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Shooting Panoramas

Maasai giraffe, or the Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) amongst Baobab trees. Ruaha National Park. Tanzania

Maasai giraffe, or the Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) amongst Baobab trees. Ruaha National Park. Tanzania

I really enjoy shooting panoramic photographs. I just love the format and there are a number of tricks that you can employ to make shooting them quick and easy. But first a bit of a disclaimer: I’m not talking here about doing seriously technical architectural or engineering panoramas, but rather about shooting scenery of wildlife images that are a little less precise.

Most of my panoramas are shot hand held (the exceptions being our 360 deg spherical panoramas and low light panoramas where shutter speeds drop to a point where you need to use a tripod) and so, if there are animals in them, you need to shoot quickly. To this end then:

  • Set up the camera manually – shutter speed, aperture, white balance and focus. Each image in the panorama needs to be exactly the same otherwise you’ll get variations in the final picture that will look a little odd.
  • Set the exposure for the brightest part of the image (use your exposure warnings or histogram to make sure you do not blow out the bright areas).
  • I have read that about a 25% image overlap is good and this works just fine of you are using long (ish) lenses but if you are shooting wide angle then I have found that a much bigger overlap work better. I allow up to about 60% and find that the panorama then stitches very nicely in Lightroom or Photoshop.
  • If you have something in the scene that is going to move, then shoot that part of the series and wait till it clears (like the giraffe on the right in the photograph below) and then shoot the rest of the pano.
  • Keep the camera and your movement level otherwise things won’t match up.
  • Vertical panoramas (vertoramas) also work well.
  • Adobe Lightroom stitched panoramas pretty well but if you have some serious corrections (straightening lines etc) then it’s to Photoshop that you must go.

Good luck… Try shooting panoramas. They can be great fun and very impressive.

Maasai giraffe, or the Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) amongst Baobab trees. Ruaha National Park. Tanzania

Maasai giraffe, or the Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) amongst baobab trees. Ruaha National Park. Tanzania

Photo details: Panorama stitched from 6 images. Nikon D7100 and 16-35mm lens. ISO 200, 1/320 sec at f9.

Roger de la Harpe.

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