Shooting Panoramas - Stewart Marsden

Shooting Panoramas

Shooting panoramas is a technical photography technique used to create a wider than normal field of view. Panoramic images can be made from as little as 2 images, or as in this case here from 100 images and more, there is no limit. Usually, panoramas are horizontal in composition, but they can be also vertical. Panoramas can also consist of many rows of images or many columns. There are many creative applications for this technique, but my favorite is the Cityscape.

When shooting panoramas there are many factors you need to consider, all equally important. First, the composition. What are we shooting? Where will the composition start and end? What will be included, and what will be excluded?

For this example, I used the Hasselblad H6D100c Medium format camera system with a 210 MM f4 Lens.  Any digital camera will be ok.  More resolution means a bigger image and more detail, but this comes at the cost of needing the computing power to render the image.

For a panorama of this nature, a sturdy base is essential, an absolute must. So invest in a good solid tripod. I use the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ with a 3-way pan head and a stone bag underneath that you can put additional weight in for more stability. Both vertical and horizontal rotation was used to create images. So ideally you will have a nodal slider on your tripod to ensure accurate central rotation in the center of the nodal point or cardinal point of your lens. This avoids parallax and perspective errors while stitching the images together.

For the exposure, as with most of my photography, my technique is simple. Spot meter and find the brightest and darkest point for the scene. This gives us the dynamic range. From here we can calibrate for exposure, and determine if bracketing is needed. White balance is incredibly important when shooting images that need to be stitched together. It is advised that you select a manual white balance for all shots for consistency of the dynamic colour temperature. I used “cloudy” for all the exposures.

The reason we must use manual settings for exposure and white balance is needed to create one giant exposure, and in order for it to look natural when completed and stitched, every aspect of the exposures must be 100% consistent. If choosing just “auto” expose for each section and auto white balance for each section, then these separate images will have different colour and incandescent values, which will result in a very patchy panoramic image once stitched together.

Now that we have set our exposure and white balance, we must shoot the image. We must be careful as we rotate the camera to ensure overlap of each individual image, the more overlap the better. I usually aim to have about a third to half overlap on each image. This ensures accurate stitching later.

Sample photos - Open and take a look - Sizing icon in the bottom right

Back at the computer we first we need to create a folder for all our images and import that into Lightroom. We apply lens corrections to one image, and reduce the default sharpening to zero, we then select all images and sync only these adjustments across all images. These files were then all selected and opened in Photoshop for panorama in auto mode with ‘correct geometric distortion’ selected. (I used Photoshop instead of Lightroom’s photo-merge tool as it is more powerful when using this many files) Depending on the capacity of your computer, this can take a long time; so put the kettle on.

Once Photoshop has aligned and joined all the images you should have the beginnings of a panoramic image. This image was flattened and returned to Lightroom for contrast, exposure adjustments and white balancing to create a natural looking image, then opened up again in PSCC where layers, and luminosity masks were used with individually brighter exposures to ensure details in windows in the nearer buildings, as well as other shadow detail retention, also some of the darker exposures were needed for some highlight detail retention, using a similar method.

The end result is an image that can print well over 20 meters wide. Without any loss of detail that will look stunning on any wall big enough to host it.

Victoria's View

The London Skyline as seen from a rooftop in Victoria. This was the view I had while waiting for the Mayor of London's New Year Fireworks Display. Shot on the Hasselblad H6D100c, the image you see here is a fraction of the full image image made from 100 separate 100-megapixel images. Click on the image to open it, then using the sizing icon in the bottom right you can pop the image out into high resolution to have a better look. (It may take a little while to load depending on your connection speed).

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