Panning for Wildflowers: A Photography Technique

Wildflowers at Monahans Sandhills

Is panning photography for wildflowers a thing? Sure! Especially if you are a nature photographer wanting a camera technique to create some spectacular, fine art images. I don’t mean panning as in searching for flecks of gold like the miners of the forties. I mean panning with your camera to create images like the one shown here.

Panning Technique

The panning method I employ challenges the traditional use and definition of panning in photography. Traditionally speaking, panning with your camera involves following a moving subject in order to capture it sharply while conveying a sense of movement through the streaking of objects in other parts of the image.  You’ve likely seen photos of race cars, cyclists, and other fast moving subjects that illustrate this concept. Further, most definitions indicate panning is only horizontal. While I can agree with these two tenets, I think there is more!

I contend that 1) panning is not just a horizontal movement of the camera and 2) motion blur does not require the subject to move . Defining panning as “moving the camera through the scene, in any direction: horizontally, vertically, diagonally or even in a circular motion”, expands the creative options for use of this technique. When making Wildflowers at Monahans Sandhills, as shown above, I moved (panned) the camera vertically, from top to bottom, while pressing the shutter button. Likewise, in the following image, the movement is vertical.

Wildflower Blur: Bluebonnets 64


Motion Blur Technique

My panning method also challenges the traditional use and definition of motion blur in photography. The combination of fast moving subjects and slow shutter speeds often results in a photo with streaking. Varying the speed of the subject and shutter changes the amount of streaking. While some motion blur images generally result from a failed attempt to capture a moving subject, some are intentionally blurry in order to convey a sense of motion.

Motion blur, by definition, seems to mean blur resulting from motion. Many photographer utilize a technique which involve keeping the camera perfectly still while the subject moves around.  The subject’s motion, thus results in a blur. I suggest the motion causing the blur may be a moving subject or not. The motion may actually be that of the camera. Moving the camera while pressing the shutter button can create blur when the shutter speed is slow enough. The thistle pictured below appears to be blowing in the wind but it was actually a very still morning when I shot this. By moving the camera, I created the illusion of movement.

Thistle pan blur; ISO 800, 2.0, f22, 57mm



These photographic motion techniques allows you to make dynamic images from static subjects. However, not all blurry images are equally appealing. With some practice, you can learn to create pleasing blurs as I discussed in my post Flower Photography As Art: Pleasing Blurs.