Panning, slow shutter, stopping down, tracking, spraying and praying — call it what you like, but this technique has slowly become big in the surf photography world. Panning using a slow shutter speed was deemed somewhere along the line as a “speed blur.”
Although gaining popularity in recent years, this effect is nothing new. Photography greats were using this technique almost 100 years ago, and guys like Ernst Haas from the 1940s really pushed the boundaries of slow shutter panning.
Personally, I did not get my start in photography because of my love for surfing. I really picked up the camera because of my love for creating. I felt surf exemplified fluidity, light and athleticism that could be captured beautifully on camera. But a few months back, I got pretty bummed out on surf photography to be honest. It just seemed that some photos which received the most praise had either a big name surfer or epic wave. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of guys putting out super artistic work and I respect and commend them for that. But a lot of the other imagery just seemed to be lacking that sense of movement, and almost appeared dead. There are only so many ways to shoot a wave from land, and quite honestly, a majority of those ways are static and boring. The very foundation of surfing is based around fluid movements gliding across the water, obtaining a free ride from Mother Nature. Few photographs I saw really captured this sense and feeling. It was more about who and what, and not the ever important “how does this image make me feel?”