Panoramas Part II

I did an earlier post on pano stitching software.

Durban’s harbour entrance widening project.**

The most accurate way of shooting a panorama is to use a tripod and a device so the camera swivels on the lens’ nodal point – see for an example.

Connecting the tripod directly to the camera’s tripod socket does introduce some parallax error into your panorama so you need a panorama head like a Nodal Ninja, if you’re after perfection. I’ve been getting decent enough results without one, and even shooting hand-held.

Pano shooting tips

A tip I picked up on the web is that you should set your camera on manual exposure and manual focus to cut down on variations in the pictures which will make up the panorama. You obviously have to pick exposure settings to suit your scene and then dial these into your camera, once it has been set to manual.

The next step is to focus the camera correctly and switch off auto-focus so that, providing you don’t alter the lens’ zoom setting, it will hold the same focus until you’ve finished shooting your panorama sequence.

You then take the pictures for your panorama, taking extreme care to keep the camera level between shots and that each shot overlaps the one before it by about a third. One way to help keep things level is to ensure that your viewfinder markings are always in exactly the same position with regard to features in your scene. An example of that would be always placing the central focusing mark on the horizon.

Note: You can shoot either in landscape mode or, as I prefer, turning my camera on its side and shooting in portrait mode. That way gives you more picture if you need to crop the picture after stitching it.

It’s usual to shoot your sequence of pictures from left to right and it will help you sorting things out later, if you mark the beginning of the sequence by taking a picture of your left hand and the end, by taking a picture of your right hand. This makes it easy to tell which the panorama pictures are because its easy to get confused, once a bit of time has passed.

Another tip that I picked up from Episode # 23 of Scott Kelby’s D-Town TV show is that you can get much better results when shooting panoramas hand-held if you don’t keep your feet in the same position for each shot. I intuitively kept my feet and body as still as possible and just swivelled my torso when shooting a pano sequence to try and cut down on error.

I noticed I was ending up in quite a contorted position at the end of the sequence and it turns out that this twisting motion introduces error, so the component picture don’t stitch as well as they might. The solution, says Kelby, is to reset your feet every few shots so that you’re totally comfortable.

Hand-holding does work pretty but a Nodal Ninja, or other Pano tripod head, would still be the best solution.

**The sample pano, at the top of this post, is quite an historic one because, if I were to try and stand in the same position today, I’d sink in 20 fathoms or so of seawater in Durban’s much wider harbour mouth. The new northern groyne can be seen at extreme left. The old north groyne was approximately where the pipe comes ashore, to the left of the digger.

The pipe was a temporary measure for supplying sand to Durban’s beaches. Dredgers would couple up to the pipe and discharge their cargoes of sand.

All that ground is gone; part of the 10-million cubic meters of material that will have been moved once the harbour project is complete in March 2010. See my Durban website for much more on our harbour.


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