Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 21/08/2012

Round Round I Get Around

Panorama, originally uploaded by

Inspiration… inspiration.. inspiration.. inspiration…. I’m hoping if I repeat it enough I’ll manage to find some to aid with tonight’s blog, we’re at the difficult 1350m stage of the 1500m race when your energy levels have dipped and you’re not quite at the finish post.. either that or I have nothing interesting to say (“When is it ever?”, Ed.).

I really should co-ordinate my photos and words more carefully, today’s photo is one of the panoramas I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, leaving me in a corner when it comes to discussing the image. I’ve already mentioned that as well as shooting in manual mode (as opposed to Av, Tv or P modes) I set the focal length of my Canon 24-105mm lens to 35mm so when taking into account the crop factor of the camera’s sensor (it’s 24% smaller than a full frame 35mm sensor ie 1 divided by 1.3) I get the optimum focal length of 50mm. I’ve said all that, so something new… erm… oh I know, I’ve noticed a lot of manufacturers such as Manfrotto, Gitzo, Benro et al. make specialised tripod heads designed to take the perfect panorama which I’m sure do a very good job but I don’t own one; I take all my photos free hand, and use myself as the pivot point around which the camera’s nodal point – this is the iris on the lens where the light converges before being relayed to the sensor. With the camera up against my face, this point is always in the same plane to ensure that the resulting photographs fit together correctly with no distortion.

The next thing to do is to start from one end, select one of the focusing points inside the viewfinder and use that as your spirit level, for example, when photographing a coastal vista, I choose one of the points and ensure that when I recompose the frame, this point is sitting on the line where the sea meets the sky. It’s then a case of just ensuring each time you recompose the photo (I usually work from right to left) that there is sufficient overlap in each adjacent photo to allow the software to select the identical points to marry up. The majority of my panoramas are portrait photos stitched together so when I’m overlapping images, I tend to make sure 10-15% overlaps on each shot which is more than sufficient for something like Photoshop/Photoshop Elements/Hugin/PTGui to deal with.

I’ve mentioned I’ve been creating these panoramas for a while; initially I would have film printed, then when I moved over to digital I printed out the images myself on a state of the art (ark, now) HP Deskjet 400c printer which was about the only viable option at that stage fitting the photos together the same as I had done with film prints. Slowly software became available that would magically “stitch” the photos together – it was a slow labourious process where you had to pin point reference spots on each photo that the software could then use to join the images together. It was a painstaking process especially with some of the larger panoramas where there could be as many as 18 photos to join. The software is now so sophisticated that you simply indicate which photos you want to combine, you don’t even need to tell it in the right order (which was a problem with the older software), and with one click the images are amalgamated, light levels corrected – Elements 9 (which came with the laptop) will even try and fill in any blanks from surrounding areas if there are some blank spaces around the edges. Technology sure has made things a lot easier… when it works that is!

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