June 3, 2010

Travel Photography and Panorama Image

Picking a camera for travel is an easy advice to others, not to photographers themselves. Embarrassed indeed!  Because the decisions to which camera and lens to carry don't usually get made untl you really have to pack up and go!  I will leave this to later chapters.
Someone once say the landscape is the pageant of nature, true, and to me, panoramic image crowns it.
Put the digital photography to extend, panoramic is one of its greatest advantages.  With software available for stitching many single captures together, panoramic image no longer is camera sensor size limited, or even focal length limited.  For example my Kathmandu panorama image, it was stitched of 11 captures of Canon 1Ds III mounted with Leica Apo-Tylet-Elmarit-R 400/2.8, to make it a wide angle panoramic picture.  You can make even a 360 degree image, or a QTVR with a super-tele photo lens, of course, if you shoot enough of it. Anyway, we will leave the detail for later chapter to cover.  Here is some essential tips:
(1) Shoot RAW if you can - few benefits - you can temporary ignore white balance, sharpness, image size and etc. to be later coordinated. This can reduce the time you need to determine the right setting to cover the entire image. If you can't or insist to shoot JPEG, make sure to follow the next few tips.
(2) Manual everything.  Exposure, white balance, and focus. If your camera does not allow you to manual control your camera, just shoot, it might not matter for the smaller cameras.  Make sure you choose the right aperture to cover the depth of field you need. Don't go over on it, most of today's DSLR is OK between f/8-11, good luck if you go smaller, I don't suggest.
(3) Use a tripot and a pan-head - this is best, but of course you can hand-held the camera.
(4) Level your camera+lens with the field you want to cover.  You can train the camera across the field you want to cover for a few times for practice.
(5) Make sure each additional shot overlap 20-25% of the last.
Software is pure personal preference, but as a professional photographer, I have many professional reasons, they are not all commercial concern.
I use Phase One's Capture One Pro for RAW development, it is a great software for Phase One medium format digital backs, but also it supports all the cameras (from small to big) so I can work all those file in single environment.  Stitching software is either Adobe Photoshop CS4/CS5, very easy, just go: file-automate-photomerge, then it is time for a coffee or tea. Or, you might also use Phase One's script to stitch the captures, tips are available here. I also use Autodesk's Sticher Unlimited, also equally good, but with extra functions for special production such as QTVR and hot-spot enabled image.
But why panorama?  Why not?  To me, travel without a camera is a pity.  With a camera on hand, you eye starts to see the world as a picture, and go ahead to make it a picture. The whole process makes you appreciate certain details you oherwise won't bother, the world becomes nicer. And why panorama?  It allows you record the impact of the image, with practically any digital camera or phone on hand, just rememer the tips above. Remember, even a small 4-million compact digital camera today, shoot 50 shots of it, you can possibly get a final image equal to a 1 Giga-byte camera.  Sorry, no offence to film camera here, continue to use your X-Pan, 617 or field-technical camera, they are great!


genotypewriter said...

Thanks for the write up. I'm more curious about your lens choice. I understand that for this particular situation (panos), things like AF and IS does not matter. But why did you use the Leica over the Canon and what differences have you seen between the two?

K said...

Today's leading brands offer lens quality quite close to each other, Canon or Nikon which I use both, have lens matched or very close to Leica R lenses. I use the Apo-Elmarit-R simply because I have had it for over 15 years and in the last few years did not use it so I took it to give it a little exercise, simple as that. I use the tele lens so I can get the kind of panoramic image I need in such perspective and size.