29/08/2009

Shooting Panoramas

I really cannot say that I am over-joyed with excitement for panorama photography, but I suppose there is a niche for it somewhere in photography annals. Some newer cameras are even equipped with their own built-in stitching program, mine program came with my printer of all things, but there are programs available freely on the net.
Admittedly, panoramas are fun to do and can require a certain amount of skill to get a reasonable result.
The main thing I find, is to choose a really interesting subject or at least one that has one or two good focal points. They can look fairly boring with miles of landscape and nothing much to fix your eye on.
For instance, scenes such as, Monument Valley in Utah, Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia or Yosemite National Park, just to name a few, they would all make excellent panoramas and hold great interest to the viewer, because of the interesting elements they provide.
For best results, your equipment should include a good stable platform for your camera. If you do not possess a tripod, might I suggest at least a small bean bag which you can rest on a fence post or the roof of the car and mould your camera firmly into it. But I still recommend a sturdy tripod with pan head if possible. A remote/cable shutter release would also be an asset, but not essential. If it is a windy day and you are concerned about camera movement, you can always use your camera’s timer facility.
Depending on the scene you are composing (we will assume, in this case, a landscape) and type of camera you are using, for a correct exposure you should switch your mode dial to “Landscape” and have your lens set on wide angle. Or, on the other hand, if you are using a SLR type camera, a 50mm (standard) lens or zoom set at around 45 - 50mm. For exposure, “aperture priority” mode and set it to f11 or f16 or “shutter priority” - 1/125 or 1/250 second (for a bright sunny day). Focus control set to infinity. This should allow you to get good clear focus throughout the scene, availability of light permitting. You may have to make minor adjustments till you get exposure settings right.
I am hoping, at this stage, you have been practicing your composition skills, so I don’t have to go through all that with you but when you compose your first shot, remember it is the start of your panorama and in most cases people will view a scene from left to right, so it is therefore important to include part of your subject in the first frame.
When you are happy with your first composition, (and I am assuming you are panning from left to right), carry out the shot, but keep a mental note of any elements near the right edge of the frame, such as a tree or rock. Pan your camera along for the next composition, but overlap slightly the tree or rock that you mentally noted from your first frame. Then compose and take the shot.
Repeat this process for a third, fourth or fifth shot. Depending of course on how long you want your panorama to be, or in fact, how long your subject is. Generally speaking, most panoramas will include four, five or six frames.
Remembering of course, the more frames you have, the longer your panorama will be, and the more difficult it is then to view comfortably on your PC.
We have been discussing horizontal panoramas here, but you can also do vertical panoramas simply by turning your camera 90 degrees on your tripod and using your vertical adjustment lever to vertically pan each shot.
Yes, panoramas can be fun to do and with a bit of planning and care and good subject selection, you can get some pretty good results.