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Recently, I took a road trip across the country, and along the way I spent a few days in Yellowstone National Park and in the Badlands of South Dakota. Both places are visually stunning and as you might guess, both are very popular spots for photographers. However, anyone armed with a camera is immediately faced with the considerable challenge of: how do I effectively capture all that I am seeing?

For professionals, it often means shooting with a large format camera (4x5, 8x10) that can render large prints with fine detail. There are also those who shoot with special panoramic cameras capable of capturing wide spans of scenery that give the viewer a better sense of scale than traditionally formatted cameras do.

However, if you don't happen to own a large format or panoramic camera, you can still create the same effect by digitally stitching images together that you capture with a traditionally formatted camera. This lesson demonstrates some simple shooting and digital techniques to render professional-looking panoramic images.

(Most images can be clicked for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Using a telephoto attachment lens
  • Eliminating flare
  • Calibrating your image sequence
  • Adobe Photoshop techniques for merging images seamlessly

Equipment Used:

Camera/Media

During this trip, I mostly shot with the 5-megapixel Olympus E-20N, a digital camera that renders excellent image quality and that accommodates many useful accessories. The most useful accessory is the optional Olympus Lithium Polymer battery pack. Once this is fully charged, you can go several days without having to charge it again: excellent for location work.

The other great thing about the E-20N is that it accommodates relatively inexpensive conversion lenses. You can affix macro, telephoto and wide- angle conversion lenses quickly and simply. I used a wide-angle conversion lens here for my panoramic series of a scene in the Badlands (figures 1 & 2).

After I mounted the camera to my tripod and attached the macro conversion lens, I took a test shot facing south of ridge of mountains. Afterward, I reviewed the image in playback mode on the LCD (figure 3).



Figure 3

Since the camera was facing directly south, the sun created a line of flare down the center of the image. While this can be a nice effect for some shots, I didn't want to have it here, particularly since I would later be stitching multiple images together.

After reviewing the shot, I also realized that I wanted to see more texture and shape of the mountains than what I saw here. So I recomposed some different shots facing both east and west to see how the mountain ridges looked as the sun raked across them, and ended up facing west, as I liked the look of the jagged edges of this particular mountain ridge.

Since the sun was still hitting the lens, I affixed a remote release cable to the camera to trigger the shutter, stood to the side of the camera so that I could see the lens, and carefully positioned a Photoflex 12" Silver/Black LiteDisc (with the black side facing the camera) to block the sun from hitting the lens. I then squeezed the cable release button and triggered the shutter to capture another shot (figures 4 & 5).

The result shows a big improvement. There is no sign of flare and the shape and texture of the mountains are much more interesting.

Having previously set the tripod to hold the camera as level as possible, I then spun the camera on the base of the tripod head 15 degrees to the right, locked it down and took another shot (figures 6 & 7).



Figure 8

After reviewing this second exposure, I spun the camera another 15 degrees and took a final shot (figure 8).

After the trip, I downloaded these images to my computer and opened them up in Adobe Photoshop to create a single panoramic image. First, I placed the images side by side on the screen to get an idea of how the final result would look, and then decided to create a new blank image to serve as the working space for the three images.

Final Results



Figure 9

 
 

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More Final Results From This Lesson



Figure 10

 
 


Figure 11

 
 

Equipment Used:

Camera/Media

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