The art of the panorama

I never do panoramas.

There. I said it.

But, I’d like to try. At least to be more deliberate about them now and again. Here are the ONLY two I’ve ever done and both were accidental -

The first one was spotted by another person during a processing session, the second by me. Both were stitched in Lr and processed in Lr and Ps. Both were handheld, but I have two great tripods and my RRS head has a gauge on it with 360 degree markings. Both were taken in landscape orientation.

So what advice would you give me to do these a little better. The top one is fine, but the bottom has a slice of river left off. It exists in one of the shots, but merging them drops it off. I think it’s partially due to the very wide angle lens I used. Maybe when I set out to make a pano I should use the equivalents of a 35mm or 50mm lens. I’m not sure.

Anyway…calling all you pano experts!!

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I always shoot my panos with the camera in a vertical orientation. (for panos that are intended to be horizontal). Pre-plan and walk through the images you want, then return the camera to the start and start shooting. Roughly a 1/3 overlap. No need to get fancy and worry about precise degree rotations. Manual exposure mode is a must so the exposure isn’t changing throughout the pano sequence. I also set a specific white balance as auto white balance will likely change throughout the sequence. That one is not as big a deal, but why not get it right from the beginning. Stiching is LR is very good. Even if you level your ballhead before shooting, you’ll probably see that as you rotate the level is off unless you are on perfectly level ground. I use a small pano head that attaches to my ballhead. It basically turns a ballhead into a leveling base. I level that and the rotation is from that device, not my ballhead. I know there are much fancier ways to deal with it, but I’m not willing to carry all that extra stuff. Here’s a link to B&H. It is no longer available there, but I’m pretty sure you can find it elsewhere. RRS makes one but it is stupid expensive from RRS and does exactly the same thing.

Thanks @Keith_Bauer - I can see how manual exposure and a fixed WB would be important - good to know. After looking at the gadget that no longer exists, would using a bubble level built into the tripod legs work in a similar fashion? My Manfrotto has one.

Hi @Kris_Smith

I’m not a expert in panoramas and i usually don’t do them, at least not as a technique. I do use a panoramic aspect ratio now and then.
With that being said i thing both of your panos are well stitched, as far as the focal lens to use, there’s real not a rule off thumb, of course wider lens will create a lot more distortion and force you to correct a bit when stitching, or it will generate images with lot of barrel distortion, nothing wrong with, it just can be a bit difficult for our brains to accept it.

As i was writing, @Keith_Bauer had already said the more important things to have in mind, so the rest is to experiment and keep them coming.

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Nope. Seems like it would but it won’t. It’s a little hard to get your head wrapped around why, but just because the legs are leveled, that doesn’t mean the head is perfectly level. It is most likely tilted just a little (or a lot) to deal with the terrain so when it rotates, it won’t stay level. Believe me, I tried and tried, until I bought that little device. Now all my panos are perfectly level by leveling it.

Hm. Yes, I see that now, the head itself is too independent of the legs. But since the RRS gadget is a bit on the pricey side for something I’m only mildly interested in doing, I think I’ll have to do what I can with what I have.

How does using an internal level perform for this kind of thing? My Lumix G9 has one that’s pretty reliable and if it’s off a little, it will be off the same amount in every photo.

It won’t help. All it means is the camera is level for the first shot. Try in your kitchen. Set up the tripod but pretend like you’re out in nature. All three legs won’t be exactly the same. Level the ballhead or use your internal level. Then just rotate the camera like you’re going to do a pano and look at the level on your camera. It won’t be level any more. The more uneven the ground, the more pronounced the issue. The leveling base rotates at the joint. If that it level, then the rotation stays level.

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Oh well, that’s how it will have to be.

Here is a picture that will help to visualize the problem. I’ve exaggerated the tilt of the tripod to simulate more uneven ground, but is still demonstrates the problem. The red line at the bottom of the tripod head is where the rotation would be from just using the ball head. The ball head platform where the camera is has been leveled. Then the red line on the pano head is where it would rotate from using it. Clearly rotating from an axis that isn’t level will cause the issue and that’s what the little pano head solves. You might be able find that pano head at Amazon or Adorama or some place like that other than B&H.

Just what I need…more gear! lol. Seems a never-ending cycle. Looks like Adorama has a couple of versions of the one you have shown.

Excellent points above. Unless I missed it, manual focus is also necessary.

Especially with wider angles where any near objects will be in the final crop, you will want to position the camera/lens forward or back in the mount so the center of rotation is over the “entrance pupil” of the lens. (And that point will be quite different for different lens designs.) Otherwise you’ll get parallax between frames that can’t be corrected in post. It’s fairly easy to find that point with two vertical sticks (directions are easy to find online). I use a pano slider and have a cheat sheet taped to it with the correct position for each lens. Here’s an inexpensive one:

This one is for a camera body with an Arca-Swiss quick release plate. A longer lens can usually be positioned with the amount of play in its lens foot, or a longer adapter plate can be put on it. A longer lens will often include less FG and won’t be quite as critical for positioning.

I use a gimbal head and if the tripod head base is level, the camera mount rotates level, so that simplifies the leveling problem. The built-in bubble level is accurate enough. My iPhone has a level which also works well.

LR does an amazing job of stitching and gives you a raw file for the normal adjustments.

PS – your cypress swamp image is lovely!! The “horizon” is bowed up a little, but that could be corrected.

Thanks for the additional info @Diane_Miller - after watching a couple of B&H videos I understand how the two pieces work together. I have an L-bracket on camera so at least that’s one thing I already have. If there aren’t prominent fg elements in a prospective panorama, would parallax error be a problem? Seems not, but what do I know?

I see what you mean about the ‘horizon’ in the cypress shot - I’ve played around with a bunch of lens correcting tools, but can’t seem to fix it or even change it in any way. What would you suggest?

Edit > Transform > Warp should do it.

Without FG elements you should be OK, but it’s safest to keep rotation around the entrance pupil. Hard to know until it’s too late, but you can experiment.

And I neglected to say, with the gimbal head, it’s necessary to keep the lens (line of sight) level, not pointed up or down even a little.

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Hi Kris! I really like the top one! The trunks of the trees look like castles and I love the reflection in the water. Great job!

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So I’m heading out today and am going to try a few panoramic images even though I don’t have all the correct gear. Just to see if I like doing them and if I can do them at all. Who knows. But it’s only 1s and 0s so it really doesn’t matter. Thanks for all the info and advice…here goes nothing!

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