Plum Panoramas

Braddock Bay Marina @ 18:35:28
Braddock Bay Marina @ 18:35:28

Although I have shot panoramas in the past I am now working to improve my technique. I used to photograph in landscape format but this did not work so well because I ended up with a long skinny panorama. Shooting in portrait format minimizes this problem (although I have to shoot more frames for a panorama of a given angular view). However, when I switched to portrait format I found it difficult to precisely aim my camera when I tilted it 90° on my ballhead. The solution was to get an L-bracket so I do not have to tilt the ballhead 90°. In addition to precise aiming, the L-bracket also has the advantage of keeping the same center point of my scene when I turn the camera to the opposite format.

The scene, above, consists of six frames that I merged in Lightroom 6 (resulting in a RAW or DNG file, depending on the format of your original frames, other programs typically create the panorama in a TIFF file). Thereafter, I used Lightroom to post-process the photo. By the way, Braddock Bay is on the south shore of Lake Ontario, located west of Rochester, NY.

Here is what I did to capture the image:

  1. I set the camera to manual mode and engaged live view to use the histogram to properly expose the brightest part of the scene (using f/8 to f/16, depending on the scene).
  2. The camera rig must be plum. I set the camera and tripod level/vertical (use camera level and tripod bubbles) to avoid distortion after the merge. Do not point the camera up or down or this will also create distortion.
  3. Avoid using a polarizing filter since the wide pan will produce an uneven sky.
  4. I used a remote shutter release to minimize camera vibration, and took photos with 30° pans (I used a 45mm lens on my APS-C camera). Longer or shorter focal lengths need smaller or greater degree pans, respectively). You want a 30% to 50% overlap of each image.

If you are using a wide-angle lens, or if you have foreground objects, some distortion might result as a result of parallax, unless you use a nodal slide. This is because most cameras are mounted to the tripod at the base of their body and so pivot around their base, rather than the lens. However, unless you are doing really critical work, I do not think the several hundred dollar nodal slide is worth it.

I decided to “go off the rails” and shoot a really wide panorama, below. I took this during the October 2016 super moon; it consists of 24 frames. The merged DNG file is 1.6GB; it will produce a sharp print up to about 11 feet! Realistically, only a commercial building or museum is likely to have space to hang a photo of this size. Of course, my other option would be to print a smaller size photo.

Overlooking Salmon Creek at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario
Overlooking Salmon Creek at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario



Any comments you might have about shooting panoramas would be welcome.