In this Masterclass Tom Mackie shows three readers how to shoot and stitch fantastic panoramic images in the Yorkshire Dales. Gemma Padley joined them

When photographing the landscape, it can be tricky fitting everything into the frame. Even using your widest focal length there are situations in which it is impossible tosa capture the scale of a place in a single shot. As frustrating as this can be, there is a solution: to shoot a sequence of frames and stitch them together in Photoshop to create a panoramic image. In this month’s Masterclass, Tom Mackie and three AP readers trek to the Yorkshire Dales to try their hand at shooting and stitching panoramic images.

The sweeping landscape of Aysgarth Falls provided the ideal location for shooting panoramics

Tom met the readers the night before and discussed the plan for the following day over dinner. ‘Depending on the weather, we’ll attempt a dawn panorama over the village of Askrigg and then visit Aysgarth Falls in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, and photograph the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls,’ says Tom. ‘We’ll then drive to West Burton Falls, a short distance away, and finally, if we have time, travel to Hardraw Force, England’s largest single drop waterfall, which is great for vertical panoramas’.

The following morning, as the rain lashed down, a dawn shoot was out of the question, but the readers, huddled under umbrellas and undeterred, set out to capture some of North Yorkshire’s most majestic waterfalls.

They had brought their own cameras, lenses, tripods and cable releases with them, and Tom was on hand to help them set up their tripods and cameras, and share his in-depth knowledge throughout the day. ‘While you don’t need a tripod with an expensive panoramic head to create sweeping panoramas, a good-quality tripod, preferably with a ball head and spirit level on the tripod neck, is useful,’ says Tom. ‘You may want to use an ND grad filter, but avoid using a polariser when shooting the sky as the polarisation will vary. You could use a polariser for the waterfalls [if there’s not much sky in the frame] to reduce the shutter speed and blur the water. This will also reduce the glare on the water. Try using a 2-3sec exposure and see if you can create interesting swirls and patterns using the foam on the surface of the water. Think creatively and try to previsualise your shots.’

Tom advised the readers to use manual focus as they rotated the camera across the scene. One approach is to manually focus on a point in the middle distance, making sure there is enough depth of field.

The readers shot horizontal and vertical panoramas (where they used the camera in portrait format) in each of the locations. ‘I’ll typically shoot five to seven frames for a 6x17cm image,’ says Tom, ‘although how many pictures you shoot is up to you.’

Your AP Master…

Tom Mackie
A former contributor to AP’s Photo Insight series , Tom Mackie, is one of the world’s leading photographers. He has spent many years as an architecutural, industrial and landscape photographer and has a penchant for panoramic photography. Tom has published several books and written numerous articles for photography magazines. He also lectures on photography and regularly holds workshops in the UK and abroad. www.tommackie.com

The AP Readers…

Kim Benson
Kim, 48, lives in Oxfordshire and works in medical publishing. While she likes to photograph most subjects, Kim especially enjoys detail shots of flowers and abstracts. Kim uses a Canon EOS 400D with an 18-250mm and 500mm mirror lens. ‘I had a great time today,’ says Kim. ‘It was an enjoyable, enlightening experience.’

Lee Miles
Lee, 39, is a software developer and lives in Kent. He likes landscape and street photography and uses a Nikon D70 with 18-70mm and 70-300mm lenses. ‘I really enjoyed the Masterclass,’ says Lee. ‘It was a great opportunity to hear sound advice from Tom.’

Norman Robertson
Norman, 64, is a member of Leeds Photographic Society and lives in Leeds. Now retired, his main interests are landscape and wildlife photography, as well as some sports and action photography. He uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm, 24-105mm and 100-400mm optics. ‘The lessons from Tom about setting up the camera and tripod, and how to stitch the frames together afterwards, were invaluable,’ says Norman. ‘I had a really good time.’

Would you like to take part?

Every month we invite three to five AP readers to join one of our experts on an assignment over the course of a day. If you would like to take part, visit www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/masterclass for details of how to apply. Please remember to state which Masterclass you would like to attend and make sure you include your name, address, email address and daytime telephone number in your application. Each participant will be able to use his or her own camera, lenses and other equipment.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Shooting Panoramic Images
  3. 3. Exposure
  4. 4. Stitching the Images Together and Top Tips
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