Making Panoramic Images

Fog in a field in Durham, New Hampshire.

Fog in a field in Durham, New Hampshire.

This week I worked on a project close to home (more about that shoot here,) and I was graced with the beautiful light and fog you see in the image above. I usually try to create at least one panaroma for most of my commissioned projects. By using the wide format, I am often better able to create a sense of wide open spaces.

Fog in a field in Durham, New Hampshire.

Fog in a field in Durham, New Hampshire.

I made the above “normal” aspect photo at the same time as the opening panorama. I like both images, with this shot providing a more intimate look at the landscape, and the panorama showing the expanse of the field. Here are a couple more examples that highlight the difference between formats:

A farm in Barnet Center, Vermont.  Connecticut River Valley.

A farm in Barnet Center, Vermont. Connecticut River Valley.

 

A farm in Barnet Center, Vermont.  Connecticut River Valley.

A farm in Barnet Center, Vermont. Connecticut River Valley.

 

Cows and Presidential Range, Jefferson, New Hampshire

Cows and Presidential Range, Jefferson, New Hampshire

 

Cows and Presidential Range, Jefferson, New Hampshire

Cows and Presidential Range, Jefferson, New Hampshire

Shooting panoramas is relatively easy with a DSLR and photo stitching software like Photoshop or Panorama Maker. Since I already have Photoshop, I use that and as long as I follow a few procedures in the field, I never have problems stitching several photos together. Here’s what I do:

1) I shoot in vertical format, which gives me bigger files to play around with, because my images will be 5616 pixels tall instead of 3744 pixels (I’m shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II)

2) Put my camera on a tripod, preferably one that is level.

3) Set my exposure, focus, ISO, and white balance on an initial image, and leave those settings unchanged between shots.

4) I shoot from left to right, though it doesn’t really matter. When moving between shots, I try to keep my horizon in the same place, and overlap images by 30 – 50%. I also leave extra space around the edges because it is always necessary to crop an image once it’s stitched together.

5) Before and after my series of images, I take a photo with my lens cap on to mark a panorama series.

6) Unless you are using a fancy (and expensive) tripod head that rotates the camera around its nodal point, you’ll have the most success with normal and longer focal lengths. Wide angle lenses create distortion in the landscape that makes stitching difficult unless you’ve used that fancy head.

7) You’ll also have mixed success shooting scenes that have a lot of movement between shots, such as crashing surf, fast-moving clouds, etc.

After the shoot, I’ll import my images into Lightroom, make any tonal or color adjustments to one image in the sequence and then synchronize those settings to the other images in the series. Then I’ll use the “Photo–Edit In–Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” menu option. Once in Photoshop, I just use the default panorama settings and most of the time, everything works out, and I just need to crop the edges.

The Jenne Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.

The Jenne Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you want to share your own panorama techniques.

Cheers!
-Jerry

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