Playing with panos

About six months ago I was barely delving into shooting landscapes when I decided to head over to Kerry Park for an epic sunset (one of the most beautiful views of downtown Seattle and most photographed views to boot). While I had fun shooting the pinks and oranges on the horizon I also learned a lot, mostly from the other photographers that inevitably filled the small park. One of the most interesting things I learned is about taking panoramic images.

Yes, the iPhone does a pretty fabulous job (which really pains me to say, but it's true) of grabbing some nice panoramic views... if you can manage to keep it straight as you pan. But, just like any iPhone image, the resolution is limited and the quality will never be (or so I hope) as good as shooting with your average DSLR. That being said, there are several things I had to find out for myself (that shooting a pano shot on the iPhone wont' teach you) to help me capture a much more complete and well-composed panoramic image than simply making several shots in a straight line across the horizon.

There was an older gentleman at Kerry Park that day with a pano-plate, an add-on device where your camera sits that speaks to your DSLR, automatically taking several layered images that stitch together to make a beautiful panoramic shot. At the time, I didn't quite understand why all those photos were necessary, but after playing in Photoshop and out in the field... I'm starting to get the hang of things.

While I was in Iceland and down by the harbor in the capital city of Reykjavik, I decided to try my hand at a panoramic shot of the bay... from the image below you can understand why that seemed like a good idea. While I did take many images layered one over the other, I realized later (while trying to stitch them) that it still hadn't been enough. Panoramic images pull together in a sort of bow tie shape. You have to take shots at least two images deep as well as several wide in order to get the undistorted final image you see below. While it wasn't perfect, it was a great intro to understanding these times of images.

Reykjavik HarborMay not use without permission from
I still have a lot of learning to do, but yesterday as I was taking a walk around Greenlake with a friend, there were some incredible views to be seen and luckily I had my camera with me to capture them. We came on an opening in the trees and I just had to try to get a wide shot. The sun was setting, the sky was a rich blue that you rarely see this time of year in the Pacific Northwest and it was almost too easy to get gorgeous photos. Below is the final image I put together and I can definitely say that I'm getting a feel for panoramic images. It will take some time and a lot more landscape work, but I love learning this stuff... it makes me anxious to get out and work every day. Not to mention, it reminds me why I love living in this city. Sometimes, with all the drizzle, it's difficult to remember.


Today I decided to take a little trip down the road to Woodland Park Zoo. It's a quickie car ride away from my house and while I was feeling a little lethargic, I wanted to get out and photograph something different. I've been boxing myself into shooting music and people for the last few months and it was time I stretched my legs a little.

I'm conflicted about Zoos and caging, but all the animals I was able to capture seemed pretty content, if not a bit bored. I realized when I was editing afterward, that capturing their personalities is a lot like photographing people. They may have different ways of acting and reacting that we don't understand but emotions are read the same. Ya learn something new every day, right?