Panoramics

Here are some panoramic shots I have taken on travels, starting with a shot of Juneau, Alaska at 4 AM. These images are actually multiple images taken, then later stitched together using Photoshop or some third-party photo-stitching software. For this particular image, the shots were taken on a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lense at 28mm, and at that width, I took probably about 10 images over a 120 degree arc. I usually put the images together myself in photoshop, but there is lots of great software out there to help you, such as Panoweaver or Panavue.

The key to taking good panoramic-stitchable photographs is to keep the light-entry point on your lens totally static for all the images you will then later put together, and take enough that your images overlap quite a bit, so you can match elements of each image.  Field cameras, swing tilt cameras, or aspherical lenses for 35mm cameras all allow you to do this with lens adjustments, but for regular lenses with fixed light vectors, this means rotating the camera not at the tripod mount, as it would if you swivel on a tripod, but rather at the front of the lens. The best way to do this is with a panoramic tripod mount. You can find one here, or build one yourself.

Other techniques for getting a ‘panoramic’, typically a photograph with an aspect ration of >3:1, wider than tall, is to simply crop the top and bottom off of a normal photograph (with 35mm this is typically 3:2). An example of this:

The problem with this is obvious- often you are left with a smaller sized image, and a limited print size accordingly.  Even with a top of the line professional camera you can’t print bigger than 30-40 inches wide…

In addition to photo stitching, there are several other techniques that involve combining multiple shots. One is called High Dynamic Range imaging, which is a derivative of 3d cgi, and a little-known feature in Photoshop. The technique, described here is basically exposing the same image multiple times at different exposures, up to 12 or so, and then using algorithms built into photoshop to add the extra exposures up into one image with super range in exposure.  In this way you can make a dark foreground look lighter, or a light sky look darker.

A third technique involves focus- taking a series of images with different focus points and adding them together to create a full focus image.  There is good software out there to help with this, such as PhotoAcute.

There is basically no limit to the number of images you can use to create the panoramic shot, nor how wide it can be.  I have created 360 degree views from the top of mountains, with the vague idea that it would look cool as wallpaper in a circular room.  If you look closely you can see the boarders of the individual shots near the top.  I left these in so you can see that these are in fact individual images laid on top of one another.

or simply tried to capture the breathtaking feel of the horizon opening up in front of you.

For more technical discussion, as well as some beautiful images, check out Nathan Myhrvold’s article Edge: here.

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