CAP­TURE a pan orama

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

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

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