Panning Nature Photos – Autumn Leaves and Trees

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It was a rainy day but I ventured out to experiment with a technique that I’ve never tried before.

The technique is called panning. I only knew panning being used on fast moving cars, bikes or runners moving your camera from side to side. By the way, I should do a post on panning cars too. However, I recently came across some nicely executed panning nature photos and I wanted to give it a try.

Despite the rain I was determined to go experiment. Whether I succeeded or not I wanted to share my process with you, so check out the behind the scenes video below.


Ten minutes into shooting the rain began to pour down. The whole experiment was close to being an epic fail. I was somewhat discouraged but I couldn’t help but to laugh at my wet self with no good photos. However, it turned out to be a valuable experience of persevering and learning.

Due to the rain I couldn’t show the whole process of me struggling and how I was panning the camera, but here are the basic steps:

1) Set the camera on the tripod and loosen the ballhead so that the camera can be tilted up or down in fluid motion.
2) As soon as you press the shutter is when you need to pan the tripod head up or down.

I tried panning both up and down. Some just up, some just down, some both. Also tried different speeds. I honestly don’t remember what I did for each photo, but when I was able to check the back of the screen the photos I like photos that I panned up better.

You can shoot this in either Shutter Priority mode or Manual Mode. The most important thing while panning is to have a slower shutter speed to allow time to pan and capture movement.

Here are the settings for the photos taken:

Shutter Speed: 1 second
Aperture: f/22
ISO: 50

The tripod I have is the Manfrotto 190XB with the Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head.

Some lessons learned from this experience.

1) Shoot what you love. If you love it, you’d even go out in the rain to experiment and not care if you fail:) I love being out in the nature, and I love nature photography. I just lack experience. Going out to shoot is the only way to gain more experience.
2) Don’t give up. Persevere. The rain began to pour down so it was impossible to hold the umbrella and pan at the same time. For a few shots I just decided to put down the umbrella and get wet. Didn’t end up getting any shots I was crazy about though. I decided to leave but the rain stopped on my way out so I returned. In just over an hour I took almost 200 images, and I ended up with about 3 images that I like, maybe 5. It was all worth it.
3) Learn from mistakes and make adjustments quickly.
a. I tried a few different setting to get the exposure that I liked. Tried 0.6 second, 0.8 second shutter speed. 1 second worked best for how I was panning.
b. After having set the exposure for the trees, as I began to pan, getting the sky in the frame messed up the exposure so I had to shortened how much I was
moving the camera.
c. At first I was panning only top to bottom. Didn’t love what I was getting so I just tried panning up and I ended up liking the images better.
4) Hands-on experience and practice is invaluable.

Panning the fall leaves and trees made the photos look like paintings and I love the look. We’ll probably put up a print on one of our walls. Don’t the photos look fake and don’t look like photos at all? That’s why I love them even more.

Does this inspire you to go shoot something you love? Go for it!

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