My lens woes continue.
Having broken my 24-70mm lens it has been away for repair since the beginning of December. With the 17-40mm lens that I have on loan and my 70-200mm telephoto lens I am left with a gaping hole between 40 and 70mm.
This is rather inconvenient as I like to shoot at 50mm on a regular basis. This was the case on a recent visit to the River Brathay in the central Lake District.
The River Brathay
I recently paid a visit to Elterwater to photography the River Brathay for my location guide to the central Lake District.
Conditions were good despite the rain and the gentle breeze only mildly effected the reflections.
When the reflections are this good I generally in ignore all foreground interest. This often involves shooting at a slightly longer focal length than usual in order to cut out any distractions.
But I had a dilemma. In portrait orientation 40mm was too wide and 70mm was too tight.
The Norman Method
Whilst pondering what to do I was reminded of a conversation that I had had with Gary Norman at the photography show just a few days earlier.
Gary told me that he doesn’t have a wide angle lens. Instead if he needs a wider angle of view he puts his camera in portrait orientation, shoots a panorama and then crops to a more common aspect ratio.
By doing this he can in effect turn is 24-70mm lens into a 16mm lens.
Shooting a Panorama
I know that if I shot a panorama in portrait orientation at 70mm with a little cropping I would get something close to 50mm.
I have not shot a panorama before because up until recently I have not been able to level my tripod.
However, having recently purchased a Benro Mach 3 TMA48CXL complete with built in spirit level now was my opportunity.
Having watched so many other photographers shooting panoramas on YouTube it was almost as though the whole process was second nature to me.
Here’s is the approach that I used:
- Level the tripod using the built in spirit level
- Mount the camera in portrait orientation
- Level the camera using it’s electronic level placing the horizon in the middle of the frame
- Focus manually on the primary subject, in this case the trees directly across from where I was stood
- Manually set the exposure
- Working from left to right shoot multiple exposures over lapping each time by about a third. This scene required 9 images.
When not to Shoot a Panorama
I recalled during my conversation with Gary that I did point out that there was one occasion where is approach would not work.
I typically shoot a lot of long exposures. As exposure times can run into the minutes it would be highly unlikely for the lighting conditions to remain constant long enough to shoot the panorama.
The most likely outcome would be an image with unnatural light and dark areas.
Gary also pointed out that it doesn’t work when there is a lot of movement in the scene, when shooting waves on the beach for example.
Once I was home I excitedly imported all of my images from the morning’s shoot into Lightroom.
I selected the 9 images that I had taken and merged them into a panorama. Selecting photo merge > panorama I was then faced with a choice of projection methods:
I didn’t really know which one to select so I went for cylindrical and hoped for the best!
I also selected auto crop to remove the white edges of the frame. The resulting image has huge. 13,800 x 5,200 pixels and 240MB.
The image was so large that there was a little lag when I walked through my usual post processing workflow on my Macbook Air.
When I was finished I cropped down to my usual 16:9 ratio and sat back to admire my work. I am pretty pleased with the final result.
Gary explained to me that he shoots so many panoramas because they give him so many options for post processing.
He went on to explain that by shooting a panorama there is so much more scope for fine tuning his composition.
We sometimes refer to this approach as “get the data, sort it later”. Perhaps a little clinical for my taste but a useful technique nevertheless.
Despite the minor irritation of a slow laptop whilst editing the larger than usual image had one advantage. Normally my 6D allows me to print up to 18 inches wide (at 300 dpi) but my shot of the River Brathay would print at 24 inches quite comfortably.
Shooting panoramas is a little complicated but once you get the hang of it it can be a very useful approach.
I think I will continue to shoot panoramas in the future, even after my 24-70mm lens is fixed, particularly when the best composition is not immediately obvious to me.