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

Shooting Panoramic Images

Shooting panoramic images requires a
little thought to achieve striking compositions. While you could, in
theory, make any scene into a panoramic, to produce an image that is
engaging to look at you need to look and ‘see’ in a panoramic format as
you are composing your image. Most important is that there are
interesting elements to keep the eye hooked from left to right. Decide a
beginning and end point for your panorama, and think about the balance
of subjects between these two points. Look for elements that complement
and support your main subject. You could place your subject on a third,
but be careful not to include all the interesting material at one end –
you want to compose your shot to retain the viewer’s attention across
the whole image and ensure the eye glides seamlessly from one side to
the other.

 Norman Robertson captures this dawn view over Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales

‘Think
about how you can use foliage and bracken to frame your shot,’ says
Tom, ‘and omit anything that doesn’t enhance the main subject or that is
obviously distracting to the eye. As you’re framing your shot, keep
colour in mind and think about how you can balance different colours in
the frame. Remember that you are composing for a 6x17cm frame and this
requires a different compositional mindset. You may find it helpful to
have a 6x17cm viewfinder card when looking at the scene to help you
envisage your final composition.’


Setting up the Tripod and Camera

Before
you start shooting, it is vital to set up the camera and tripod
carefully otherwise you will run into difficulty at the stitching stage.
First, you need to make sure your tripod is level and that your camera
is level on the tripod. A tripod with an built-in spirit level is
useful, as is a spirit level attached to the camera’s hotshoe.

Once
your camera is set up and levelled, rotate the camera across the scene
to make sure everything is positioned where you want it in the frame.
When you come to take your sequence of shots, keep the camera level as
you rotate it. ‘The tripod head you use is important in keeping the
movement smooth,’ says Tom. ‘A tripod with a pan-and-tilt head is ideal,
but a ball-and-socket tripod will work fine, too.’

Shooting

Once
the readers had set up their cameras and tripods, they were ready to
start shooting. Tom suggested they overlap each frame by a third to
ensure sufficient overlap and shoot more frames than they needed. The
readers tried shooting with their cameras horizontal and vertical. While
horizontal panoramics can look effective, they allow less room to
develop the composition from top to bottom and the final panoramic will
be long and thin. Positioning the camera vertically on the tripod and
taking a series of shots will instead give you a composition with more
height, although you will most likely need to take more frames if you
use this approach.

Rotating her camera vertically, Kim captures the drama of Aysgarth Falls

Nodal Point and Parallax Error

When
panning the camera to shoot a series of frames, parallax error can
sometimes occur. This is due to the shifting relationship between near
and distant elements in the scene. One way to avoid this is to choose
scenes with no foreground detail, but if you do have foreground detail
in your shot you can solve the problem by rotating the camera around its
optical centre or ‘nodal point’. A detachable bracket called a nodal
slide that fixes to your tripod allows you to position the camera in
relation to the tripod head so it rotates from its optical centre.

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