Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Try composite panoramas to get a wider view of wildlife while keeping the animals prominent in the frame
The foremost reason for capturing wildlife panorama-style is that their positioning relative to one another and their surroundings lends itself to a long and narrow horizontal or vertical composition. As with any still life, the juxtaposition of the subjects needs to be harmonious, but panoramas also need to tell a story with a beginning, a strong center of interest and an ending. In most cultures, we read from left to right, and a viewer moving through a panoramic image typically will "read" the image in the same direction. So the animals at the left end of the arrangement need to welcome the viewer to the story with a strong statement. Typically, a great wildlife panorama doesn't begin with a butt shot or an animal that's looking away from the camera or the group.
The flow of action and interest should be strong in the central areas of the panorama. Qualities such as intense design elements, a concentration of subjects or even humor can carry the viewer from one end of the panorama to the other. But you have to end with an exclamation point or at least a good solid period. Ideally, the animals positioned to the right of the scene will finish and contain it. They shouldn't be running out of the edge of the image.
But wait! These are wild subjects, right? How do you get them all to cooperate with your grand design? As with all wildlife photography, patience and luck count. If you have the time, consider each segment of the panorama as a separate image. Frame a few animals, then wait for them to lift their heads, look at you or interact with each other before you capture that scene and move on to the next segment. Try to overlap your captures in areas of the scene that don't contain wildlife subjects; that is, don't cut animals in half, because if they move even slightly, it may be difficult to put them back together later. By shooting the same sequence several times from the same position and focal length, you may be able to choose the best rendition from among several captures of a particular group of subjects within the panorama. While I oppose adding animals that were never there to any image, I'm not averse to using cropping to create space at one end or the other, or the removal of improperly positioned subjects. (I already know that some of you think it's silly not to add if you can, and some of you think it's wrong to remove anything, so you don't need to tell me again. It's your choice.)
If the animals are moving quickly before you, you need to work fast or you'll miss segments of the background. A telephoto lens helps to keep the background out of focus, making it easier to match. As an alternative, reshoot the background after the subjects have moved past it; that way, you'll be able to insert any missing areas during the compositing of the panorama.
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