Not So Serious About Panoramas

Reminder – you may click these photos from David Bennett for a closer look. Worth doing! ~J. Ronald Lee

panorama photo

Taking And Making Panoramas
There are various ways to take and make panoramic photographs. One way to make a panorama is to crop the frame after you have taken the shot. You can do that easily with most image-editing software.

If you shoot film, you can just mask off part of the negative in the enlarger.

Or you can take a panoramic photograph using one of the panoramic cameras that are available. These either have a very wide angle of view or a lens that rotates across the film plane or sensor as it takes the shot.

Stitching Images
Probably the most popular way nowadays to make a panorama digitally is to stitch together a series of shots using a stitching program. Canon make a free one you can download from the internet and so do Microsoft.

There are other programs – just google for stitching software.

Merge In Photoshop
Then of course there is Photoshop. Go to File > Automate > Automerge and choose the photographs from your hard drive that you want to stitch together.

Photoshop CS5 does a wonderful job of aligning the shots and blending the exposure of each shot to produce a seamless composite.

What Is A Panorama
The word ‘panorama’ means an unbroken view over such a large area that we have to move our heads in order to see it all. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long, narrow, horizontal ‘letterbox’ shape.

Google for ‘vertical panoramas’ and you will see what I mean.

And the composite images you can make by merging images in Photoshop don’t have to be long, narrow shapes at all.

panorama 2

The Merge facility in Photoshop works with any shaped image you want. It simply depends on where you point your camera to take the succession of shots you are going to merge together.

Getting Serious About Composite Images
If you are serious about taking composite photographs, then you want to be using a tripod and a pano-head.

A pano-head fixes onto the tripod head and puts the nodal point or as it is sometimes called, the entrance pupil, of the camera lens over the swing point of the tripod. The effect is to avoid parallax distortion.

Parallax distortion is what you see when you hold your finger a few inches in front of your face and close one eye and then switch and close the other eye and your finger appears to jump sideways.

What a pano-head does is to put the point at which light enters the lens at exactly the same point wherever the camera is rotated or moved.

However, even without a pano-head, when we take panoramas of a distant scene in nature like the one above, we tend to forgive any inaccuracies in the way the scene is portrayed. After all, there is no ‘standard’ shape to which nature must conform.

Rectangular-Shaped Composite Images
If you want to make rectangular-shaped composite image, then just raise the tripod and take another series of shots. Sometimes you might want to raise the tripod and pano-head and take a third row of shots and stitch all three rows together.

Not So Serious
But what if you don’t want to use a pano-head or don’t even want to use a tripod? In fact, my preferred way of working is to shoot handheld.

I don’t own a pano-head and I rarely take my tripod out of the house. I have used a pano-head, but I didn’t get on with it. By the time I had set everything up, taking the photographs had become a chore.

So instead, I just click away with the camera handheld, and let the results turn out however they turn out.

I just don’t worry about the parallax distortion.

panorama 3

As you can see from these two photographs of buildings (particularly the lower one), the parallax distortion is obvious when taking composites of subjects that are close to the camera, particularly if the camera is tilted upward or downwards when taking a row of shots.

If I were serious about panoramas, I would use a pano-head and a tripod. But for me, the only question I ask myself is whether I like the finished composite image.

And the advantage is that I can take these quirky panoramas anytime I want. All I need is a camera.

This is a guest post from David Bennett who, when he is not planning his next trip abroad, takes the photographs for the ecards and prints at Quillcards.

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