One of the things I have been working on during my residency is capturing panorama images. As much as I would love to capture panoramas with a Fuji 6×17 camera, I am not lucky enough to own one. But, modern digital tools allow just about anyone to capture high resolution, large panoramas that could render exceptionally large prints. So, I thought I would take a moment today to talk about creating them.
There are some basic fundamentals to follow in-camera when creating panoramic photos. First, you need to have a sturdy tripod – this is key. It will provide the stability you need for a clear image and increase your chances of lining up each frame correctly.
Second, there are some certain camera settings to use. Once you determine the exposure of the desired scene, set that exposure manually. If you use aperture priority, it will change the exposure as you capture each frame of the panorama. Shoot in RAW, of course, for the highest detail and data capture. If you have a grid you can turn on inside your viewfinder, like the Nikon D300 has, then use it — it will help you to align your images as you capture each frame. Also, use your mirror lockup and a shutter cable release to ensure best stability. If a cable release is not available, use your camera’s timer.
Third, choose a composition that will give bookends or an anchor to the image. Panoramas that are merely a cross-section of a scene do not provide compelling images. Also, as you are photographing the scene, make sure that each panel overlaps at least 50%. There really is no rule of thumb as to how many images are required for a panoramic photo – how ever many are necessary to capture the scene you want. When selecting a scene, make sure to be mindful of frames that overlap where movement might occur, like moving water. Not aligning those frames correctly might cause problems during the stiching process.
Finally, you need a software to do the hard work for you in stitching these images together. Adobe Photoshop CS4 has a Merge function that does a suberb job in stitching together images that CS2 was not cable of doing. But you do not need to spend the $700+ required to obtain that software if you don’t already have it. (However, you can download for free a 30-day trial of Photoshop CS4 Extended.) Panorama Maker 4 (or Pro) is a superb software that does just as good of a job as CS4 in stitching photos, and you can download it from ArcSoft for only $79.99.
You will not see any more posts from me until Sunday, as I am heading out to backpack in the Wilderness area of the park, starting in the Conata Basin and going through the Deer Haven area. I may go straight through to the Sage Creek Campground or I may do a loop. I will go where the photos take me. When I return on Sunday evening, I will start posts to summarize each day out in the field. I look forward to using my HoldSLR, which will make my camera both accessible during hiking and easy to carry along during the trip.