Brian's Photo Blog — Article 54
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An Overview of Panoramic Photos
Friday 16 March 2012   —   Category: Processing

Sometimes a viewfinder is just way too narrow to capture the expansive scene before you. At such times, a panoramic photo is necessary in order to convey some sense of what you are seeing.

My interest in panoramic pictures started to develop as I was attempting to photograph some of Oregon’s 1000-plus waterfalls. On some of my outings to Silver Falls State Park (less than an hour from our house), I found it impossible — and frustrating! — that I couldn’t fit a number of the ten waterfalls into a single shot. Some of them are quite tall (177, 178, 134, 136 feet), and you can’t get far enough away, while still having a clear view of the falls, to get a chance to photograph the entire waterfall all at once.

On these occasions, I did the best I knew how (at the time) by taking pictures of different parts of a waterfall, and then put it all together in Photoshop later. Because I had never really done this before, it wasn’t until I got home and tried to manually construct the waterfall panoramas that I discovered that I didn’t do a very good job of photographing the waterfalls in the first place. I really needed to have taken more photos AROUND the waterfalls, and not just of the waterfalls themselves. Because of this lack of foresight, I was caught short when it came time to put it all together.

After much time and effort, I finally ended up with five panoramas of waterfalls. I like to think of these as “vertical panoramas,” because usually we associate the word “panorama” with a very wide, and comparatively not very tall, photograph. These are photos #3-7 in the Panoramas 2007-2011 album.

Just a word about this album ... when I was creating this Web site, in addition to having “normal” photo albums, I also developed the ability to have “virtual” photo albums, which gather together selected photos from normal photo albums all in one place. So the photos are not actually IN an album, like in a normal album, but just collected together from other albums to appear as a separate album. The two “pure” virtual photo albums on this Web site are Panoramas 2009-2011 and *AWARD WINNERS*. Examples of “hybrid” photo albums, which are normal photo albums combined with virtual ones, are Black and White 2011 and Black and White 2012. Just in case you wanted to know!

Anyway, back to panoramas ... after a couple of other simple panoramas, the next major panoramic event was my trip to Oregon’s John Day Fossil Beds National Monument(s). This time, I had a totally different approach to taking panoramic photos. Since my outings to Silver Falls, I had purchased a Sony Alpha α55 camera, which has built-in sweep panorama capabilities. This means you can take wide (and very wide) panoramic pictures right in the camera, without having to do a lot of stitching together of photos later in Photoshop! The problem is, I keep forgetting that my camera can do this! But fortunately I remembered before I left the Painted Hills.

I think the Painted Hills panoramas turned out pretty good. The “seams” where the camera stitched together the individual photos needed a bit of touching up in Photoshop, but nothing too major. Of course, the image size is smaller than if you took individual photos and combined them later in Photoshop or a specialized panorama program. The in-camera “normal” panorama has a size of 8192 x 1856 pixels, while the “wide” panorama is 12416 x 1856. But the lower resolution is offset by the speed and ease with which you can create an awesome panorama picture without the use of any software. I used the same technique for the panoramic photos I shot last December on my Santa Maria River Bed outing.

My most recent panoramic photos were not made with one of my “good” cameras at all, but with my wife’s humble Canon PowerShot SD550 which I took out during the recent flooding. Although my camera takes panoramic photos, I didn’t want to take the chance of it getting wet in the rain. Although the Canon SD550 does not have a panorama feature, it doesn’t really matter, because I could just take a bunch of pictures and stitch them together later with some specialized software I had recently learned about.

As opposed to my shots at Silver Falls, this time I knew I would be making panoramas, so I took plenty of photos all around each subject, just to make sure I was covering all my bases. When I got home, I purchased, downloaded and installed PTGui. I had seen a presentation on this amazing panorama stitching program at a previous Valley Viewfinders Camera Club meeting.

After creating six panoramas with it, I think it does a pretty awesome job. For example, the panorama below is a 270-degree view made up of 13 separate photos. Click on it to see the larger version, and take a good look. I really don’t see any seams, showing the borders between where it put the 13 pictures together. I truly does look seamless! And even though it’s such a wide angle of view, the image does not seem very distorted at all.

Well, that’s about as far as I have travelled on my journey into panoramas. I’m looking foward to creating some more this year — I've already started a new photo album for them: Panoramas 2012. I hope this article inpsires you to venture into panoramas too — there’s a wide, wide world out there waiting for you!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 54
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