Panoramas

Panoramas are great fun and provide the opportunity to capture a scene – typically a landscape closer to how you experience it with the naked eye, although even our eyes have to scan across the scene and the landscape image to take it all in.

Many modern cameras allow you to take a panorama ‘in-camera’ or you can ‘stitch’ photographs together. It can be a little it and mix as either (i) the camera will automatically adjust the exposure levels for each frame, which can lead to obvious joins between shots and/or (ii) the range of exposure across a shot (left to right) and between the sky and the land is difficult for the camera to cope with, leading to under and over-exposure.

My Nokia Lumia 1020 smart phone can take some amazing panoramic photos, stitching five frames together, visually guiding you to align each frame. The Fuji X100 can also take 120° or 180° panoramas – the software can sometimes struggle with aligning the individual frames/shots together (I find it easier on the Nokia). My new Panasonic FZ330 also takes great panaoramas.

There are many software packages that allow you to stitch individual images together into a panorama. Photoshop does it (I use Photoshop Elements 11), plus the latest versions of Lightroom (the main editing and workflow package that I use)  i.e. version 6 or the subscription based Adobe Creative Cloud. There are other free and low cost software packages out there to try; I’ve used Serif’s free Panorama Plus, but watch out for their keen sales people who are likely to call you to try to sell you their other software packages (if you provide your phone number).

When taking individual images with a camera that has detachable lenses, it is best to use a medium focal length (e.g. 50mm), not wide angle as you might expect. Wide angle lenses tend to have more distortion at the edges of the image (referred to as lens barrel distortion), which introduces more difficulty and variability into the software stitching process.

Most people tend to take their panoramas in landscape mode; a neat trick to obtain even higher resolution panoramic images is to shoot in portrait mode, giving a taller image with more vertical resolution.

Here’ some examples of some of my panoramas (click them to enlarge):

This is one of my favourites. It is an HDR shot (a composition of the same image taken at different exposures). It is actually just a single shot (the same shot, no panning), taken with my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle zoom lens and then cropped to reduce the height of the image. It looks a little like an oil painting; in fact, I had it printed onto a canvas and the printing process exaggerated this effect, making it look like a painting rather than a photo.

Loch Duich on the road to Glenelg

Loch Duich on the road to Glenelg

Kessock Bridge at sunset

Kessock Bridge at sunset

Moray Firth sunrise

Moray Firth sunrise

Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich

Loch Linnhe Fort William

Loch Linnhe Fort William

sunset over inverness

Sunset over Inverness

Clachnaharry sea lock Caledonian Canal

Clachnaharry sea lock Caledonian Canal

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