in photography, as in other things, rules are made to be broken … <snip> … Secondly, there’s the trick of shooting while panning the camera, that is, of following the moving subject in a smooth, steady arc.  Fortunately for camera fans, a great many actions reach a high point or peak, stop, then accelerate again at high speed.

On January 21, 1923, the New York Times published an article entitled “Screen Without A Double” that discussed the life of a motion picture actor.

No one would contend that the motion picture actor’s lot is always a happy one.  He has to take chances sometimes — or his double does — and he, or his double, really performs some of the hazardous stunts you see on the screen.  But this does not alter the fact that many of the movie’s best thrills are faked … <snip> … Out on the end of a wing with one hand on the pan crank, the other on the camera crank, and with a rope which, tied around his ankle. Pan up to the top wing strut. You may have seen what was the kick, but you are mistaken. Have you ever seen a seaplane execute a landing at a seventy-mile-an-hour clip?

Back on March 16, 1913 the New York Times — in an article entitled “Plans For The Travel Show: Panoramic Views of Vacation Spots Arranged at Grand Central Palace” — had this to say about photographs to be displayed at the travel show:

All the inviting vacation spots on this continent will be shown in panoramic views at the Grand Central Palace when the Travel and Vacation Show opens there on Thursday, and all those who do not intend to spend their allotted two, three, four, five, or six weeks in a tour of Manhattan’s roof gardens are summoned to see what the rest of America has to offer.

A Toledo Bee article dated May 31, 1900 reporting on art souvenirs of the Paris Fair available for purchase at the newspaper’s office, had this to say about the souvenirs:

The Bee has completed arrangements for the publication of “The Art Souvenir of the Paris Exposition and its Famous Paintings,” consisting of a magnificent collection of photographic views of the most noteworthy features of the International Exposition of 1900 … <snip> … These superb views will embrace a panoramic presentation of the international fair, and are intended to take the place of a trip to the Paris exposition, its beautiful buildings, rare paintings, interesting objects of art, wonderful exhibits and choicest treasures.

The term panning in this sense of the word is derived from panorama, which was originally coined in 1787 by Robert Barker for the 18th century machine that unrolled or unfolded a long horizontal painting to give the impression the scene was passing by.

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