Seascape Panning

One of my favorite techniques to play with at the beach is horizontal panning. It is really simple and can create a beautiful dreamy effect of the water, sand, and sky in any combination. 

You will want to use a shutter speed between about 2 seconds up to around 1/30 of a second or so. To do this, you’ll need to set your ISO quite low and close down your aperture significantly. If during the day, you may need a Neutral Density Filter to block some light. A 6 stop or 3 stop filter would be best in this situation. A 10 stop filter will be more than you need and prevent you from being able to see through the viewfinder when the filter is on.   

You can use a tripod or shoot handheld. A tripod may keep you steadier horizontally but handheld works too so definitely don’t hesitate to try this without a tripod. In either case, you’ll want to frame your shot and focus on your scene and then after you press the shutter, or AS you press the shutter with the faster shutter speeds, just pan the camera to the right. When I shoot handheld I hold my arms close to my body and just turn my body to keep steady. If shooting around 1/30 of a second, you’ll need to move quicker to get the effect. With a second or two you can go slower as you have more time. 

Sometimes it helps to start moving and then press the shutter, or you can also try putting your camera on continuous mode and as you twist your body press the shutter and let it take several shots as you move left to right.

The fun thing is that you get a slightly different effect each time. You may get a bunch you don’t like along with one or two that you really love. The painterly effect is subjective so choose the ones that YOU love! 

Have questions, feel free to reach out!

Sunset panning in Dana Point.jpg
Crystal Cove Panning.jpg

Kristen Ryan is a fine art landscape photographer from the suburbs of Chicago. You can purchase prints in the Fine Art store or contact her for custom orders. She teaches an online landscape photography workshop, “The World Around You” and hosts in person ladies’ landscape photography retreats.