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Perfect Your Coastal Panoramas With These 5 Simple Tips

Capture more of the coast in one image by shooting a panorama. It's easier than you might first think!

|  Landscape and Travel
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Coastal Landscape


Standing on a clifftop surveying a gorgeous vista can lift your spirits as high as the summer breeze. It doesn’t take much effort to sit still for half an hour listening to the gentle sounds of lazy waves, distant boats and calling sea birds and forget all about why you were there – to photograph a coastal panorama.

Coastal cliff top scenes or images shot from the shoreline can add that real something else to your portfolio and today’s software is very capable of helping you achieve your vision.  

Many people believe they need specialist tripod heads and other tools, but for a simple coastal vista, all you need is a correctly levelled tripod and a spirit bubble hot shoe level. It's also worth remembering that shooting manually (white balance, focus and exposure) will make life easier in the long-run as you probably won't have to spend extra time adjusting each image before stitching.

Before starting your panorama, do take a look at the foreground as if you have elements which are much closer to the camera you may want to consider moving to a different spot as the final image won't look right or stitch well unless you're using a purpose-built panoramic tripod head.


Boat on the sea


How To Capture The Perfect Panorama:

1. Ensure the tripod is set on sturdy ground. Alter the leg length for comfort, and then alter the length for a second time using the tripod's spirit bubble (most have this built-in), so that the tripod head will rotate on a horizontal plane.

2. Attach the camera with lens in either landscape or portrait orientation (depending on your view and the overall size you want your panorama to be) and check everything is level. When shot in landscape orientation, panoramas tend to be much more narrow but this can work well with some shots so do experiment. 

3. Look at the scene you are trying to capture and decide on a start and endpoint for your image.

4. Ensure the scene hasn’t got a speeding boat or the white line left from the wake that could occur in more than one image, as this will make the task of stitching the images together extremely difficult and could ruin the panorama. 

5. Quickly shoot the entire scene, making accurate movements. If you can imagine you have a protractor on the scene in front of you try to take a shot every 10-15 degrees. Always leave some overlapping (around one-third approximate overlap between each frame)  and use a remote / cable release if you have one to prevent shake as you don't want to get home to find that one out of the several images you've taken isn’t sharp. You may also want to shoot a little wider than necessary as the stitching process can often leave the end result requiring some cropping.

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Brian7 14 4 United Kingdom
8 Jul 2015 9:42PM
strix 7 2 Austria
10 Jul 2018 3:47PM
Here is my supplement to the laudable clear & easy-to-read guidance for beginners in the above article:

If you already know how to shoot satisfying panoramas without a panoramic head and you want to make a next step, I recommend to learn the benefits of this accessory. No fears, you don't need to commit a bank robbery and rent a truck for your new equipment if you wish to try a panoramic head. All you need is
- to undestand, what is the 'nodal point' of your lens (see below), and
- these two small parts:
► Multi-Purpose 200mm Rail Nodal Slide Quick Release Plate (the right one comes with a built-in AS-clamp for the L-bracket)
► Panning Clip Clamp with a ArcaSwiss-dovetail on the base (aka Rotating Camera Quick Release Clamp)
You can get them on eBay (new), from Amazon or from other sources, both together cost approx. 35. Nearly or completely identical parts are sold under different names, e.g. Neever, Mengs, Haoge, or BestCompu. Your new panoramic head adds approx. 12 oz to your bag weight. It helps if you already have a sturdy tripod with a ball head (preferably with a ArcaSwiss-type clamp) and a L-bracket for your camera.

This simple panoramic head works perfect for one-row-panoramas.

Nodal point:
Before you start using the head, you have to find out the so called 'nodal point' of your lens (aka no-parallax point). More precisely, you have to know its distance from the camera sensor plane. Again, no fears, it's a simple procedure, you have to make it once only and that is. A lot of good instructions explaining how to determine this distance can be find in the web. When you read this instructions and/or see the videos you'll also learn what is the nodal point, why it is so important, and how to use the head.
Note: Take into account that the position of the nodal point depends on the focal distance set in a zoom lens. Therefore, you have to repeat the procedure for 4 to 6 focal lengths of each zoom lens.

The head assembling is incredibly simple:
1. Clamp the Panning Clip Clamp into the AS-clamp of your ball head
2. Disable the rotation of the ball head
3. Level the assembly, preferably by adjusting the ball head, you don't need to adjust the length of the tripod legs overly precisely
4. Attach the Quick Release Plate to the Panning Clip Clamp in the way that the rotation axis matches the position of the nodal point (when camera and lens are mounted on the plate). [To note the nodal point distances for all your lenses on the scaled plate is a really good idea.]
5. Attach your camera to the plate and start your shoot.

Depending on the lenses you intend to use, the plate may be even shorter (170mm or 140mm), i.e. lighter and cheaper, too. Prime lenses typically used for panorama shooting (~24 85mm) usually don't need the long plate, Nikon's wide angle zoom 16-35mm does.

When you shoot your panoramas with the panoramic head, your benefit will be a trouble free stitching and if you wish it a flawless including of the near foreground in your images. It gives your images 'more depth'.

Last of all, I recommend to stick with the portrait orientation of your camera when shooting panoramas; for this a L-bracket is a must.

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