My Favorite In-Camera Technique with Kathleen Clemons
One of my favorite in-camera techniques is making vertical pans with long shutter speeds. I often want to create more of the impression of a scene than a documentary view of it, and vertical pans are a great way to do that. My favorite subjects for pans are tall trees.
Youʼll want to make your pans with shutter speeds generally between 1/8 and 1/30th of a second, depending on the effect that you want to create and the speed of your camera movement. I would suggest that you start with 1/15 second. Shoot in either manual or shutter priority modes. I find lenses with longer focal lengths are easier to use when panning. Look for subjects with strong vertical lines such as trees, flowers, tall grasses… Youʼll be following those lines with your camera. Check for any distracting elements in your composition, as you would when making any type of image.
Once you have chosen your subject and composed, point your camera to the top of the scene and focus (I usually try to eliminate any visible sky, so I aim just below it). Start moving the camera downward in a quick, fluid, straight motion, and click the shutter as you move the camera to the bottom of the scene. If you find it easier to start at the bottom of the scene and move up instead, thatʼs fine, there are no rules here! Shoot many variations, no two will be the same! If you want more detail, use a shorter shutter speed. If you want less detail, try a longer speed. Try moving the camera slower or faster, find the look and speed that works for you. Shoot horizontals as well as verticals.
You can make vertical tree pans year round. Leaves on the trees in Spring/Summer add some great bits of color, and Autumn/Winter pans really show all the tiny branches on the trees.
When I process my vertical pans, I often use Color Efex Pro 4 to make some simple changes. I’ll use the Skylight filter to warm up a scene, or the Darken/Lighten Center filter to draw additional attention to one area of my composition. I use the Detail Extractor filter to bring out a little more detail if needed, usually applied with the Brush tool. Sometimes, I’ll go through the whole list of filters just to see what effect they will have on my photo, and often make filter choices I wouldn’t have expected. That’s part of the fun! I hope you’ll give panning a try!