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Panoramic Photographs

You may find that when you take pictures of landscapes, be it on holiday or your surroundings or when you've planned a trip specifically for some photography that the images you are left with often feel lacking. In fact the disappointment can sometimes be in direct proportion to how epic the scene was when you were physically there! The reason for this is because of peripheral vision; when you are stood looking at the River Thames or Grand Canyon you have two eyes that take in a lot more light and view a far wider strip of landscape than a single camera lens and sensor is ever able to do. Our brain is aware of things on the periphery of our vision and with a slight shift of our heads we can adjust our views instantly to take in the beauty and grandeur of the landscape that is laid out before us. When you take a photograph to remember you experience of course you will be disappointed; the photograph (no matter how professionally composed it is) will be lacking because it will be focusing on a very small area of the landscape and does not match how our eyes first perceived the landscape. This has always been rectifiable by shooting a panorama (a panorama is simply a series of images that have been taken and stitched together to provide one giant photograph) however thanks to modern software and digital cameras you can no produce completely seamless panoramas with no joins that are absolutely stunning to behold.

The first thing you should be wary of when considering a panorama is the time of the day; you have to be careful when you take your series of photographs otherwise you will end up with different weather conditions on each photograph. If the day is windy you will find that that clouds may move too quickly to take a successful panorama, and if the day is changeable you may even end up with half of your shots in bright sunshine and half in gloomy rain! Always pay attention to the weather and ambient conditions as you want each shot to match as much as possible. You should also avoid moving subjects such as cars, boats and people (and sometimes trees on a windy day) as these will simply confuse both the image and the stitching software that will join your images together; the only time you can avoid this is at night with a long shutter speed that will exclude moving subjects. A tripod is essential for panoramic photography. If you attempt to take your photographs with the camera held in your hand you will very probably be unable to stitch them together no matter what software you use as you will bend the horizon and things will simply not match. You can purchase specialist pano heads for your tripod that allow you to rotate your camera exactly around your lenses nodal point which will result in a perfect set of images to be stitched together. In a pinch however you can get by with any regular head, you must just be very careful and always be aware of where you are moving to next and how it will look compared to your previous shot.

When taking your images always try to use portrait orientation if possible. You will have to take a lot more images to stitch together but you will find that a taller image will give you more room for error if you do end up cropping out parts of the final image. When taking each shot be sure to provide a generous amount of overlap with the previous shot, some software recommends as much as 50%, although this is probably excessive if you are taking your photographs in the proper manner. You should also always use manual settings! If you use any automatic setting on your camera it will adjust as you pan your camera around and take shot after shot, and the result will be that none of your shots will come out looking the same as your camera has adjusted itself to new light levels each time you reposition it. You should also always try and shoot in RAW to allow the raw image data to be stitched together and composed into a final image by the stitching software. Once you have taken your series of shots it is simply a case of importing the final images into the software and allowing it to do it's work. Occasionally the software may have issues stitching certain shots and you may have to manually adjust them, but generally speaking modern stitching software is very adept at sifting through images and matching them together.