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Create A Wildlife Panorama

Panoramas aren't just for landscapes! Use this technique to create portraits of wildlife that reveal your subjects in their habitats
Wildlife panorama of a bison

Wildlife panoramas are the ultimate “environmental portraits,” revealing your subjects within the greater context of their habitat.

A wildlife panorama image is one of the most beautiful ways to show wildlife in their environment. Unlike traditional landscape panoramas, however, wildlife panoramas have subjects that move across the landscape, which can be problematic. When I started shooting wildlife panoramas, I often created a bison with two heads or a moose with two butts. The success rate of these types of images can be low, but with the techniques outlined here, you will be well on your way to increasing your success rate.

As with traditional panoramas, you will want to shoot in portrait format and overlap about one-third of each frame. Usually, you would start at the edge of your panorama and then move left or right, but wildlife panoramas are different.

Steps To Create A Wildlife Panorama

  1. First you want to capture the image of your subject and then create the panorama around that first frame.
  2. Once you have your first frame, overlap one-third of each frame to one side until you reach the edge of the scene you want to capture (see illustration below).
  3. Do the same on the opposite side of your first frame, ensuring you are also overlapping by one-third of a frame.
  4. The most common pitfall is overlapping your frames while your subject is moving into a new frame. If your subject is moving in the direction you are overlapping, allow it to completely exit the frame before snapping your overlapped frame. Allowing the subject to stay in the frame will lead to the dreaded double butt or double head.
Wildlife panorama overlap

Shooting vertically and overlapping the individual frames of your panorama by about one-third gives your software more data for better end results.

Creating a wildlife panorama requires planning and a little luck. When making this image, I anticipated that the bison might want cross the fence. Noticing a break in the fence, I set up my tripod and planned my first shot around the bison crossing at that point. I got a little lucky by guessing correctly. I then panned left and right, making sure he was not in any of my other frames.

It takes a bit of practice, but stick to it, and before you know it you will become addicted to making these images — at least that’s what happened to me.

For tips and gear to create better panoramas with and without wildlife, see “Tools For Panoramas” and our “Panorama Primer.