Finally, you’ve purchased an expensive, beautiful DSLR Camera, or maybe you just updated to the newest camera model, with all the latest bells-and-whistles and now you’re ready to embark on the grand adventure of creating masterpieces with your camera equipment. The desire to capture the powerful images you see every day has prompted you to take a leap of faith and dive into the world of shooting vertical panoramic landscape images.
Whether you’re in New York City, walking up Wall Street, looking at the 1930 buildings and their intricate architectural lines, or hiking back off highway 75 in Oregon for more than 5 miles, to watch the power of some of the largest waterfalls in the county; each provides a breath-taking view of the scene’s majestic nature! Of course, you want to capture each subject’s potent curves & colors.
In this article, we are going to provide you with all the technical information, tricks-of-the-trade and recommended suggestions on HOW-TO shoot panoramic images of vertical scenery, such as Statues, Monuments, Hi-Rise Buildings and even the action photography of shooting waterfalls and other natural landscape subjects. Do not be afraid or daunted by the wealth of information contained herein. Let us share our knowledge in a common-sense, easy going, step-by-step process to mastering the world of shooting vertical scenery!
Basic Tools Used to Produce Ideal Panoramic Vertical Images
Preparing to take panoramic vertical scenery shots is a studied, methodical process of organizing all your tools and carting them (sometimes miles) to the desired location, setting up the equipment with all its bells and whistles, waiting for that perfect moment where light, movement and nature are in complete harmony, spending a few minutes capturing each image with flawless color, clarity, and detail; then packing everything up to head back home and transfer all your images onto photo paper. WHEW! Quite a lot of prep work, for a few moments of making magic with your DSLR Camera. Is it worth it? The next time you look at a well-renown photographer’s work, you tell us!
Below, let us show you the necessary tools and some optional equipment you can acquire to aid you in mastering vertical panoramic photography”
|BASIC CAMERA EQUIPMENT||OPTIONAL CAMERA EQUIPMENT/ETC.|
|Tripod – Critical, Critical, Critical||Plastic Bags or Rain Hoods – in case of Rain|
|Bubble Level||Remote Cable Release or Wireless Switch|
|Neutral Density Filter||Circular Polarizer Filter|
|Soft Lens Cloth||Panoramic Photo Software Programs|
|Back Pack or Camera Bag||A Small Bag with handles for Rocks|
The basic required camera equipment column is actually pretty self-explanatory, but let me explain the reason for having a basic camera kit which contains a few camera equipment options. For example, no self-respecting, amateur photographer is scene without her/his TRIPOD or Camera Kit/Back-Pack.
A Tripod is the singular most important tool a photographer owns and uses for shooting in almost any type of setting, except for some action shots which require speed, mobility and continual, quick movements. The Tripod locks the camera into a stable, rigid position that compensates for most major vibration and movement mishaps. Many photographers also bring a small grocery/trash bag to place Rocks inside which can be added to the tripod to increase its stability and help to avoid movement when shooting the landscape, especially in inclement weather or where people are loitering or moving in and through the shot. The Plastic Bags are also great during rain or misty situations, where camera equipment needs to be kept dry during operation. The Soft Lens Cloth is also important for keeping dust or mist from the lens, to an absolute minimum.
A Bubble Level is also an inexpensive, yet critical tool for ensuring the camera and tripod are exactly level. The reason for this is simple. The really spectacular shots of vertical waterfalls and other panoramic vertical landscapes are developed by takings a series of individual shots and overlapping the frames by 30% to creating a crystal-clear vertical panoramic masterpiece. The individual camera shot must be precisely level with the next shot, and the next shot, and each sequential frame. Sometimes it may take up to 16 individual frames to produce your panoramic view in its greatest detail and context.
The Neutral Density Filter is practically a must for even the most amateur of photographers. These filters are used to reduce glare from reflections on water, glass and most everything in which light bounces off the object, producing a glare. Some photographers like to use a circular or other type of Polarizer Filter which works by blocking out the light’s rays which are coming in at an angle in and around the images. Some photographers use the circular polarizer filter when using the autofocus or TTL metering options on the camera’s settings to avoid problems with color saturation.
Any time you are setting up your camera for shots with longer exposure, you need to reduce the vibration problems associated with shutter “clicks”, by purchasing a Remote Switch or Wireless Remote. For example, when shooting waterfall scenery, by using the remote switch to complete the shutter “click” operation; you reduce the amount of vibration transmitted throughout the camera during the actual pressing of the shutter. Using a Remote Switch enables you to capture the image without touching the camera, at all. Of course, you could use a timer, already outfitted on the camera, but you then lose the advantage of shooting in rapid fire sequence, several perfect images!
Finally, finding just the right photo-shop software you enjoy, which provides you with an easy-to-use process for improving on your current camera skills.
Let us demonstrate in clear and easy steps, HOW-TO capture the power and mystery of a waterfall or the vibrant colors and textures of an evening sunset behind a city skyline with any DSLR camera, a basic starter kit & lens, a tripod, a few other optional tools and your home computer!
Step 1 EQUIPMENT SET-UP
Don’t forget to bring the tripod! We use one which attaches to the back of your camera backpack kit and unfolds for easy setup in just under a minute!
I also use a relatively inexpensive Pano-Head attachment, which enables me to lock into a fixed position, the vertical axis tilting for the camera. Be sure to set-up and lock the tripod into the most comfortable and level position for you to perform your work. You can purchase an inexpensive Bubble-Level attachment, as well, which attaches into the hot-shoe of a DSLR Camera and tells you if the tripod is level! Just be sure to set-up your camera in a level and fixed position of movement, best suited to the vertical panoramic view you want to capture. Don’t forget to use your back pack or a plastic bag, filled half way with small rocks to steady the tripod and reduce inadvertent movement.
Step 2 CAMERA SETTINGS
Now we can focus on setting the camera’s exposure, lighting and speed settings for capturing the exact location shots we want.
AUTOMATIC SETTINGS – If you use a point and shoot camera or even most DSLR cameras; try using the automatic settings for your first practices views, so you can actually see the flaws in not capturing the power and beauty of your central image and its contextual backdrop. After you see the loss of detail and the inability to capture the majestic power of your central subject; you will better understand the importance of learning how to use manual settings.
PANORAMIC OR STITCH MODE – Most DSLR Cameras have a Panorama Mode (or Stitch Mode) which will lock the exposure for you, the beginner, once you have set your manual settings. You will always lock the exposure on the focal point of your vertical landscape and begin to take practice pictures to see the types of adjustments you may need to refocus to gain greater clarity, color and sharpness!
WIDE ANGLE & VERTICAL CAMERA TITLE – If you attempt to “zoom” the camera to a wide angle, then tilt the camera on its vertical side and lock the exposure, it will make the objects which are the central image, appear smaller and less detailed. You lose the opportunity of making the waterfall your central focal point in a panoramic view of the forest’s backdrop. Remember you want an even natural exposure across all the skyline of your image, so find your focal point and manually adjust your exposure to that setting.
WEATHER/TIMING – The perfect conditions for taking the best in vertical panoramic shots depends upon the images, you are attempting to capture onto paper. For example, waterfalls are best captured in the early morning or around sunset on an overcast, cloudy day! What you see in the viewfinder, minus the reflective glare which is hard to view with the naked eye, is primarily what will be translated into the image you get. On an overcast day, the direct sunlight is kept to a minimum, thereby reducing the glare onto wet foliage and rocky landscapes. The same theory contends for shooting sunsets behind marvelous building architecture. Late afternoon at sunset is best for city buildings with the skyline as the backdrop.
SAFETY TIP: Though these moments are best for capturing the beauty in digital photography, they are not the safest for the photographer! Be sure to take great care when tromping around the woods on misty days, or out in the busy city life at around sunset, when light is diminished for other moving objects!
LIGHTING & FILTERS – While you do have time to set-up your equipment and adjust your settings for a perfect panorama shot, you don‘t have all day to play; so find the perfect natural light to take all your pictures evenly across the VERTICAL plane of view and use appropriate filters to adjust for inadvertent glare and improve the sharpness of the central focal point in your individual shots. Using LIGHT and FILTER AIDES allow you to refocus your panoramic vertical shot to bring the SUBJECT into sharp detail and to make it the central focal point, while capturing the forest, skyline or city backdrop behind the focal point to tell a greater story.
SPECIAL TOOLS NOTATION: The Circular Polarizer Filter is best at helping you to achieve this goal (a vertical central focal point with an amazing story behind the subject). First, a filter darkens the lens’s view, enabling you to gain an extra 1/3 longer exposure. Second, rotating the lens allows you to capture the best-choice of reflection on the water and in its colors. Owning and using a Neutral Density Filter allows you to reduce the reflective light without changing its natural color.
SHUTTER SPEED – Shutter Speed is critical to slowing the powerful speed in the movement of water (usually by 1 to 2 seconds) to create a small blur to the water when pressing the shutter. The longer the shutter delay (2 to 3 seconds) increases the smoothness to the water’s texture and captures a better image. Practice makes perfect, so take those practice shots and really review the images for accuracy in detail.
APERTURE – Use the smaller of aperture settings to create the greatest “depth of field” images that are completely in focus, not just the central focal point, but all parts of its background.
EXAMPLES OF IDEAL SETTINGS –
|CAMERA OPTION||IDEAL SETTING||REASONING|
|Focal Point||28 mm|
|Shutter Speed||2 seconds||(medium in range) maybe use of 3 for faster waterfall speed|
|Mirror Lock up||ON|
|White Balance||Manual||if shooting JPEG, allows you to first focus on white in waterfall and adjust at that ideal setting.|
|Attenuation Factor||2x, 0.3 on filter, 2 sec, for 50%||to avoid overexposure of the image in the camera|
|Polarizer Filter||Circular Polarizer||For Waterfall and Vertical Landscape Scenery with a central focal point|
|Neutral Density Filter||ND Filter||For Cityscapes, Monuments, Statues, etc.|
|Frozen Moving Images||Need a Small amount of BLUR||Freezing the action of fast moving water requires a lesser shutter speed delay (preferably 1 second)|
PRACTICE VIEWING YOUR COMPOSITION – When shooting curves in buildings, waterfalls, Monuments, etc. it is critical to learn how-to shoot from a specific directional angle. Curves in landscape can make or break capturing the ideal image in its natural setting. So, it is important practice taking the shot from various up or down angles that best capture the natural curve and flow of the water, or the natural curve to the street with an angular building fascia. Once you practice, you will find the sweet-spot for your composition!
The reason for this follows: a basic panoramic photograph involves the taking of 3 or more individual camera shots to create a wide angle panoramic view of the landscape. The process of OVERLAPPING the individual pictures will be discussed further in STEPS 3 and 4.
Step 3 TAKING THE SHOTS!
Now you’re prepared and practiced at understanding the angle, speed, and lighting necessary to capture the ideal image you envision for your vertical scenery masterpiece. All you have to do is capture the photos onto paper!
DIVIDE THE COMPOSITION – By standing in front of your vistas, scan the horizon and mentally view your image as behind a see-through TIC-TAC-TOE board, divided into thirds, or sixths, or ninths; all the squares lined up in two/three rows of verticals (for vertical panoramas). Once you mentally embrace the tic-tac-toe board over your landscape, you have an idea of the number of individual frames within your entire landscaped scene.
For best results, start your panned panoramic landscape by shooting the scene from the down-to-up position of the tic-tac-toe board in the landscape. Keep your camera level and begin shooting at the bottom of your field of vision (with your main image as your central focal point). The next shot should include a 25 to 30% upwards overlap of the first frame.
Take six to ten practice shots and be sure to do the following three things: 1) take note of the aperture and shutter speed of each individual shot, which the camera is suggesting. In the beginning sequence of your practice shots, 2) don’t forget to amply overlap each picture, and 3) pick the middle setting of the aperture and shutter speed from the practice shots and dial them in – then set your metering mode to manual and you are ready to shoot-for-real.
NOTE: This is why it is important to maintain the natural lighting of the entire scene and to watch for major movement across the landscape! Keep in mind; do not use flashes when taking panoramic shots. The process of the flash going off while the lens is in motion creates a blur and a distortion of lighting to the entire landscape. Upon completion, you can pack up the equipment and move on to capture your next vertical landscape!
USE A REMOTE TRIGGER – This enables you to effortlessly take pictures without touching the tripod or camera, once the settings are locked in. With the vibration potential reduced as much as possible, you can fire-away at capturing the images necessary for your composition, coming back only to slight adjust upwards with a 30% overlap to capture the next set of individual shots for a vertical panoramic view of larger waterfall settings!
KEEP THE LENS DRY – Remember to continually and gently use your softy lens cloth to keep the lens dry and free of dust or other particles.
REMEMBER: Practice makes perfect - Remember the reason for panoramic photography is to capture an unbroken and comprehensive view of a scene, with a crystal-clear, sharp central focal point. A vertical panorama is a large composite photograph of a tight horizontal field of view for a particularly tall or high landscape setting. The best panoramic photographs tell a story with their landscaped scenery, even if it is simply one of beauty in nature. Taking panoramic photos was once left for professionals and incredibly expensive camera equipment, with hours in a darkroom perfecting exposure and lighting for the entire setting.
With the quality, popularity and relative simplicity of DSLR cameras today and the ease of processing software available, even beginners can create magnificent panoramic views of any given scene. Using DSLR camera equipment enables the photography buff to take crystal clear photos, with even exposure, capturing vivid and colorful scenery and perfect natural lighting, every time!
By Diana Diehl, Original Work Article Writer