Thursday, February 12, 2015

How I Got the Shot: Telephoto Panoramas

Since I am often on assignments where I am primarily shooting with telephoto lenses, I have become very adept at using them for what some might call "non-traditional" things, i.e. using them for types of shots not typically associated with long lenses.  In this case, that would be landscapes.  I have always maintained that telephoto lenses can make great landscape images—if you have good technique and a keen eye for composition.  But don’t let that discourage you, because those things can be easily taught and learned! 

The shot above was created with a Canon 300mm f/4L IS on a 5D3 body.  It was a compilation of 5 vertical shots that were stitched together in Photoshop. 

The image above was created with the Canon 300mm f/4L IS on a 5D3 body.  It was a compilation of 11 vertical shots that were stitched together in Photoshop.  While it is wider than the first image, it is also more shots, and had I done fewer shots, but taken them horizontally, I would have lost most of the sky above the clouds.

 Most people will intuitively want to shoot a panorama with the camera in the horizontal position, because the goal of a pano is to get a wider image than you can with a single shot.  This is fine, if that’s the specific look you are going for, but there is a trick that most overlook or just don’t think about: turn it vertical.  The problem arises when you start stitching multiple horizontal shots together you will drastically increase the length to height ratio, which is not always pleasing—especially when viewing the image on mobile or smaller screens, as many do these days.  That makes it harder to see the detail you packed into the pano.  To get around this, turn the camera vertical to take the individual shots, then when you stitch them in post, they will add up to a more normal width to height ratio.  This is especially helpful when you are working with a longer focal length, such as I was here with the 300mm.   Another benefit—if shot correctly—is that the resulting image will have much more detail than if you were to have just slapped a wider lens on to get the same shot; and I really like detail in my landscapes!

I hope this tip helps you to remember that next time you find yourself out and about with your telephoto and see an epic landscape opportunity that you can still get that shot!  Just remember to always think outside the traditional frame.  If you want to know more, or have any questions regarding this post, feel free to leave a comment or email me any time.

Video tutorial Here