Panorama Photography Tips [Weekly Duel]

This week's theme is Panorama.

Panorama photography is a great technique for making the viewer of the photo feel enveloped in the landscape.  Since panoramas capture a wider area, it more closely matches a person's field of vision.  The trick with panoramas, however, is composition.  It can be difficult to place objects in the frame in a way that makes them feel “solid” when dealing with such a wide aspect ratio.

If you'd like to learn some of the tips we use when shooting panoramas, be sure to check out this post.

New to the weekly Improve Photography Duel?  Check out this page, where we explain how it works. We're asking YOU to vote on the photos below.

Settling the Score

Last week's landscape photography duel was a tie.  Dustin received 165 votes and Jim received 166 votes.  So, Dustin has one win and one tie.  Jim has zero wins and one tie.

Here are the photos for this week's duel…

Jim Here:  This week, I was down in Arizona and Utah shooting landscapes for future posts here on Improve Photography.  I only slept a few hours each night so that I could stay out late to shoot the locations and then wake up early to drive to the next location and be in place by sunrise.

One morning, I met up with Jeremiah Barber, a FANTASTIC landscape photographer in the St. George, Utah area.  Seriously, you're going to want to click over to his site and see some of the landscapes he does.  They are impressive to say the least.

Jeremiah and I hiked in a few miles carrying heavy photo bags (he even toted two tripods, rails for timelapse, etc) while it was still pitch black outside.  We finally got to an overlook of Snow's Canyon just as the sun was rising.  I opened my camera bag and…. AAAAAAH!  I forgot to put my Nikon D800 in the bag, as well as my landscape lens.  All I had was my backup Nikon D3200 and kit lens that I use for doing video tutorials.  My heart sank.

But I couldn't let my mistake ruin the shoot, so I shot some panoramas with the D3200 and kit lens.  This photo is my favorite from that shoot.

Jim's Process:  My main concern with this panorama was composition.  The vista was beautiful, but I wanted the rocks in the foreground to provide a solid foundation, and to provide a sense of scale to the photo.

This is a 7 shot panorama.  I tilted the camera on the vertical axis to shoot the seven shots.  Why would I put the camera vertical if I'm going for a wide perspective?  Two reasons: (1) It gives me more latitude in cropping the photo on the computer, and (2) it allows for the natural parabolic distortion that occurs from stitching together multiple shots.  Remember: panoramas should always be shot vertically.  Vertoramas should always be shot horizontally.

I used a 3 stop Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filter to hold back the sky since it is so much brighter than the canyon.  This is one situation where the physical filter is better than doing this digitally because it would be too difficult to digitally hold back the sky on 7 photos and get them to match up.

Jim's Metadata:

Shutter speed: 1/50 second, Aperture: f/16, ISO 100.

Camera: Nikon D32000, Lens: Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens.

Tripod: Induro CT-114 Travel Tripod,  Bag for hiking: Clik Pro Elite (best camera bag ever!)

Post processing: I brought the 7 photos into Lightroom and selected all of them to make my Camera Raw style edits.  Since all of the photos were selected, the same changes were made to all the photos so they would match up.  I brought back some of the color and contrast that were lost from the RAW photo, and brought up the shadows.  Then, I passed the photos to Photoshop's Photomerge feature for stitching.

The only significant change I made in Photoshop was enlarging the rock on the right side.  I wanted it to jut out more into the photo to provide more of a solid point of interest in the composition.

Snow Canyon Panorama
Jim's Panorama – CLICK TO VIEW LARGE!

Dustin Here:

While Jim was shooting majestic landscapes in Utah and Arizona – I set off to find a creative panorama right here in Boise, Idaho. I decided to do a vertical panorama of the urbanized Downtown Boise. Vertical panoramas aren't something you see all too often and being around tall buildings – I thought it was a great setup.

Dustin's Process: 

I wanted to capture the city lights and some of the movement of being downtown – so I went right at sunset as all the street lights were turning on. It ended up working out perfect because I could use a long enough shutter speed on this fountain that to get that silky texture of the water a bit of the glow from the ambient city lights just turning on.

The biggest challenge in working with a vertical panorama in downtown was the lens distortion on the buildings. As I would move the camera upward, the edges of the buildings would bow in or out and by the time I stitched the photos together – the building was curved.

Dustin's Metadata: 

Shutter speed: 10″ , Aperture: f/13, ISO 200

Camera: Canon 6D, Lens: Canon 24-105mm lens

Lighting: Sunset – City lights

Click to enlarge - Sorry!  It's a big photo.
Click to enlarge – Sorry! It's a big photo.

Let the Voting Begin!

Please note that you do NOT have to share this to your Facebook page or Twitter feed in order to vote.  It just gives you that as an option after you've clicked your vote.

11 thoughts on “Panorama Photography Tips [Weekly Duel]”

  1. @Sarah L. – We’re actually recording videos of each of the photos we do for the weekly duel. We’re planning to release these videos on our Youtube channel in the coming weeks.

  2. Jim, what is causing the red spots on the left side of your photo? There are a couple in the foreground and then a small grouping left of center in the middle ground. Did you intentionally leave them in the photo?
    P.S. I think you WON last week’s contest… 166 to 165 is not a tie!

  3. I really like the fountains and water from Dustin’s picture but when I think panoramic, the sunrise wins for me. Love the colors in both of them!!

  4. Jim, I agree with the others…..166-165 IS NOT A TIE!!! You won, by a very small margin, but it’s still a win!

  5. Warm vs cold this week. Jim, you get my vote (and you’d have had my vote last week too if I’d not been too late…if that helps you to claim the win!)

    Great to see that composition can triumph over kit.

    Keep up the good work chaps.

  6. Love both of the shots! I too would like to know what the red dots are all about, I found them distracting. I think Dustin should have done a panarama shot because that was the contest. Another contest down the road could have been done for the vertarama.

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