Creating Panoramas With and Without a Tripod

If you’ve gone hiking out into pristine wilderness or to the tops of a mountain, bringing a tripod may not be at the right up there on your list of essentials. What do you do if you want to capture the beauty of the landscape in front of you, but also want a visually compelling image that is wider than any lens you may have?

Adam Karnacz of First Man Photography shares his morning shooting sunrise over the Lake District in north west England and explains a quick tip about shooting panoramas using a tripod, and shooting them handheld. Karnacz not only takes you through shooting the images but also through the post-processing of both, including the challenges due to one over another. 

For example, when shooting a panorama handheld, to capture sharp images there's the requirement of a faster shutter speed to avoid camera shake. Another factor when shooting panoramas handheld is keeping the horizon consistent within multiple frames from beginning to end. The downside to the increased shutter speed is the need to raise the ISO and subsequently adding some noise to the final image. The increased detail of a panorama can be used for noise reduction in post which in conjunction with the viewing distance of the entire image will not be noticed by a viewer. 

Karnacz uses a simple tripod with a bullhead in landscape orientation for one of the panoramas. In conjunction with a telephoto lens, this technique has few drawbacks for single row panoramas. For those that may attempt to shoot a panorama with a wider lens and similar equipment, this will cause issues without positioning a lens at its nodal point and thus causing stitching errors in post-processing.

If you’ve ever thought a few extra pounds for a tripod was worth it while hiking and camping, then you most likely know the value of a solid tripod for landscape photography. If you are dreading those extra pounds, then shooting images handheld may be more valuable to you (including your knees and back) in the long run. 

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1 Comment

jean pierre (pete) guaron's picture

Sigh - human beings always seem to want everything, but don't want to have to do the hard yards necessary to "get" everything. This is yet another example.
A suggestion I saw recently was to buy an ultra-wide angle, use it to capture the width of the image you want, and then crop heavily, above & below the desire portion of the image. Well, yeah - OK - maybe - interesting! You wouldn't normally end up with the same picture, and the clarity of the image would leave me wondering if it was all worthwhile.
Taking your [more professional**] approach, it might also pay to include a panorama head on the tripod. This would no doubt give a smoother pan, than the more usual pan-tilt heads commonly in use.
[** - not "professional" as in "professional photographer" - just the everyday meaning of doing things more "correctly"]