Beautiful Sandstone Formations at Valley of the Gods, Utah

Valley of the Gods, Utah. Six exposure panoramic.
6 exposure panoramic at Valley of the Gods, Utah

The Lens is the Thing

When standing in front of a grand vista, like this one at Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah, landscape photographers instinctively put on the wide angle lens. It’s a great way to go. You can pack the whole scene into one frame and include the sky, which should have abundant and interesting and/or colorful clouds. Just as important as the sky is a visually compelling foreground.

Getting great photographs by going wide is quick and always my first shot. The shot below is what I’m talking about.  I set up with my 12mm wide angle (24mm equivalent) lens on my Olympus EM-1. Not bad, I’m happy with it.

Suppose I want Panorama Prints of  Scenes Like This?

The photo above, a single frame taken with a wide angle lens, won’t cut it. By the time it’s cropped down to the section you want, enlarged, and lovingly mounted on your living room wall, the pixels will be visible and any slight mis-focusing will ruin the experience you’re trying to create in your space.

For detailed panoramas you need lots of pixels and you need to be in close so your lens can resolve all those rich details.

Pixel Count

The wide angle shot is a single frame from my EM-1 so it’s 16MP.  The big panorama at the top of the page is 6 of these frames stitched together in Lightroom 6. The frames overlap during stitching so the finished photo is 52MP after cropping! Plenty of pixels for a panorama print to include in your American Southwest decorating motif.

Getting in Close

There are two ways to get in close to your subject and you get very different results with each.

The “Zoom With Your Feet” Paradox

After bagging the wide angle shot and before moving on, I study the scene some more. What I’m really wanting now is capturing all the fine detail in the sandstone formations here.

Yes, walking closer would do that and I recommend always getting in closer to your subject. Consider, however, the shifting perspective as you move closer. What does that give you?

You’ll get great details and some very dramatic shots, but no photo from close-in will look as “grand” as a long lens gives you from further away.

Try a Long Lens for a Different Look

The wide angle shot gives a sense of place and I also know it can’t possibly resolve all the fine details of the scene either.  Without even moving the tripod, I put on my 75mm f1.8 prime lens to see what all that beautiful sandstone looks like up close.

By the way, this lens is a beauty. It turns out that it gets a lot more use than I thought it would when I bought it.  It’s super sharp, it’s fast, it’s build quality is top notch and it’s perfect for panoramic photos where you want to pick out details from with picture within the picture. On my MFT camera with its’ 2:1 crop factor, the 75mm is equivalent to a 150mm lens on a full frame camera.

Tripod and Camera Panoramic Technique

To get this shot, first I double check the tripod for levelness. Until recently I never owned a tripod with built-in bubble levels. What was I thinking all those years?! If you have ’em, use ’em. If your tripod is lacking this necessary convenience, how about adding that to your most-wanted list?

Now that your camera is level… shoot

Begin making exposures on the left side of the scene (or, on the right side if you’re left-brained) and overlap each successive frame about 1/3 over the previous one.  You want a big overlap to help out your stitching software.  For the above pano, it took 6 exposures. Had this one been HDR, there would have been 18 exposures minimum.

Stitching the Frames Together with Lightroom 6

Lightroom 6 now includes panoramic stitching so, I gave it a rip with this photo and it worked flawlessly! You don’t know how happy I am to be able to report a counterbalancing positive point after the bashing I gave Lightroom 6’s HDR merging bit.

Even better to report that Lightroom 6 (113 seconds) is significantly faster than Photoshop (153 seconds) at merging these six files for me. That’s 27% faster using Lightroom! Your mileage may vary.

Yay, now that’s one less thing that I have to rely on Photoshop to do for me.

View Em BIG When You Can!

Appreciation for all those details captured in a panoramic photo like this happens by viewing it large, either printed wall-size or viewed on your computer full screen at full resolution.

Files like that are way too large for uploading to the blog without bringing my website to a crawl. So the images you’re seeing on this page are low resolution, 30% quality, downsized copies. The full resolution-full size versions are in “Panorama Photography” collection and can be accessed by the button below, then click “SLIDESHOW” for richly detailed wall-to-wall pixel madness!

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