CAPTURE a pan orama
What ’s the Big Idea?
When you are on your travels this summer, don’t ignore official scenic viewpoints just because they’re obvious. But instead of putting a wideangle lens on your camera, which will make everything appear very small, try using a normal or telephoto lens to shoot several images and then stitch them together using Photomerge in Photoshop, or another stitching program. Most of the images we look at tend to be in a 3:2 ratio, so when we see a wide-vista panorama, it commands our attention to study it longer. But before you start clicking away, it’s worth going through a procedure that will help make creating panoramas very easy.
What ’s the Key?
This technique works best if you use a tripod. First level the tripod, then level the camera. It helps if your tripod has a bubble level on the neck; disregard the ones on the head. I use an inexpensive hotshoe spirit level to align my camera. Set an exposure for the average light across the scene. Use manual focus and manual mode so that all the exposures in your sequence are consistent. Set the white balance to daylight, again for consistency.
Shoot a series of images, allowing them to overlap by at least a third so there is enough information to stitch them together. Focal lengths of 50mm or longer are better as there will be less distortion than with wide-angle lenses and you can bring the details of the scene closer to you. If the light isn’t changing quickly and you have time, shoot in vertical orientation to make more use of the sweet spot of the lens. It will also result in larger files, giving you no problems if you want to make large prints.
For this shot I was quite a long way from Iguazu Falls, so I used a focal length of 145mm to zoom in on just the falls. I made eight vertical exposures at 0.5 sec each to obtain the silky water effect. I also used a polarising filter to saturate the greens by removing the reflections from the foliage. When I stitched the images together later in Photoshop’s Photomerge, there wasn’t any distortion because I used a long focal length.
Objects moving during the pan series can be an issue. If you have anything that is moving through the scene, it may end up being in several of your images. When you stitch the images you may end up with something like the same person walking through the scene. The software sometimes removes all but one, though you still may have to retouch others out. Coastlines present a different problem: moving waves. If you are quick enough shooting your series you might be lucky and have your waves stitch together. If you are including crashing waves it does get trickier. In that case, I allow space in a single frame so I can crop it to a panoramic format. As my Nikon produces 36-megapixel RAW files, that isn’t a problem because I can still end up with a 70MB file.
A panorama is a great option for a very horizontal subject like this