Simple Panoramas

Fish Eye Filters

Q) What’s the best technique to obtain a panoramic image without going in for expensive equipment such as panoramic cameras? I have a Canon EOS 30D and shoot with a Gitzo tripod and Kirk BH-1 ballhead. Do I need to capture eight to 10 overlapping images of the panoramic landscape and then stitch them together in Photoshop?

A) Great panoramas can be created with the camera equipment you already have and software that’s relatively inexpensive or possibly the software you already own. It takes some practice to learn how to visualize and shoot the subject most efficiently. You can make a horizontal or vertical composite image, and you can compose the panorama from either horizontal or vertical shots. The number of images needed can range from two to 20 or more. Remember that you need a strong composition—an obvious beginning and end and enough subject to keep the viewers interested in the middle. To give the stitching program enough information to match the images, overlap the captures by at least 20% with normal to telephoto lenses and overlap by 50% with wide-angle lenses. Keep the horizon level! In addition to a good tripod and ballhead, I use a two-axis bubble level in the camera hot-shoe to assist me in staying straight. You actually can handhold a panorama series, but your chances of a quality result are diminished and you lose a lot of information around the edges when you evenly crop the final composite.

Photoshop CS3 (Photomerge) can do a good job of putting together composite panoramas, but my favorite standalone panorama software is Arcsoft’s Panorama Maker 4.0 Pro (www.arcsoft.com). There are numerous others programs, but this one is simple and has worked well for me over the years.

Three digitally captured images make up this composite panorama of aspens in Colorado. The image was put together using Arcsoft’s Panorama Maker 4.0 Pro software. I used Canon EOS 5D and Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 zoom lens at 105mm, 1/90 sec. at ƒ/16.

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