Artistic Panning Blur versus Static Detailed Photograph



Above is a composite of two photographs I took yesterday, here in New Jersey.  This shows two distinctly different ways to photograph the same subject matter at the same focal length.  Both were taken with a Tamron 90mm VC lens and a Canon EOS 7D.

The technique employed on the left is called by several different names: Intentional Camera Movement (ICM), Pleasing Motion Blur, Panning Blur, Painting with Your Camera… and so on.  What were the camera settings and how was this executed?  I generally always shoot in manual mode on my DSLR when trying Panning Blurs.  I try to create a very bright camera RAW file with maximum detail in the white channel, without blowing too many highlights.  I think I a goal aperture of F/11 is a good idea to capture a good amount of detail but minimize diffraction or the chance of sensor dust spots rearing their ugly head.  An ideal shutter speed of 1/20th of a second to about 1 full second usually works for me.  A slow shutter speed like this usually means an ISO setting of 100 and shooting in the shade or on an overcast day.  If the sun is too bright to get detail at those settings you may need a polarizing filter or neutral density filter to cut out a few stops of light.

Having an anti-shake mechanism on the lens or camera is helpful to steady the viewfinder and get smoother horizontal or vertical lines.  In this case, Tamron’s 4-stop Vibration Control was set in the ON position, and the results of the VC along with a fluid handheld panning motion lead to straight horizontal lines within in the photograph.  I did manually pre-focus my macro lens for this photo, although “One Shot” autofocus mode as Canon calls their stationary shooting mode would have worked as well. This particular subject matter worked well with a horizontal panning motion because of the preexisting horizontal lines in the subject (a simple common chunk of rock outdoors).

When and why might you want to try this technique?  There are many reasons to do this:

1) It’s fun and very akin to using a paintbrush

2) Expand your nature photography portfolio

3) This is a great way to create Fine Art of a subdued, impressionistic, and thought-provoking nature

4) Why not? 🙂

As with all non-conventional photography techniques I would advise you to add as many tricks to your arsenal as possible, but don’t allow your style to be pigeon-holed or cliched.  Versatility is king when you are swimming in a sea with many fish.

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