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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
As a landscape shooter there will be times when you encounter scenes that really require you to work them. You've got to dig to find the composition. You know there's something interesting there, but you're not sure exactly what it is, and how you're going to get it. This is in one of those times. If you look real close, you might notice the grand sweeping vista that lies before us. We want to capture this vista. Unfortunately, it's so grand and sweeping that it won't fit into a single frame. Fortunately, we have a trick up our sleeve that can help us deal with this situation.
We can take multiple frames of this grand, sweeping vista and stitch them together into a single seamless panorama. Photographers have done this for years. They used to just lay images on top of each other to create a collage. We're going to do something much better by stitching the images together, it will look like we've taken one big picture. To pull this off though, we have to shoot our images in a very particular way and be careful about getting data that's going to stitch well together. So here are couple of tips when you're shooting panoramas. First of all, a lot of people think that you've got to have a tripod to shoot panoramas.
It certainly doesn't hurt to have a tripod, but you don't have to have one. So if you see a grand sweeping vista somewhere, and you're thinking, I'd love to shoot a panorama of that, but I don't have a tripod, don't worry about it; do it anyway. That said, you've got to be smart about the way that you handle your camera when you're shooting a panoramic image, and we're going to talk about that and a couple of other tips. I've seen my scene. I need to, as I would with any shot, think about how to capture it, and the first thing is going to be focal length. I've got a zoom lens on this camera. With a long focal length, I can make those mountains appear very large in the frame; I can compress a lot of this depth in the foreground.
With a wider focal length, the mountains are going to be smaller, and they're going to recede further into the distance. You might think, wow, that makes the telephoto think sound a lot better, and it is, except that a telephoto image, the longer image is going to have a narrower field of view. So it's going to require more frames for me to capture the whole thing. That means more possibility of me making a mistake when I'm doing my panning. With a wider angle, I can get the whole thing in fewer shots, but it may be a little difficult to see the mountains in the horizon and some of the detail.
Ideally, you do it both ways, and you see what works. I'm going to pick a fairly telephoto range. Next, depth of field control. I know I want deep depth of field in this image. So I'm on Aperture priority. I've dialed into about F11. I can do F11 well on a full frame camera. If you're working with a cropped sensor camera, you probably don't want to go much beyond F8 or F9. Otherwise, your image will start to soften. So, next thing I do is I figure out my first shot. I'm going to take a little practice swing here and try and figure out where I want to go.
I think I've got it. I've got a plan in my head. Now I need to think about how I pan. The idea is I want to rotate the camera. Doing this is not rotating the camera. This is rotating me with the camera stuck to my face. The camera needs to rotate around itself. So what that usually means is I take a shot, I rotate the camera, and then I've got to move myself around behind it, all the time keeping this camera level and not translating the camera, not moving it. So it can take a little coordination, and at the end, you may end up a little twisted up, but with practice, you can get very good at it.
The other thing about panning is I need to overlap my images, and they need to overlap by about a third. So, when I'm shooting, I take note of something in the frame and I take that picture, and then I pan that thing over to here and I take the next picture. So, with all that in mind, we're ready to start shooting. I frame and press the shutter button halfway to focus in meter. Then I press the exposure lock button on my camera. I want all of these images to have the exact same exposure, so that I don't get any kind of exposure banding when I stitch the image.
If one is dark and the other is light, I might see a stripe along that seam. So, I press the shutter button halfway down to Meter, I lock exposure with Exposure Lock and I take the picture. Now, I'm doing my rotation of the camera. My exposure's still the same, because my Exposure Lock is still active. I'm just working my way through the image, until I get to the end of where I want. And that looks pretty good. Probably a good idea to do a couple of other passes just to be sure as safeties.
One thing to note about Exposure Lock: Once you activat it, it's on a timer. Your exposure will stay locked for a certain amount of time, and on this camera, in the viewfinder, there's a little asterisk that appears to indicate that my exposure's still locked. I need to keep an eye on that, because it times out. I'm not necessarily going to have still my locked exposure across the whole thing. With those images captured, we're now ready to start thinking about stitching. That's a process that happens in Photoshop, and we're going to cover that in another lesson.
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