Handheld Panoramas

The same basic technique I have previously described for shooting handheld HDRs applies to shooting panoramas also.  I have two handheld panos to show you in this post.

The first pano was taken in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery.  The National Gallery is on the left, St. Martin in the Fields is near the center, and most of Nelson’s column on the right. 

This image highlights a problem that occurs in making panos, that is the need to keep the camera level through the entire pan.  In this case, I had to keep the camera level and try not to chop off the tops of the National Gallery and Lord Nelson.  I was successful with one and not the other, even when using my 16-35mm lens at 16mm.

The second handheld pano I want to show was taken in the Parthenon Hall at the British Museum. 

This was an awesome space, but the reason I want to show this shot is to demonstrate that handheld panos can be done indoors, even with dim lighting.  Again, I had my 16-35mm set to 16mm.  I set my ISO to 400, and the exposure for the scene was 1/20th of a second across the whole scene.  I am an aging geezer and the thought of having to shoot handheld at 1/20th of a second sends a chill through my bones.  But the image is sharp – how did I do it?  First, I was shooting with what is commonly thoght of as a super wide angle lens, and these can be very forgiving of minor shakes.  But the Nikon 16-35mm has a very effective vibration reduction (VR) system.  I have VR on my 85mm macro, and I have not been very impressed with it, but the VR on the 16-35mm is really effective.  I used it almost constantly in iffey lighting situations and would check the sharpness by magnifying the LCD image on the camera.  Each time I looked, my images were sharp – much sharper than I ever had imagined they would be in the situations I was shooting.

“Chocolate Box” Photos …

Before going to England, I did some web searching to find places of photographic interest in the vicinity of Cirencester in the Cotswolds.  Running across the web site of the Cirencester Camera Club, I sent an enquiry via their comment form, asking for suggestions and whether anyone would be interested in going out on a morning photo expedition.  I got a reply from the club president, Syd Mathews, so that on the Friday morning I was in Cirencester, Syd, John Hanlin, and I went to Bibury, a location that has been called “the most beautiful village in England”.  The picturesque Arlington Row cottages that I show in this post were built in 1380 as a monastic wool store, and were converted into a row of weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. Arlington Row is probably one of the most photographed Cotswolds scenes, what Syd and John termed as a “Chocolate Box” scene.

The three of us did not get to Bibury until nearly 9am, meaning the sun was relatively high in a cloudless sky and the shadows were very harsh.  The only way around the extreme lighting was to shoot an HDR series to capture detail in both the highlights and the shadows. Not being able to spend much time with the subject before the light got even worse, I also decided to shoot a panorama in order capture the whole scene. The following image shows the almost the entire length of Arlington Row. It consists of four separate HDR images that were then stiched together in Adobe Bridge.

As the first of the tourists began to show up to get their snapshots, the three of us adjourned to shoot at the abandoned Thames and Severn Canal for a while, and then Syd and I took off for a cup of coffee.  It was very nice to be able to hook up with folks like Syd and John who share your interests, and I am very grateful for their hospitality and warmth.  But … the Bibury story does not stop there.

The next morning, I made another run to Bibury on my own.  I left at 6am, hoping to get the early monring light.  What I got was fog.

Both of the following images are stitched panaoramas. The first image was taken at the western end of Arlington Row, looking back down on the scene I had taken the day before from the other end.

This final image came from approximately the same location as the shot I had taken the day before, but this time I decided the foggy scene would look best in black and white.

I hope you enjoy these images.

Size and Distance Do Matter …

I shared this image with you a couple of weeks ago.  It is a panorama made of the second floor machine room at the Lonaconing Silk Mill.  So, why am I showing it to you again?

Well, this past Saturday, I went to Richmond and spent the day with Craig Rudlin doing some editing on the rough draft of the book he is putting together, as well as some printing on his 40+” Canon printer.  Craig will be including this image in his book and asked me if I would like a large print of it.  I said that I would, and I wound up driving home with a large sheet of expensive photographic paper containing an11.5″x34.25″ panorama print.  I don’t usually print things very large (13″x19″ sheet paper is all I can handle at home, and I do not send work out to custom printer shops), so having an image of mine this big has been revelatory in many ways.  One of these revelations is that when I step to within about three feet of the print, the curved perspective in the image disappears – lines straighten out and it actually feels as if I am standing in the mill.  This ability to really be physically drawn into the image like this is not something that can happen readily with a smaller print or an on screen image (you’d probably wind up with nose smudges on your monitor.) Some images just have to be large. As photographers, we all want viewers to engage with our images emotionally and psychologically, and we “dodge and burn” in order to guide their eyes through the scene. This level of physical engagement, though, was a new sensation for me, along with the fact that this was the first time I have ever had an image of mine printed to that size. This brings a whole new perspective to things ….