Sometimes we become so ingrained in a technique we fail to see alternate applications of a process. Panoramas offer a fresh way to look at a landscape through our cameras but we often overlook the obvious.
Badlands National Park 4-Shot Panorama
Perhaps you seen one of us, out there, rotating on our axis, clockwise or counter-clockwise, snapping pictures, trying to keep our camera’s level on the horizon and get just the right amount of overlap to create a panorama such as the Badlands sunrise shot shown above. Capturing multiple images across the breadth of a scene is a way to create a unique aspect ratio, capture more of a scene than our current lens/camera selection might allow, or expand the mega-pixels of our cameras.
The strategy for capturing a panorama is to take a series of photos with your camera held level. Each exposure should overlap the previous so that it can be stitched together later in software. Some compact cameras have internal guides on the viewfinder to assist in capturing good panoramas and a few even have built in stitching. If you are using a DSLR, you are relying on stitching in software after the fact. Adobe Photoshop offers a Merge to Panorama automation. I tend to prefer using Panorama Studio that came with my Novaflex Panorama Rig. You can do this manually in other image editing programs but the task is more detailed.
The variation a lot of photographers overlook in shooting is the vertical panorama. Consider the four exposures above. They are all shot at a waterfall near Liberia, Costa Rica. The lens I had with me was way too long for the scene and the climb back to the car, where my gear was stored, was pretty stiff. Rather than walk away empty handed, I decided to make a vertical panorama out of multiple exposures.
I set my camera on full manual so that I don’t get exposure variations, hold the unit as level as possible (tripod assisted here) and make certain I am overlapping at least a third of each frame. Taking a series of quick exposures, I ended up with the four individual shots shown above. They weren’t the perfect field-of-view choice but considering the conditions, they worked quite nicely.
Bringing the images into a panorama stitching program, I was able to create the vertical panorama you see at the left. The original image was a 12 megapixels x 4 exposures. After the overlap and the crop for the inevitable stitching artifacts is complete, I end up with a very good quality 28 MP image. For a vertical subject like this waterfall, the concept worked well. It prints really big too!
Next time you are in the field shooting and you are presented with a vertically challenged situation, consider turning the world 90° and shooting away. A strong vertical panoramic feel can be powerful with the right subject.
Rikk Flohr © 2009