Widening the View

Widening the View


Greyco Pano

I’ve never been a traveller, which accounts for me now living 12,000 miles across the ocean from where I was raised – also explains why I only used to take two interstate trips per year. If I enjoyed any of it I would stay at home.

All that said, I do like seeing picture books of foreign places rendered in panorama. They give a real feel for the vista and if you are frightened of being laughed at by strangers, you can quickly snap the book shut. Sometimes the landscape does not lend itself to a regal view, but a little bit of HDR and a tweak of the saturation button usually fixes it. That, and a shot of rum.

I tried my hand at panoramas with the mirrorless camera – not entirely successfully, but encouraging enough with the newer Fujifilm equipment to entice me to try it again. I experimented with an automated panorama feature that a lot of Fujis have – called a motion panorama – and found it a mixed bag. It is quick – you just spin around while holding the camera on the tripod – but it is prone to odd results if your shutter speed is too low – things are arrayed in front of you but they are likely to be slightly blurred. If you raise the shutter speed to 1/125 or 1/250 it generally cures this.

Canning PanoA

A better idea was to take just two or three side-by-side pictures while turning on the tripod and then stitch them together in Photoshop. Even the Mum-and-Dad Elements program does this well. It enables you to use more detailed files and get better colour and sharpness.

Burswood Pano

The chief problem in this new fascination is finding a suitable subject. Not everything is long and skinny and scenic. I wear eyeglasses and my vision of the world is rather tunnelled – I must retrain myself to see the panoramas before I take them.

I do like using the tripod, however. Not only does it yield better images, but it makes the whole process seem more important – creates a sense of artistry, even before the art is made.

Which brings us to the sell…remember I get paid to tell these tales. There are any number of tripods available in the CE shops, but look carefully at the construction. There are studio pods and travel pods and pods in between that can do both jobs to a certain extent.

Pano workers need to pay particular attention to the head. Ball-head or three-way, you will be looking for something that can spin the camera bout the vertical axis on a smooth turntable and lock it easily when you reach a particular spot in that turn. It is vital that the spin be on a truly vertical axis, and that no matter what the ground under the tripod is like.

You can accommodate most terrain by adjusting the legs separately – but you need to get the turntable truly horizontal in the end. Some hrads have cute little bubble levels that hep with this …however some designs place the bubble too far down the structure and it is decoupled from the turntable in the end. You think you’re level and the camera doesn’t – the camera then punishes you with a tilted horizon and a difficult stitch job.

Look for turntables like the Novoflex example:

It has a standard block screwed to the bottom for my ball head, but even if you use just the tripod screws it is fast enough. The camera spins true and the files are a breeze to stitch. There are other types of this turntable in the CE shops right now so go poke around and see what’s in.

If you poke up an Arca Swiss pO pano head you probably have the best in the biz, but sit down before you look at the price tag…



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