Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Panoramic Photography

Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio. While there is no formal division between "wide-angle" and "panoramic" photography, "wide angle" normally refers to a type of lens, but this lens type does not necessarily image a panorama.

3 photos stitched together of the Mackinaw Island Harbor

Following the invention of flexible film in 1888, panoramic photography was revolutionised. Dozens of cameras were marketed, many with brand names heavily indicative of their time. Cameras such as the Cylindrograph, Wonder Panoramic, Pantascopic and Cyclo-Pan, are some examples of panoramic cameras. The techniues they incorporated varied by using rotating types of lenses or curved mirrors. Many would expose multiple frames of film to get one shot. 

6 photos stitched vertically, Cumberland Gap, Smokey Mt. National Park

Digital photography has simplified the process of making a panoramic photograph to the point where it is really easy to do. There is specialized stand alone photo stitching software programs, or most photo editing programs have some stitching feature. I currently use Adobe Photoshop CS4, and it does an amazing job stitching you seperate photographs together.

3 horizontal photos stitched together of Honolulu HI.

The technique is pretty simple.For the best results a tripod is needed. Place your camera on the tripod and get it as level as possible. It is best to meter the scene and set your camera manually so you meter is not fooled by the changing light. Next take a shot and then rotate your camera and overlap the scene by 25 to 30 percent so the software has plenty of data to see and line up. Continue to shoot and overlap the photos until you have captured the entire scene. The photos are loaded into the software and they are stitched together. You will have to crop around to clean up the edges. In years past there was always some touch up and other corrections to fix, but the newest software does such a good job that it is impossible most times to find the stitch lines. They have gotten so good that witch good technique,you can  do them hand held and the computer can line them up both vertically and horizontally.

Ft. Jefferson, Dry Tortougas National Park, 12 vertical sitch, hand held.

After climbing up to the roof of Ft. Jefferson, I decided to try an impromptu panoramic shot hand help. I took 12 vertical photos with a very wide angle lens. I overlapped the photos. 25-50 percent to give the software plenty to work with. Although it was pretty harsh mid-day sunlight, I was pretty happy with this result for a quick pano. There are no railings up there and you can see the little walking path. Two more steps backwards and it was about 60 foot drop.
   
A single photo cropped to a pano look. Mother goose and 16 babies.

Another option  is to crop a single photo to make it resemble a panoramic looking scene. With todays large megapixel file sizes, you can crop out much of the top and bottom of your file to give you a unique looking photo and retain enough data to make a decent sized print.

 
Chicago IL. skyline at dusk. 12 vertical images stitched together 

There is a lot of useful information on this subject available on the internet by doing a search. Some of the simple stand alone software programs are very reasonably priced. You should try these sometime. The results can be amazing.

1 comment:

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