Monday, 22 June 2015

Oxford Commercial Photographer - Kim Martin - Panorama - basic equipment required

I have just invested in a new camera because I wanted to venture into high quality Panoramas.
First I decided to watch as many Videos on YouTube to see what I needed, some were helpful but most left me wondering why people make videos without the correct knowledge or even an understanding of how the equipment should be used or even what equipment to buy.

As an aside I normally shoot models but it is increasingly difficult to get any Model to even respond to an inquiry for a TF shoot. So until the Summer is over I am shooting landscapes.

So what did I buy for the Panos and why.

1. First I bought a Nodal slide.
Nodal Point (
Either of two points on the axis of a lens or other optical system, determined by extending an incident oblique ray and the corresponding refracted ray to the axis for the pair of rays that are parallel outside the optical system.
What this means is that if you have two objects in line, if you move your point of view by panning the camera then the two points stay in line.

2. A "L" bracket specifically for my new camera.
You need the bracket so you can use your camera in both Landscape and Portrait orientation.

3. A good Tripod head so you can get accurate and even degrees of rotation.
It is important to get the correct overlap between shots as you rotate the camera to make it as easy as possible for your stitching software to blend your images together.

You can spend lots and lots of money if you want, I don't have lots of money and I need to see that it all works before I upgrade my equipment, so I bought the following.

Neewer 140 mm Arca Swiss Professional Rail Nodal Slide Metal Quick Release Clamp for Camera £21.41.
Panoramic Panorama Panning Base Head Tripod Clamp + QR Plate for Camera Tripod £32.99
Emgreat Quick Release L Plate Bracket for Nikon Camera + Benro Arca Swiss Tripod Head £.7.99

The L plate, although made for my camera comes without centre markings, but as it is made from Aluminium it is easy enough to make your own marks but a different make may well come with correct markings for your camera.

So how do you put it all together?

Well, you fix the L plate to your camera, making sure the side is tight against you camera body.
Slide the L plate onto the Nodal slide.
Now comes the tricky bit you have to centre your lens to the centre of the slide, I found the easiest way is by eye. Put your Aperture to the smallest you can (usually f22) and look front on and get the lens centre in-line with the bubble of the spirit level (when it is dead level) . Mark the centre point on the L plate. Once done, turn your camera around into Portrait orientation and line up and mark again.
Now change you Tripod head to the new Panning base. Slide the Nodal slide onto the Panning head and you are almost ready to go.
Before you go though you need to work out you No-Parallel point for each lens you are going to use for your panorama photography.
This is easier than it sounds.
1. Set up your camera on your Tripod.
2. Put two poles or anything you have so you have two points you can line up with. I used two light stands, one about 10 feet away from the camera and the other 20 feet away.
3. Look through the lens and you should not be able to see the far pole, if you do move you camera so everything is directly in line with your lens.
4. Pan your camera to the left and right, if you see the far pole appear from behind the first pole you need to adjust the Nodal Slider a little at a time until the far pole is no longer visible which ever way you pan.
5. Take a note of the reading for each of your lenses as it will be different for each lens.

Now you are nearly ready to take your first pano.
There a few things you need to sort out before you start, first have a look at the scene and identify your start point and your end point.
Normally you need a 30% overlap on each frame you take so what I do is use the Pano head to measure out 15 degrees between each shutter release as this is more than adequate and easier than trying to remember a tree or other object to line up with.
Next and most important is to set up you tripod so it is level all the way from your start point rotating to the end point.
If you haven't done many panos then do your first few with the camera in landscape orientation as it will be easier.
If you don't have a cable release set your camera on its self timer, two seconds or five is long enough.
Most panos usually include the horizon or some other distant point in the shot as well as something interesting closer so you need to set a decent depth of field, choose an aperture of around f11 and set you ISO to you native ISO for your camera.
Now look at you scene and decide on which part is the most important and manually focus on that point or use you auto focus to set the focus point then switch over to manual focus without changing anything.
This only needs you now to sort out the shutter speed and as you are on the tripod there is no issue in using a slow shutter speed.
Take an incident light reading of the scene with the ISO and aperture already chosen and work out the shutter speed.
IMPORTANT. Everything should be set to MANUAL.
Now simply take your first shot starting a little left of the first point of interest then rotate your head 15 degrees to the right and take the next and so on until you reach the furthest point of interest and make sure you shoot a little past it.
The rest is simple but if you need help let me know.

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