Abstract Photographs of Cresting Waves
Oceans and lakes make great landscape photograph subjects. A technique known as wave panning creates a very abstract, almost painterly, image of a cresting wave. You can also do wave panning on large lakes when the wind kicks up vigorous wave action.
The technique also involves a bit of timing and coordination. You get the best results when you’re adjacent to the waves at a location such as a jetty or low-lying pier. When you’re at the ocean and want to try wave panning, follow these steps:
Choose your lowest ISO setting and switch to Aperture Priority mode.
Choose the smallest aperture (largest f-stop value) for your lens.
Make sure the resulting shutter speed is at least one second in duration. If it isn’t, add a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor.
Cradle the underside of the lens with your left hand, brace your elbows against your ribs, and spread your feet shoulder-width apart for stability.
When you see a wave racing to shore, bring the viewfinder to your eye and zoom in.
Your goal is to capture an image of the cresting wave and a bit of the ocean in front of and behind the wave.
Rotate from the hip, press the shutter button fully, and then pan smoothly to follow the motion of the wave.