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Panoramic Landscape Photography

Photographing the Coastside is a blog designed to help you take great pictures of Half Moon Bay and beyond.

You may travel to the 4 corners of the earth in search of extraordinary scenes to photograph, a worthy pilgrimage. But don't forget to look close to home. My blog will focus on photographing our backyard, the San Mateo Coast, from the beaches to the birds in your garden and maybe a little beyond. It will feature tips on light, cameras, tides, weather, landmarks and much more. Let's get started.

For a time in the spring, the coastal hills show a wide spectrum of green punctuated by wild flowers just waiting to be captured by photographers and painters alike. Here are a few tips on photographing our local mountains.

First, get out there now. This year, the continuing rain allows a little more time before those hills turn beige, but the colors are already changing. There is nothing wrong with the golden grasses of summer, but you want to capture the seasons that we actually have.

Landscapes never look as impressive in your photographs as they do in person. There is a way to capture more of that landscape then your camera seems able. And that is by taking a series of digital pictures and stitching them together into a large, seamless panorama using software.

Some newer cameras have a panoramic mode which works quite well. If yours doesn't, try this technique.

Here are the basic steps to take a successful panorama photograph.

  • Scan the scene in your mind and then through the camera's viewfinder.
  • Decide on the best exposure settings for the range of pictures you are going to take. (I like f/8 for the aperture and then experiment with the shutter speed.)
  • Put the camera in manual mode using those settings. (For best results so each picture's exposure looks the same, I use manual mode.)
  • Take a series of pictures of the scene from left to right overlapping them by at least 1/3.
  • Finally, I use the Photomerge tool in Photoshop to stitch the pictures together.

Did I lose you at "Manual Mode"? No worries, try it in automatic mode. If you need more details then I have room for here, please check out this tutorial on my web site. It contains links to other panorama tutorials also.

Please note that you don't need an expensive program like Photoshop to stitch pictures. I recommend Photoshop Elements 9 which can be had for $50 at Amazon. It performs far more photo editing then most people need, including panorama stitching. There may be free options available on the Internet, too.

Check out the two pictures in this article. The first is a normal horizontal picture of the San Gregorio Valley using a 35mm lens. I like it but there is much more to see. The second picture is the same lens and camera. The difference is that I held the camera vertically and took 7 overlapping pictures, stitching them to capture most of the scene. Notice there is more foreground too. You can see a larger version of the second picture in my Flickr gallery.

One benefit of digital photography is the ability to experiment with no additional cost. Allow time to try different settings and take multiple shots, but keep them in order.

Why do this? This is a very large megapixel picture enabling you to get a very large, sharp print. Maybe you are an artist but can't spend enough time on sight to finish your painting. Many artists paint from photographs and this process can help them capture more details. You have the ability to zoom into these pictures too and see fine detail. If nothing else, it's fun.

Want to know more? I teach a basic digital photography class at the Half Moon Bay Recreation Department. The first session this summer starts June 16 for 3 weeks. There are 2 other sessions in July and August.

Now go make a picture.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stuart Nafey June 04, 2011 at 05:00 AM
You can see a larger version of the panorama picture in my Flickr gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unklstuart/5792453147/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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