Why I Have So Much Trouble With Panoramic Photos

This image along Australia's Great Ocean Road explores the notion of duality: solidity and fluidity; rock and water; warm and cool and time passing. The image was made with a Hasselblad X-PAN II camera and a Hasselblad X-PAN 30mm f/5.6 lens.

I have a monkey on my back when it comes to making digital panoramic photos. It's a monkey that's particularly pesky and I need to get it off of me. (Those virtual flees can be a real hassle). The best way I can free myself of that free riding passenger is to change my outlook on making panoramic photos with a digital camera.

The Heart Of The Problem

Back in the day I had a whole lot of fun making panoramic photos with Hasselblad X-PAN and X-PAN II cameras. I loved those cameras, particularly with the 30 mm lens attached.

Composition is very important to me so, as a consequence, I almost never need to crop my images. That's simply because I take time to get it right in camera. When it camera to making photographs with the film-based Hasselblad X-PAN cameras I used a tripod almost all of the time. And that's despite the fact that the X-PAN was, by the standards of the day, a relatively light-weight camera.

My Strength Prevents Me From Succeeding

I've done almost no panoramic photography since moving to digital back in 2006. It's crazy, but it's largely because I hate the whole concept of making a series of images and then stitching them together. Why? Because I really love to get my composition right in camera.

A bridge, covered in snow, takes visitors over a frozen river at the wonderful Snow World in Harbin, China.

I Know It Makes Sense And That I Have To Adapt

However, the reality is that, until a reasonably priced digital panoramic camera system arrives on the market, stitching is usually a very good option as you get to combine a series of individual images into one very large file. If your computer can cope with a file of that size you now have the ability to make huge prints, assuming that's important to you.

But the other key difference associated with stitching is that, rather than employing a wide-angle lens to fit a lot of information into the frame, you have the opportunity to use a telephoto lens for each of the individual frames that will be stitched together to make the new composite image.

The advantage of this method is that the new composite image will display more fine details than would be the case with a single image made with a wide-angle lens. What's more your image is far less likely to display the kind of distortion evident on the edges of the scene that appears with images made with a wide-angle lens.

Red decorations welcome the visitor outside a hotel on Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in China.

Cropping Is A Simple Solution That Works

Even though I haven't used any kind of digital stitching over the years to assemble a panoramic image I've felt the need, from time to time, to crop an image into panoramic format. I'm usually aware of the need to do so while I'm composing the image, in camera, so it's a very simple process to crop it later on the desktop.

Cropping may not be the most eloquent or the most technical approach, but it works and is probably the best way for an amateur photographer to begin exploring the power of the panoramic format.

Both images from Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) China were made with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens and were cropped for effect on the desktop.

The Best Way To Solve A Problem Is Through Action

I hope this post has been as helpful to you as it has been to me. In my case I've decided to set myself a task of getting out and about and making a series of images with my Sony a7RII camera and a special rig I bought years ago, and never used, that's designed for digital panoramic photography.

I'II be sure to post some of those images and, who knows, the effort to overcome this creative block may see me making a lot more panoramic photos in the future.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru