Broadening Your Perspective with Panoramas

I want to put you in my boots for a moment. Keep in mind that they might be very broken in, large and probably wet because to get to any location, I almost always step in water. I have yet to find a hiking boot that holds up against the amount of water I put them through.

So, I’m standing at the top of the highest peak in Tennessee on an extremely cold and windy day. Fog is all around me. I can definitely see that the fog, paired with all of the spruce fir trees, will make an incredible black and white photograph.

I start to set up my camera and try a few shots.

First, I set up for a nice black and white photo that shows the fog rising out of the valleys and cracks in the forest to envelope the trees in low clouds.

It’s a nice image, sure. But I want something more. The photograph isn’t doing what I see with my eyes enough justice. Maybe I’m including too many trees. Maybe this photograph will look a little more accurate if I simplify the shot.

So, I reframe the shot completely and find a single tree that stands out from the rest of the forest.

I review the shot but I still don’t think it’s doing the scene justice. However, I do believe I’m on the right track.

I like the way the tree looks with the amount of texture that is shown, but I want to see a lot more. What should I do if I want to see 180 degrees, but my camera won’t let me?

A panorama.

Panoramas give the viewer of your photograph a realistic view of what they would see if they were to stand in your shoes and look directly ahead. It’s a great technique for photographers to take their audience into an environment.

So, I wanted to do just that!

As you can see, the old forest spruce firs look like a completely different environment in the panorama than they did in the single snapshots. And that’s exactly what the power of a panorama is; taking someone into an environment.

That begs the question, “Do panoramas work for every situation?”

No.

Panoramas are for a very select few types of photographs. To shoot a panorama you really need repetition of subjects throughout the photograph sequence that will be revealed once you stitch every photo together in post-processing. The alternative to repetition sequences are arches. Rainbows, Milky Ways, and natural rock formation arches all look magical in panorama photographs.

So, why don’t classic landscapes always look great in panoramas?

Well, a lot of times there won’t be enough subject content to fill the long sequence which leads to too much negative space throughout the photograph.

In the panorama example I shared of the spruce fir trees, you have repetition in the common types of trees, limbs, and lines. In Milky Way panoramas you have a trail to follow throughout the entire photograph which visually fills space and keeps the flow of the image interesting.

I recently taught a live class on Outdoor Photography where we covered Panoramas and Multiple Exposures, including the some of the topics discussed here. Here are the topics we covered:

  • How to shoot a panorama
  • Panorama composition
  • Situations for using panoramas
  • Important techniques for panning
  • How to shoot multiple exposures
  • How multiple exposures are different than HDR
  • Situations to use multiple exposures
  • Creating multiple exposures manually

This intermediate level class was originally recorded live and is now available for download in the Outdoor Photography Guide Shop. You can take a look and watch a preview of the class here.

About the author: When David Johnston isn’t leading photography workshops and tutorials or hosting his popular photography podcast, Photography Roundtable, he can be found traveling the world taking photos to awe and inspire his viewers. David has a passion for sharing his knowledge of photography and has many educational offerings designed to help photographers improve their work. Visit his website at www.photographyroundtable.com.

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