When you look outside and see the sky's grey and dull you may think your day of landscape shooting is ruined but you're wrong. OK, capturing pin-sharp vistas may be out of the window but you can have a go at drag landscapes. Now, when we say drag we don't mean they're boring! In fact, they are quite the opposite. A drag landscape is about finding a scene with strong lines, pressing the shutter button and as the exposure processes, drag your camera up, down left or right. By doing so, your final landscape will have an abstract or even painting feel to it and you'll be glad to hear that the grey, boring sky is well disguised! The technique also works in harsh contrasty light normally regarded as being no good for photography.
Drag landscapes are something that can work all year round on a variety of subjects but as we mentioned this technique back in March when talking about photographing Daffodils, we thought they'd make the perfect subject.
You need to move the camera in one clean, steady movement. Using your arms is a good way to control the movement with freedom or you can use a tripod if you prefer a more structured movement. Make sure you've packed your telephoto zoom lens and if you're venturing quite away from home, don't forget the essentials such as spare batteries and memory cards.
You can think of drag landscapes a bit like a zoom burst except instead of twisting the lens you're moving the entire camera. You need to find your subject, focus up, then move so your lens is pointing away from it. When you're ready, pan back in and when your subject comes into view hit the shutter button.
Don't stop panning until you're past your subject as your shot won't have the blurry, streaks of lines we want to create if you do. You may have to turn Image Stabilisation off as it will want to create a sharp image and this isn't what we are trying to do. If you look at the screen and see you have diagonal lines it's because you moved to the side slightly as you moved your arms down which you may like the look of but if you don't, the beauty of digital means you can delete it and just try again. Getting the right exposure can be tricky, we found a 10th or 6th of a sec was just about right but if you do need to slow it down even more try fitting a polarising filter.
Once you have the hang of it try panning in different directions, paying attention to the shapes and lines of the object you're photographing. If your subject's a waterfall, for example, pan up or down following the flow of water. Lines of trees and bright colours such as fields of Poppies and Rapeseed also work well.
If you want the image to be slightly more recognisable start the exposure and pause before you begin dragging. If your subject doesn't have any hard edges you can create an abstract shot that's more about texture. Dragging your lens in a circular motion rather than in a straight line will further enhance the abstract feeling but it's not something that will work with all subjects.
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