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Tag Archives: landscape
What is a Panorama?
Webster’s dictionary defines a panorama as “a full and wide view of something,” derived from two Greek words: pan, meaning “all,” and horama, meaning “sight, spectacle, that which is seen.” The first documented use of the word was in 1787 by Robert Barker to describe his paintings of Edinburgh and London. There is no formal aspect ratio or field of view (FOV) that defines a panorama, but it is generally accepted that to be a panorama a photo must have a field of view that is wider than the human eye and at least a 2:1 aspect ratio, meaning at least twice as wide as they are tall. Some people accept either characteristic to define a panorama, others insist on both characteristics being met. After much research, I’ve discovered there really is no concrete definition to what constitutes a panorama however.
Field of View (FOV)
Humans have an almost 180° horizontal field of view, but only about 120° of that is binocular (both eyes) with depth perception. Thus there is some disagreement on how wide a FOV a photo must cover to be considered a panorama. I personally go with around 140° or more horizontally. A full sphere would be 360° horizontal and 180° vertical. These spherical panoramas are my favorite type of panorama to shoot.
That brings up an interesting dilemma however—what of vertical panoramas?! Do they also need a 140° vertical FOV to be considered a “panorama”? Or would a vertical FOV of 70° or more be enough to qualify since that is about what a human can see with visual acuity without moving the eye? Perhaps the field of view is too difficult a measurement to define a panorama and the aspect ratio is a better requirement.
Most DSLRs (cropped sensor and full frame sensor) shoot an aspect ratio of 3:2 (or 1.5:1). Most point and shoot cameras, four thirds cameras, compact cameras, etc., have an aspect ratio of 4:3 (or 1.33:1). High definition video, such as DVDs, Blu-ray, HDTV, is typically 16:9 (or 1.78:1). Movies theaters are usually either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1, which gets into panoramic aspect ratio, but not usually the same FOV obviously (unless it’s an OmniMax theatre). Common print sizes for panoramas are 2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:1 so I tend to crop my panoramas along those aspect ratios for easier printing, my favorite being 3:1. Many places will do custom printing of any aspect ratio though. Some projections like stereographic or “little planet” and a hemisphere of the full sky are 1:1 or square and still considered to be a panorama due to the extreme field of view. From my research, the overwhelming opinion is that to be a panorama an image must be at least a 2:1 ratio minimum. The majority of photographers, print competitions, and panoramic associations didn’t stipulate the field of view as a requirement to be considered a panorama.
Wide-angle photography can often be confused as panoramic photography. A 14mm rectilinear lens like my favorite Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 on a full frame 35mm sensor gives a horizontal FOV of 104°. You could crop the top and bottom off a single frame from that lens and call it a panorama, but a purist would still consider it to be wide-angle photography and not panoramic photography because the horizontal FOV is still less than human vision. A 16mm fisheye on the other hand has a horizontal FOV of 137° and a cropped 2:1 or wider aspect ratio could be considered a true panorama without stitching, although the subject would be distorted due to the projection.
Gigapixel and High-resolution Photography
The size or density of a photo has little to do with it being a panorama or not. A panorama does not have to be a very high resolution. Technically speaking, a gigapixel photograph is one that consists of more than 1 billion pixels, regardless of field of view or aspect ratio. A high-resolution stitched photograph in my opinion is one that is larger than your camera’s sensor by a significant amount. A high resolution or gigapixel image isn’t necessarily a panorama though since the aspect ratio might be less than 2:1 and the FOV might be less than human vision (regardless of aspect ratio), but most panoramic associations and print competitions do not seem to make this distinction. Ironically, many accept any high resolution or gigapixel stitched image as a panorama regardless of aspect ratio, which I find inconsistent. I tend to call anything higher than 50 megapixels, and not wider 2:1 aspect ratio, a high-resolution image and not a high-resolution panorama, but that’s my personal opinion. The same with gigapixel images.
In the photography world panoramas mean different things to different people, but generally it is accepted to be a bigger than normal view—whether that means aspect ratio, focal length, field of view, or size seems to be an individual interpretation. If this topic is of interest, I plan to write a series of articles on panoramas: their history, different types of projections and methods of displaying them, and also how to shoot and create them, covering both hardware and software from simple to complicated. Follow the New England Photography Guild blog or Facebook page for more!
Wildlife Photography for Everyone!
I realize that not everybody is a professional wildlife photographer, either due to a lack of a “long” lens or the time involved. (I count myself in this group). One of the biggest requirements is a lot of patience. You have to sit and wait in order to capture your wildlife subject, right time and right place.
I would rather go to locations where I have a better than average chance of finding multiple subjects to photograph. Some photographers might suggest you go to a zoo for captive subjects but I prefer no fences between me and my subjects. (So I guess lions and tigers are out.) :-)
If you go online you may be surprised to find conservation areas close to your own home. These “green” areas can be found in the midst of residential areas and sometimes even in downtown areas. The best place to start looking for these “green” areas is the National Audubon website and from there you can go to your state and then town. Each state has a list of conservation areas on their websites.
Mass Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
There are six wildlife conservation areas near my home in Salem, MA. Just 26 minutes from my house puts me at the Massachusetts Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is just east of the Topsfield Fairgrounds on Route 1. The address for the sanctuary is 87 Perkins Row and you can get there by traveling up Route 1 to Route 97, and then south on 97 until you hit Perkins Row. You follow that East for about a mile and then you’ll see the entrance sign to the sanctuary.
Mass Audubon Activities
There’s more to this conservation area than just the 12 miles of interconnecting trails that wind their way through forests, meadows, and wetlands. They also have programs, classes, and activities going on monthly.
This February (on the 22nd) they’ll be having a “Flap Jack Fling” and sugaring tours. (Check their website for details.) Then in March, they have weekend maple sugaring tours where they will teach you how to identify a Sugar Maple tree, observe tapping and sap collection methods.
Wildlife to Photograph
The reason I head there is because I’m looking for wildlife to photograph. Visit my wildlife and nature gallery to view some of my favorites.
Depending on the season, you will find untold numbers of bird species either migrating through, or at this time of year (February), wintering over until spring. You can find everything from the northern red cardinal, Blue Jays and goldfinches to all sorts of ducks (mallards) and raptors such as red tail hawks. A list of birds is extensive so if birds are your goal, you should be very happy.
In the late fall I stop in to photograph both the fall foliage around the trails. As the people start to head home this is when you find that the deer come out of the woods to scour the open fields of the sanctuary for any left over food.
It’s also getting close to hunting season and they seem to understand that if they stay in the sanctuary, they are safe.
The cost is free if you are a Massachusetts Audubon member but if you’re not, the fee for non-members is only $4 dollars for adults and $3 dollars for children. They are open (November through April) Tuesdays through Sunday from 9 AM till 4 PM.
At this time you can walk the trails or visit the Audubon store and ask questions of the employees and volunteers about wildlife that’s being seen on any given day and the best location to find different types of animals.
This is a great way to get out and get some exercise, get in touch with nature, and unplug for an hour or two from our technological world.
~ Jeff Folger
Avoid the box
When someone learns that I enjoy photography, often their next question is: “What type of photographer are you?”
Recently, when asked this, I was about to give my “landscapes mostly” response when I realized that I always added the word “mostly.” So, I started to question myself: Why did I feel it was necessary to add that caveat? How many artists would willingly put themselves into a box? Why do we feel compelled to limit ourselves by a description? Who is the sadist who invented pop-up ads and why?
These were the many questions swirling around in my head. Since introspection is not necessarily my strength, it took me a while to distill all of these random thoughts (the “pop-up ad” thought excepted) down into one theme:
When I place limits on my photography, I do so at the peril of my passion.
Do you find yourself losing your passion?
Photography is my passion, my obsession, my raison d’etre… okay, maybe that’s going a little too far but you get my point. If I only took landscape images, I would quickly get bored and my art would suffer for it.
How do I know? Because it happened to me.
There is a reason that I have so few artistic images from the period when I set down my film camera in the late ’90s and when I bought my first digital camera in 2010. Photography had become routine and I knew my images were uninspired. The digital revolution gave me an opportunity to be excited again by learning a whole new technology and way to capture the light.
Since then, I have made it a point to always push myself to learn something new and different every time I pick up my camera – so I never lose my passion again. Often, this means shooting and processing outside of my personal comfort zone of nature and landscapes and entering the world of street, black and white, flash, macro, portrait, wildlife, urban, travel, pet, and underwater photography among many others. I’m still trying to convince my wife that being hired as a boudoir photographer will help my creativity, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.
The more challenging it is to cross whatever mental or physical boundary I have set for myself, and the greater the fight/flight fear response while doing it, the more inspired and invigorated I am afterward – regardless of the results.
Recharge your creative batteries
If you find yourself losing your passion, I suggest you “mix it up” and discover what stimulates your creativity. You will find you are in great company.
A few weeks ago, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston expecting to just enjoy an afternoon with my family. Instead, I left the museum inspired to take finer photographs. Ironically, I never viewed a photograph the entire time I was there. The source of this newfound inspiration? The special exhibit of John Singer Sargent’s watercolors. Did you know his “day job” was as a portrait artist but for leisure he still painted? How many studio photographers do you know who never pick up a camera once they leave work? In my experience, sadly, it is many.
Sargent’s famous watercolors on exhibit consisted of the art he created while on vacation. He painted landscapes, street scenes, and candid scenes that he encountered during his travels. In essence, he recharged his batteries and passion during his free time, not by putting down his brush, but rather by painting differently – creating variety through technique, medium and subject matter.
If I find my passion waning, in addition to mixing it up, I will also do other activities to reinvigorate myself, such as: go to an art museum; sit in a park and people watch; look at the images of fantastic photographers either online or in books; read a book by one of my favorite photographers (Galen Rowell); or, take a non-photography related art class to learn more about the fundamentals of all art.
Live the tapestry!
Life is a rich tapestry of woven experiences – created one warp, one weft, one thread at a time. Just like the yarns of a tapestry our experiences can be discontinuous. Each one is different in context and understanding. It’s this variability and the anticipation of the unknown that creates the special moments worth capturing. Without passion, I would never have created the opportunities to view the world through my mind’s eye and actually see the moments before me instead of just passing them by as ordinary.
I was struck by this passage that George R. R. Martin wrote in A Game of Thrones on seeing and how I think it applies to our ability as photographers to see with passion and capture the extraordinary:
“Opening your eyes is all that is needing. The heart lies and the head plays tricks with us, but the eyes see true. Look with your eyes. Hear with your ears. Taste with your mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking, afterward, and in that way knowing the truth.”
So, next time someone asks me: “What kind of photographer are you?” I think I will respond with: “A passionate one.”
~ Tom Gaitley
When winter comes (my least favorite season) I can always find entertainment watching and photographing backyard birds. You can take lovely pictures of birds such as chickadees, cardinals (one bird I don’t have in my area for some unknown reason), Juncos, nuthatches, etc. It’s fun to see the types of birds you can attract to your backyard. This year in particular, with the ice storms in Vermont, it is very helpful for the birds to have feeders set up. The berries and seeds are glazed with ice and the recent single digit numbers are keeping the ice from melting.
What kind of scene do you want to create?
Even if your feeder makes an unsightly backdrop, there are lots of possibilities for creating a nice photo. You can attach a fresh cut pine bough to the feeder itself. The bough will stay fresh for days in cold weather. After the holidays, discarded Christmas trees are in abundance. For a really artistic masterpiece you can add pine cones, ice, and snow to the pine bough. Berry branches are another source that can provide a nice effect. They are a little harder for snow to stick. To add a little pizzazz to the branches, you can spray water while sprinkling snow on top. Another trick is to add ice between the berry stems.
Setting up a natural-looking pose:
The rules of good composition apply to bird photography. Pay attention to the background for your subject. I make a special effort to get a natural look in my photography by eliminating any clutter with distractions, such as utility poles, buildings, or wires, which may be behind your feeders. Clutter competes with the subject for attention. Natural elements can also be distracting, such as a bright branch that is out of focus or a twig that blends into the bird’s body. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot twigs in the foreground. If it’s a bird that is new to the feeder, I’ll take the shot anyway just to record it then watch the subject for a better opportunity.
Working with the bird itself:
Once your background is under control, work with the bird itself. It is easy if the bird is at rest, however at most feeders birds are in near constant motion. If your shutter speed won’t stop the motion, try making a clicking sound which often times will cause the bird to stop and stand at alert. Birds generally flee as you approach. If this happens, don’t abandon ship. They also almost always return. When this happens just stand or sit nearby very quietly. Some people have blinds set up which has its advantages for photographing birds.
The eye of a bird:
Wait until you have the bird’s eye in focus to shoot. If the eyes are not sharp, you will be disappointed with your photo. Continually focus on its eyes. The rest of the body will take care of itself. When the bird moves its head, take your picture when you see a reflection in its eye — the catch light. On flat, gray, overcast days, you are not going to see a catch light, but focus sharply on their eyes anyway. For crisp clear shots of the whole bird, it is easiest when the bird is perpendicular to you — a side view.
What makes a great bird photograph?
Composition is important but doesn’t always have to be the rule of thumb. Some very interesting dynamic shots come from bird activities such as cracking a seed open, hanging upside down on a branch, reaching for berries, etc. Your photograph should be as sharp as possible unless you intentionally want to blur it. Keep in mind that blurring it doesn’t generally capture a clear image of the subject — which is often the goal in bird photography. Understanding and working with bird behavior leads to more interesting photographs.
Sprucing up Mother Nature by setting the scene for backyard bird photography can be fun. Watch out though — this may become your new winter sport!
~ Jane Ogilvie
A lot of big photographers tell you that you don’t need a lot of gear to make great photos. Easy for them to say, with many of them sporting over $20,000 in photographic equipment. I’m here to tell you that you really can do a lot with very little, because that’s exactly what I’ve done.
For starters, let’s go through a rundown of what I have for gear:
- Canon Rebel t2i – My one and only camera body.
- Canon EFS 18-55mm lens with IS – This is the lens that came with my camera, also known as a ‘kit’ lens.
- Manfrotto Tripod – I got this for $30 at Target. It had a really cool picture of kids skateboarding on it. Sold.
- Rocketfish Circular Polarizer – $3o at the camera store.
- Lens Cloth
- Two 16GB Sandisk SDHC Memory Cards
… and that’s it.
Here are some of the photos I’ve taken with this setup:
The Importance of Post Processing
While I haven’t invested a lot in equipment, I have spent some serious time learning how to edit photos. I purchased Adobe Lightroom 3 about a year ago and immediately saw a huge improvement in my photos. Some people scoff at photographers who edit their photos, preferring to take photos as they come straight out of the camera. I’m not going to say that they are wrong, but you are limiting your artistic and creative expressions immensely by doing so.
Here’s a very short list of techniques I’ve used to make images:
1. Long exposures – You don’t need expensive ND filters to take long exposures. Yes, they make it easy to do long exposures in bright light situations. How do you get around that? Shoot in low-light. I prefer shooting at the end of the day for the best light anyway, and when the light is low, you are more likely to lengthen your shutter speeds, especially if you are shooting at small f/stops for maximum depth of field in your landscape photos. The real imperative here is a tripod. Gotta have it.
2. Following the Weather – One of my biggest obsessions, since I was a kid, is following the weather. I can’t tell you how much that has helped me with landscape photography. Planning your shots around the weather is an essential for getting the images you want. Yes, there is a lot of chance and luck involved with ole’ Mother Nature, but the rewards of keeping an eye to the sky can’t be overstated.
3. Taking Lots of Photos – This is obvious. Do it because you love doing it.
4. Be Very Still – Though my tripod is incredibly light and flimsy, I shoot about 90% of my images using it. For sharp images, I set a 2- or 10-second self-timer for the shutter release, as well as use the mirror lock-up feature. Setting the timer allows any shaking from pressing down the shutter to settle down. If it’s windy, I’ll stand trying to block the wind using as much of my scrawny body as I can.
The point of this posting is to encourage folks who feel limited by their lack of expensive gear. I feel limited every day, but by putting my mind to it, I can be very productive and even creative using what I have. If your goal is to enjoy photography as a hobby, go do it! Don’t let what you don’t have stand in your way. There will always be something you don’t have.
~ Ben Williamson