Making a Panorama (From Fell to Frame) - Part 1

February 28, 2016  •  1 Comment

In recent months I have been taking more and more panoramic pictures, and I'm not 100% sure where its come from. It might be from memories of my childhood where I used to watch my Dad painstakingly sticky tape his 6"x4" prints together (long before digital was an option), or maybe its because it really is so easy now with modern Photo editing software. I think its most likely to be the fact I have been getting closer to the mountains, where just one shot isn't enough and I want to get as much detail into the picture.

I recently visited Haweswater in the Cumbrian Lake District, a location new to me, but I knew from research online and through books that the views were stunning and that there are a couple of abandoned/ruined cottages that would add some interesting foreground detail. Leaving my Travelodge accommodation at 6:30am I headed towards the exact spot I had decided upon. The forecast when I went to sleep the night before was for cold, clear blue skies with light winds, so the blizzard I had to drive through was both unexpected, but welcome.

Taking it steady because of the conditions I arrived at just after 7am, 5 minutes before sunrise. I usually get to a location a good 30-40minutes before sunrise, but this time I knew that it would take a while for the sun to clear the surrounding mountains, so there was little need to rush. I then had to make my way up the steep 'Old Corpse Road' to get the height needed to make the most of my surroundings, and maybe find those cottages I had read about. I assume that the path, all be it steep, is quite nice in the summer. When its covered in snow, frost and ice its a little bit more interesting and I did feel on more than one occasion that I was stretching my capabilities (I'm not great with heights and edges). 35 minutes after leaving the car I reached my goal.

The view really was superb, made so much better for the dusting of snow. The clouds were low and dramatic and the water on the reservoir surface was still. Having wandered around for 10 minutes trying to find the best position and composition, here the key elements of the picture (The cottages, the tree covered headland and the island in the lake) did not overlap, I fired off a number of shots with my 'go to' lens (Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L 2). I was really pleased with the result, but I felt I was missing out on what I could see before me. I wasn't 100% happy with the fact that the lake disappears out the side of the frame, I felt it made you wonder what was round there, it was only part of a view. I quickly swapped lenses to my 16-35mm f/2.8L 2 super wide angle lens and it helped, but now the distant mountains looked tiny and insignificant. There was only one option.

I swapped back to the previous lens, made sure the tripod was perfectly aligned (most tripods have a small spirit level bubble built in to help), then made sure that the camera was level. I use a cheap additional spirit level on the cameras hot-shoe to do this. With the camera and tripod level I panned the full extent of the scene to make sure there was no slope across the scene. 

For my panoramas I always use the manual settings on the camera. Its important that the camera doesn't change aperture or shutter speed across the images used for the panorama. Its also important to take the white balance off auto. Set it for cloud or shade, shoot in RAW and you can always correct it once you get to your computer. With everything set, focused and ready, I fired off 5 frames, overlapping each one by at least 20%.

I spent as long as I thought I could get away with (I had to get back to work) enjoying the sunlight fill the valley and watching the clouds disappear, then I made the slightly treacherous decent back to the car, and onwards to home. 

Later that evening I uploaded the RAW files to Lightroom6 (My editing software of choice) and allowed it to do its magic. It really is simple to photo merge images like this nowadays. So long as all the images have the same focal length, aperture, shutter speed and white balance, you have allowed enough overlap and some space for cropping, the software does the rest. It takes my mac about 5 minutes to do this, perfect time to put the kettle on and make a brew.

I was over the moon when I returned to find the stitching was complete and the image was just what I had intended when I was on the Fell earlier that morning.

I didn't think the image needed too much processing. I sharpened it, cleaned off two annoying dust spots, added a little bit of contrast and dropped in a slightly graduated sky, just to drag out some details in the clouds. Happy with the look, all that was left was to crop it to size. Aspect ratio is very important when you chose a crop for a panorama (in my opinion). I like 2:1 or 3:1, but nothing more than that. I have tinkered with super wide panorama's, but theres no way to view them properly unless you can print on roll paper or you have a HUGE monitor. In this instance I settled on 3:1. Heres the finished shot...

Haweswater PanoramaHaweswater Panorama Making a panorama is a rewarding process and something I would urge all photographers to at least have a go at. In part 2 I will continue the journey from Fell to frame when I will be printing the image out, mounting and framing it, ready for the wall. In the meantime here are a few more recent lakeland panoramas that were created in exactly the same way. Thanks for reading, and for your continued support.

Catbells PanoramaCatbells Panorama

Castlerigg Stone CircleCastlerigg Stone Circle

Blea Tarn LandscapeBlea Tarn Landscape


Comments

A Swede(non-registered)
Great stuff! I love the first one. Feelings hit me with a weather that makes you cold on the outside but warm on the inside. Nature photography is for me extremly hard. You need motives that dont happen every day to amaze you and you got it...
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