Abstract landscape photography: how to ‘paint’ by panning

Abstract landscape photography: how to 'paint' by panning

Camera panning is a quick and easy way to create a modern, abstract landscape image. You simply move your DLSR from side to side during a long exposure.

Abstract landscape photography: how to 'paint' by panning

First, find a suitable landscape. Fields of flowers against a blue sky work perfectly. We got permission from Fussel’s Fine Foods in Somerset, England, to shoot in their rapeseed crop, but poppies, bluebells or even lush grass will also work well. If there are trees on the horizon you can create stripes of colour in your shot.

You can use any landscape-friendly lens – we used a 50mm lens. The horizon needs to be dead straight, so a tripod is essential.

If you’re shooting bright skies, a variable ND filter will help to block the light and allow you to use a long shutter speed.

SEE MORE: 10 popular creative photo effects (and how to achieve them)

How to pan an abstract landscape

How to pan an abstract landscape: step 1

01 Get a head
To pan easily you’ll need a tripod with a three-way head, like our Manfrotto 804RC2. Check the spirit level is dead straight, as this will keep the horizon straight. If your landscape is naturally a bit skewed you can always straighten lines up later in Photoshop.


How to pan an abstract landscape: step 2

02 Check your settings
Switch to Manual and choose a low ISO (eg ISO100), and a small aperture of around f/16. Check the exposure. You’ll need an exposure of anything from a quarter of a second to two seconds, so in bright sunlight like this you’ll need an ND filter to reduce the light.


How to pan an abstract landscape: step 3

03 Pan the camera
When you’re ready to shoot, press the shutter button and start slowly panning the camera across the scene, keeping the camera moving until the shutter closes. It can take a few attempts to get the right amount of blur; keep practising until you get a result you like.

Final Tip
If you want your final images to pack more punch, try increasing the contrast in post-production for brighter colours.


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