One of the great challenges in photography is capturing something different from what everybody else is shooting. It is for this very reason that I look for new and innovative ways to capture a scene at night or with a different perspective. In past articles I have highlighted night photography because fewer people know how to shoot in this light and because fewer people have the proper equipment to do it right. Another great way to present a scene in a unique way is to shoot multiple shots and stitch them together as a panorama image.
With the right technique and the proper software, you can create a really nice, really large scene.I have made it a point on my latest trips to try and capture panoramic images, partly because I like the challenge and partly because of the reaction of people who view them.
As a photographer, there is nothing better than having people say, “Wow!” when looking at one of your images.On my latest trip to Australia, I decided that since I had photographed the Sydney Harbour so many times, I would give myself a new challenge and try and capture the beauty of the entire harbour in a panorama shot. To make the image more dramatic I aimed to photograph the harbour just after sunset, combining my favorite time to shoot with the uniqueness of the panorama image.
This panoramic image of the Sydney Harbour was created using 5 separate images stitched together using Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4 and modified in Adobe Photoshop CS3. The image highlights the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and downtown—with some additional interesting subjects, like the bride and the other picture takers. Taken with a Canon 40D, Tamron 18-250 lens, Gitzo tripod, and a Lexar Professional 300x 8GB CF card.
The key to creating a good panoramic image is to shoot the images knowing that you are going to put them together when you get back to your computer. There are numerous software applications that will stitch the images together for you. You can do it directly in Adobe Photoshop, although I choose to use Arcsoft Panoramic Maker Pro since it does a better job of aligning the images and transitioning the lighting. These applications work best with images that are captured with overlapping subjects. I usually try to overlap each image with 20pct to the next. It is also very important to keep the horizon as straight[d1] as possible so that your images line up well when they are all put together. For the night shots I used a tripod because the exposures were numerous seconds, but for the day shots I held the camera and was very careful to overlap the images and keep the horizon consistent across all the images. Although it might be tempting to use a polarizing filter to boost the colors during the day, you will want to avoid this filter for panoramic shots. Using a polarizing filter will create unnatural dark areas in your final image.
This panoramic image of the resort area of Angra, Brazil was created using 11 separate images stitched together using Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4. Taken with a Canon 40D, Tamron 18-250 lens, and a Lexar Professional 300x 8GB CF card.Since this is not an exact science, I always take multiple sets of images. Memory cards are now very reasonably priced, which means I can shoot many images, experimenting with different camera settings or with the changing light of the day.The key to any good image is the subject matter, and that is no different with these large images. You should find a central location, which captures the vastness of the scene but still highlights subjects of interest.
This panoramic image of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil was created using 6 separate images stitched together using Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4 and modified in Adobe Photoshop CS3 with NIK Viveza. Taken with a Canon 40D, Tamron 18-250 lens, Gitzo tripod, and a Lexar Professional 300x 8GB CF card.
Although there are software applications that do a very good job of stitching these images together, they are not perfect. I will typically open the stitched image in Adobe Photoshop to make sure that all the pictures are aligned well and to make sure that the transition from one image to the next is seamless. I will often modify the sky (where the most obvious transitions are visible) to make sure that it stays realistic and natural looking.
This panoramic image of dowtown Chicago, Illinois was created using 7 separate images stitched together using Arcsoft Panorama Maker 4 and modified in Adobe Photoshop CS3. Taken with a Canon 40D, Tamron 18-250 lens, Gitzo tripod, and a Lexar Professional 300x 8GB CF card. Remember that your final image will be rather large. It is not uncommon for a final stitched image to be 100MB or larger, depending on how many individual images were stitched and the resolution of your camera. But, this large file size also translates to a very high-resolution image, which can be enlarged to cover an entire wall without losing much detail.So the next time you are photographing a vast mountain range, a long beach, a wide-open desert, or a cityscape, think wide!