Standing on a cliff top 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 leveled 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.
Photo by David Clapp
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 these 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 you panorama to be) and check everything is level. When shot in a 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 end point 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.
Photo by David Clapp