Taking the wide view


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Taking the wide view

10 Jul 2020 7:38AM   Views : 264 Unique : 186


A few days ago, I wrote about the effect of different formats, and the lead image was a Hasselblad X-Pan – the final image was an in-camera panoramic from a Sony Alpha 7. And then, a couple of days ago, a panoramic image appeared in the Critique Gallery: the poster was concerned about problems with stitching images together – which set me thinking about panoramic images in general.

I suppose that I first became interested in panoramic views when a trip to London coincided with Colin Prior’s first exhibition at the Linhof Gallery near Russell Square – I was privileged to see some stunning pictures, and to chat with a rangy young man in a waxed jacket who was clearly far more at home carrying a tripod, camera and tent up Ben Nevis to shoot sunrise on Christmas Day than he was in Bloomsbury!

Back then, film was the only option, and a Linhof 617 is a mighty beast, shooting three images on a roll of 120 film. Search the web, and see if you fancy one of those in your bag.


Colin’s talent is for being in the right place at the right time (weather-spotting and walking being prime elements in his armoury), and for composing images that tell the story across a very wide frame. Think of a square format image as a haiku: a standard 3x2 image as a sonnet. A panoramic image is like The Lady of Shalott, long and lyrical, telling an extended story at leisure. It can meander, it can digress, but the flow, riverlike, must continue.

So if you want to make panoramic images, you need to seek out more than the traditional two or three points of interest. There should certainly be a main subject (usually), but there must also be subsidiary interest, supporting actors and walk-on trees to flesh out the story.

The CG post trailed a technical issue about the Parallax Problem, the way that if a composite panoramic image is not composed of images shot by rotating lens and camera around the nodal point of the lens it will create ghosting in the image – imperfections caused by mismatching of adjacent images.


I went straight out and shot a composite of 12 images with a Nikon D7000 and an 18-105mm lens at 18mm, handheld. I can’t see any issues. For those who might want to try it, the process was as follows:

set focus, and then switched to manual focus to prevent any changes;
set the exposure in manual, again to ensure consistency through the set;
pivot from the hips, and gave heavy overlap between frames (I think this may be important);
load RAW files into Photoshop, using File/Automate/Photomerge;
click ‘OK’ with ‘Auto’ selected as the mode;
crop off chequered areas at the edges.

Simples. I didn’t suffer any problems, despite the distortion inherent in a wide-range zoom lens at the widest setting. The file is very high quality, and distinctly better than those produced by an Alpha 7R using the built-in panorama mode. Why? It’s bigger, making use of all the potential pixels, and an Intel Quad Core processor to merge them, rather than the CPU in a camera – the file is nearly 10,000 pixels wide from a 16mp camera: a 42mp panoramic mode image ends up rather smaller, though the size varies depending on how you scan. (The garden images are less than 4,000 pixels wide - a more effective technique with the Sony would be to fit an extreme wideangle and crop, avoiding the artefacts that direct sunlight caused, and allowing me to process from RAW for greater dynamic range).

If you have Photoshop or other software that can merge files, try it. And if your camera has a panoramic mode, try that too. Either way, shoot wider than you think you need to, because you will lose some areas at the edges of the frame. But if you experiment with something relatively trivial – the garden, the road outside – you can refine your technique for the day that you want to do it on something important. Go on. You know you want to. Letterboxes are fun!



JuBarney Plus
9 33 4 United Kingdom
10 Jul 2020 5:43PM
It sounds easy enough and worth a try!!

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dudler Plus
17 1.2k 1679 England
10 Jul 2020 6:53PM
It is, though it may give your computer a bit of a workout!
JuBarney Plus
9 33 4 United Kingdom
10 Jul 2020 6:56PM
It's the controller of the laptop I'm worried about!
dudler Plus
17 1.2k 1679 England
10 Jul 2020 7:21PM
I'm really not into extensive processing, but the steps with my current subscription version of PS was as simple as I've described above... Looking forward to seeing your panoramics, Ju. You definitely live in a place where they are there for the taking!

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