Panoramas and landscapes go together like gin and tonic, and make a potent combination. There are several panoramic heads available and we will be discussing how they are used in due course. To start with, though, this is a technique that you can shoot handheld.
Working Without A Panoramic Head
This technique works fine for subjects some way from the camera position. If you have subjects quite close to the subject you do need a proper panoramic head that can be adjusted to get the optical centre of the lens directly above the tripod's centre axis.
Your normal DSLR and a standard zoom are fine (30-50mm on an APS-C sized sensor and 50-75mm on a full-frame camera.)
Go manual control for this technique. Set your DSLR's white balance to manual using a suitable preset, set manual focus and set manual exposure. Shooting manually does make life easier and streamlines workflow rather than having to tweak each image before stitching.
Check Your Exposure
White-balance and focusing are pretty straightforward, but manual exposure needs a little thinking about. Ideally, you want an exposure that ensures good highlight detail and shadows will look after themselves. Take a meter reading and shoot three images, one at the centre of the panorama and then one at each extreme edge. If the exposure works for each area you have got it right.
Don't Adjust The Focus Once Set
It is also important that focus is not adjusted during the panorama so take care not to touch the focus barrel once you have focused.
Take Your Shots
Try shooting in an upright format and start from the left, allowing a one-third frame approximate overlap between each frame. Capturing between six to eight frames should be fine.
Shooting horizontal format is fine too but it is good to have some area spare to crop into should it be necessary. Shooting upright gives less of a letter-box effect, too.
There are various stitching software packages available. Try Panorama Factory - it is quick and very effective or you can always use Photoshop.
Working With A Panoramic Head:
For panoramas where there are elements much closer to the camera you need a purpose-built tripod head.
There are various models of panoramic head available at a variety of prices and enable single row panoramas and some multi-row. The key thing is that the instructions of the head are followed to find the no parallax point of the lens, usually called the nodal point.
The Set Up
Find your scene, set up the tripod and camera so that it is level. Set manual white-balance, manual exposure and manual focus. Meter to get tones in the important part of the scene – and bracket exposures if it is contrasty.
Take Your Shots
Shoot from left to right once you have set up and the head has click stops to ensure that you get the correct amount of overlap. Do a ‘dry run’ before shooting for real.
Back home, get the images corrected and cloned and put them through your usual panorama software.
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