Have you ever been taking a picture and wished just a bit more could fit in the frame? Panoramas are a great way to get ALL of that epic shot captured. As my (Cassie’s) band was playing in Taos a couple weekends ago, I knew that photography adventure was in order. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is one of the many attractions in Taos. Driving over it feels like a miniature version of the Grand Canyon. It’s beauty sneaks up on you as you pass through the outskirts of Taos. Before you know it you are driving over a 650 foot drop. Looking over the bridge is not for the faint hearted. I found my legs morphing to jello and my stomach turning upside down. After my initial fears subsided I was overwhelmed with excitement as I thought of the awesome photo opportunities that awaited us. Here is a panorama of the bridge and the gorge beneath it. Click on the photo to see a larger version of it.
After our time at the bridge we continued onto Colorado to watch the Giants dominate the Patriots with Trevor’s family. The scenery from northern New Mexico leading up to Colorado is breathtaking. We had to stop and get some shots of the awesome mountains ranges topped with snow.
We couldn’t show mountain panoramas without having one of the good old Sandia Mountains. Trevor took this shot for his mom who now lives in Colorado, but misses the New Mexico mountain she grew up near.
Here are some tips from Trevor on getting great panoramic shots:
So when setting up for a pano shot you need to first make sure you have the right equipment and software. Lets talk about equipment. You will need a good tripod to take panos. I use a Manfrotto 055 head and Manfrotto 755cx3 legs. It is a video/photography head. The one thing I like for photography is the degrees on the pan and tilt function. So I can know with a 24 mm lens I get 84 diagonal degrees FOV “field of View” and 74 degrees of horizontal FOV. So I would round down to be safe and say 75 and 60. So when moving side to side taking pictures I will move the tripod 75 degrees take a picture and repeat. For taking pictures up and down move it 60 degrees and take a picture and repeat.
As for the camera you want it to be set to manual everything, even focus and white balance. Find you middle ground exposure and lock it at that. If you are metering greater then 7 stops difference from the overexposed to underexposed I would highly recommend using RAW rather then JPEG. RAW is far more forgiving when it comes to blown out or under exposed images. So if you just meter the shutter speed and you see the brightest area is 1/2000 and the darkest is 1/15 that is 7 stops of light difference. “easier to calculate then it looks” 1/15 to 1/30 = 1 stop 1/30 to 1/60= 1 stop so double your shutter speed is going down 1 stop. So if you know you are around 7 stops difference you can set to 1/250 and you can be fine. Research your camera. For example the Pentax K5 as far as I know is one of the best cameras as far as dynamic range goes. It uses a sony sensor that can get up to 14.1 stops of Dynamic Range. However, every camera is different so you will have to research it. Mine the K7 gets 11 stops of dynamic range.
When choosing a lens you have to ask yourself what you want to do with the panorama. If you want to print out a panorama and make it go around the room you can use a more telephoto lens to create a huge picture file that can be printed larger. So sometimes I find myself using a 135mm lens. So wider isn’t better when it comes to panoramas.
After you get your photos and put them on the computer you can use a lot of different methods for stiching them together. I use PTGui or Photoshop CS5. PTGui is great when there are a lot of photos to deal with. When I am stitching together more then 10 photos I will use PTGui. Photoshop is great but it takes a long time to process the pictures sometimes even hours. Once you stitch the photos together I will open the stitched photo with preview “Mac” and crop it to make it a square or rectangle. There you have it now go shoot some Panoramas!