Society & Culture & Entertainment Photography

Panoramic Photography For Beginners - Part 1 - What is a Panorama?

How often have you come home from your vacation with dozens or even hundreds of photos, only to feel disappointed that somehow your snapshots never seem to capture the grandeur of the sights you've seen? I know I have -- too many times! Now, why is that? I have a pretty good camera, and I know how to use it.
My photos aren't too light or too dark, they're not blurry or poorly composed or out of focus.
There's just something missing.
But what? Well, imagine you're standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
You gaze out, and your eyes take in a gorgeous panoramic vista up to a full 160 degrees wide.
Now imagine holding up your camera and looking through the viewfinder to capture that beautiful scene.
Suddenly your grand 160 degree vista is cut down to a stingy 40 degrees -- if you have a normal lens -- or maybe up to 60 degrees with a wide angle lens.
No wonder then, when you get home and look at your photos, your reaction is, 'Oh...
' rather than, 'Wow!' Your camera can only capture one third or less of the majestic spectacle your eyes can see.
But there is a solution.
You can come home from your next vacation with some fantastic ultra wide angle photographs.
The solution: panoramic photography.
The aim of panoramic photography is to create images that match or exceed the field of view of the human eye.
With panoramic photography, you can create photographs showing everything that you saw (or even more!) Panoramic photographs can be created in a number of ways.
One way is to take an ordinary frame of film and crop off the top and bottom to make it appear wider.
This gives you a frame with a wider aspect ratio, but the angle of view is still no more than around 60 degrees, depending on the lens.
Another way is to use a panoramic camera with a rotating lens, which is specially designed to expose a picture onto a long strip of film.
The modern digital equivalent, uses a rotating lens and a linear CCD array to capture extremely high resolution images with a full 360 degree field of view.
But these cameras are highly specialized and very expensive.
There's another way to create great panoramas with a field of view up to a full 360 degree using an ordinary camera and a simple computer software package.
This is the method we'll be exploring in this series of articles.
It's done by shooting a series of overlapping frames using a regular camera, then loading the images into a computer and using a software package to 'stitch' them together.
The stitching process uses special mathematical formulas to stretch and bend the original images to compensate for the distortion caused by the lens, and then seamlessly join them up into a single image.
By following some simple guidelines when shooting your photos, and using the right software, even beginners can get great results using this technique.
In the next article in this series, I'll tell you what you need to create your own panoramic images.

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