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Do you really use all of your resolution? How about throwing some of it away?

On the side of my regular projects, I have had a lot of fun shooting panoramic pictures with the Leica M Monochrom. Of course, panoramas can be done with any camera. Stitching techniques will allow you to make a gigapixel image from an iPhone if you like. The problem with stitching is that they mostly require the subjects to be entirely static, and to be successful they need a lots of gear and patience. To me at least, much of the fun with photography is its spontaneous quality, which means that multi-shot strategies and spending several hours in photoshop are not very tempting.

The technique described here is of course possible with any camera. But the Leica has three traits which makes it particularly suited for cropped panoramas. First its incredible resolution. Although only 18 mp, it has a very pure quality, which lends itself very nicely to interpolating very large prints.

Secondly, most Leica lenses are sharp from corner to corner, a necessity for credible panoramas in my mind. Specialized panoramic cameras from Hasselblad and Linhof solved that problem by using greatly over-dimensioned optics to cover the whole image area, basically cropping a large format optic down to a medium format strip. (Do you remember the Kodak APS cameras back in the 90s? You would be forgiven if you don’t because they went the wrong way and cropped a half-frame film strip down to panorama, then enlarged it to twice the full-frame size for a gloriously grainy and unsharp picture. By the way, the only remaining entity from that disaster is the crop ratio of most current consumer dslrs.)

Lastly -and more practically- the rangefinder, which is easily taped over to get preview frames. Two small pieces of scotch tape, one top and one bottom is all it takes. Either on the camera itself or on the external viewfinders. You would be surprised how difficult it is to shoot panoramas without some sort of frame preview! Fortunately, they don’t have to be very accurate. It’s mostly just about being reminded what you are shooting.

There is no set definition of panorama. I suppose anything beyond your standard 16:9 HDTV format counts. I do recommend finding one format and sticking to it, to make a coherent series. I myself picked a ratio of 2,9:1 solely for the reason that it is the same as my “Things in between” series. Movie buffs might want to pick 2,4:1 which roughly equals movies in theatres. Your preferred aspect ratio can be stored in Lightroom and easily copied to all frames. It is also nice to be able to fine-tune the framing by lifting or lowering the crop.

One thing with panoramas is that they are a completely different way of seeing and composing. The most obvious approaches are finding elongated subjects, but juxtaposing two regular subjects are also a lot of fun. Although it perhaps is the most fun with wide angles, go ahead and try it with a normal and tele as well!

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If you want to see some really good panoramic stuff, I can recommend some photo books:
Josef Koudelka: Chaos,
Pentti Sammallahti: Here far away,
Henrik Saxgren : Pylonia,
and Oddleiv Apneseth: Jølster.

PS: Welcome to my blog/online gallery at boredinthefjord.com!

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Informative.

    Svar
  2. One of the greatest panorama books, if not one of the finest photo books ever, is
    Praha Panoramaticka (Prague in Panoramic Photographs) by Josef Sudek. The original (1959) was long out of print and very expensive, but it was reprinted in 1992. It is remarkable for the sequencing of the images, worked in different ways throughout the book.

    On the idea of panoramas, the 21 SEM cropped to say 1:2 or 1:3 makes a pretty sweet shot.

    Svar

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