Haleakala Pano

Haleakala Pano

When it comes to recording panorama images, there is simple and complex. I often take multi-row, multi-shot panos with more than 45 images. Yet sometimes I may not have the time or patience to set up and capture these monstrosities (although I have to admit I love panos and enjoy capturing them).

Yesterday I was driving along the dry back side of Haleakala, the extinct volcanic mountain that dominates the island of Maui, when I came to one of my favorite spots on the island. From where I stood there is a commanding view of the entire sweep of Haleakala, from its 10,000-foot summit to the ocean. I have tried to render this pano a few other times, but I was unsuccessful for one reason or other, be it weather, a missed frame or difficult lighting.

This time I was a little pressed for time, so I decided to just capture a simple, one-row pano. I liked the way that Haleakala captured the clouds in a tidy line and how they obscure the summit.

I’ve done a YouTube video on how to capture a multi-row pano, which now has more than 60,000 views. But this time, since I was doing a one-row pano, I thought I’d share with you some tips on shooting panos.

The Data

I shot this pano using my Nikon D810 with a 24-70mm Nikkor lens set at 38mm. On a Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff (RRS) BH-55 ballhead I attached my RRS pano system, to which my camera was mounted.

The images were shot @ 1/15 second @ f16 to get as much depth of field as possible without fears of diffraction or softening of the image. I was at ISO 31 and -1EV. Now for the tips and hints.

Some Tips

Level. When shooting panos, having a level platform is critical. I level my tripod base with my RRS leveling base and then level the camera. I pan right and left to doubly check that I am perfectly level along the entire sweep of the pano.

Focus. Next thing I do is decide what in the scene has to be in the absolute most critical focus. I focus on that and then lock the focus.

White Balance. You do not want the camera to shift white balance on you as you pan, so set your white balance manually on daylight (or whatever you want) and leave it there throughout the capture.

Center. Make sure that the barrel of the lens is directly over the center of the tripod if you are using a pano head. This is critical to avoiding parallax issues. Nowadays more sophisticated software can compensate to a degree, but why take chances if you are putting in all this effort?

Nodal Point. I recommend that you know the nodal point of your lenses and that you place the camera such that the nodal point is also directly over the central point of the tripod. I have a video on YouTube on how to determine the nodal points for your lenses.

Manual Exposure. Once you set your exposure to the desired effect, switch to manual and lock it in. You do not want widely divergent exposures as you pan across the scene as that would be difficult, if not impossible, to repair in post.

Vertical. Make sure you shoot in vertical (portrait) mode. You want to get as many pixels as possible from the image.

Overlap. I usually overlap 50%, but anywhere from 30% to 50% should work fine.

Filters. If you want to use a polarizing filter, pan along the entire capture scene before you begin to make sure that the effect of the filter does not change radically. If it does, you would be better off not using a filter. Instead bracket 3 images and combine them in an HDR application before merging the resulting images into your pano.

That’s it for now. If you have questions, please leave them as comments on this blog and I’ll answer them as they appear. In the meantime, good luck with your panos!