Panoramas; Understanding the "Big Picture".

February 12, 2015  •  1 Comment

Welcome to another installment of: 

When I was 12, my parents took me to Disney World.  One of the things that struck me the most was the 360' panoramic "Circle Vision" movies they had in the various "lands" in EPCOT.  I remember standing in the theater watching a breath-taking film about China and how anywhere I looked there was something to see in the "panoramic" image.  That concept has always fascinated me.

Reflections of ChinaReflections of ChinaWhen EPCOT Center opened in 1982, it utilized over one and half million feet of film to produce over four hours of shows. These films, totaling more than 73,000 feet of finished product, represents the work of 16 production crews in more than 30 countries and nearly every state in the USA.

Reflections of China which, was formely known as the Wonders of China, (shown above) was produced by Jeff Blyth using an enterly Chinese film crew to shoot the first major American production inside modern China. The Circlevision cameras were taken to areas of the country normally considered inaccessible and in many cases the only way to bring in supplies and equipment was on camelback. In the Annui providence, the three hundrend pound circlevision camera was carried on the shoulders of the crew up 16,700 steps precariously perched on the steep slopes of Haunghson Mountain.

Reflections of China takes audites to the 6000 mile long Great Wall, to witness the fabled Mongol horsemen on the wiry steeds, to the seldom seen Tibet and even inside the Forbidden City.

Focal Lenth:15mm
F-Stop: F/2.8
Shutter: 1/3 of a second

The 360 "Circle Vision" Panoramic Theater at Disney's Epcot.

The word panorama is derived from two Greek words which means literally "To see everything/all".  That exactly is what a panorama allows you to do, to see everything.  It has always been a concept artists have sought to portray in one way or another.  That desire was implanted within the photographic medium almost as soon as the technology of photography/photogravure began with Joseph Niepce in 1826 when he made the first photoengraved image from his window in Le Gras, France. 

Don't complain next time your iphone is taking extra long to take a picture.  This image by Joseph Niepce "View From the Window at Le Gras" the world's first permanent photograph took roughly 8 hours to "make" in 1826.

 

Once the "science" of photography and exposure had become a fairly "reliable" one, (We'll talk more about that some other time...) Photographers sought to make landscape images larger and larger in order to offer the viewer more and more to see.  The quest for "panorama" within photography was on.  Early attempts at making panoramic images would find photographers using multiple cameras to make multiple exposures and then printing them in "series" and cutting/combining them to make a larger image for the viewer to take in.  A movement within photography itself lead artists to "document" the world around them, especially for the insatiable thirst that the Victorian world had for far away lands and unique visions of how things were in other places.  (Remember, this is before the days of the internet...One could not simply pull up a webcam of Tokyo in real-time like we can today...) 

 

View of Baltimore Harbor ca 1840. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Subjects such as views of towns, harbors, battlefields and all sorts of other "still life" shots. (Due to the lengthy exposure process of photography during this time, most exposures still required between 2-5 minutes for processing.)   All of these types of panoramic images were the rage for the general public in Europe and America at large as a way to see the "outside" world without taking the long boat ride required back in the day.  Think of the panorama photograph as the "internet" of 200 years ago! 

 

So how does this help you today?

What's interesting, is that even today, after 200 years of advancement in technology, in photography, we still use pretty much the same method to make a panoramic image.  During the era of "film" (Ewe...Who does that any more? -Pssst...At Ikon, we still do for a lot of artistic projects! :) )  A method of shooting a panoramic image on one frame of film had actually been perfected...However, we are now in the super duper, awesome amazing space age digital era....Now many point and shoot cameras, and even camera phones can and do make wonderful panoramic images.  They are great for when you want to shoot an image of a BIG subject.  Most of today's digital point and shoot either shoot a short video (series of multiple images) and then digitally "stitch" them together.  So we still rely upon that "antique" idea of combining more than one frame to make a panorama.

Below is a simple illustration of how that process works.  For the sake of explanation, we used a professional DSLR from Nikon to make the images.  They were shot with a 20mm lens, (a pretty wide angle lens) and we turned the camera on it's side to capture multiple images.  Doing so gives us the maximum amount of earth and sky for shooting a landscape. 

 

This is a slowed down/drawn out version of what your point and shoot or your cell phone camera does when it makes a panoramic image.  While we use multiple exposures and post production (Adobe Photoshop and NIK software suite) to edit the images together and hone the image for color/tonality, it's really not much different than what your cameras are doing.

The further we come, the more we stay the same it would seem in terms of art.  

Now you know.  Now go forth and make some killer panoramic photos!  Especially since there's snow coming! 

-DW. 


Comments

Miguel Acosta(non-registered)
Great Read - totally enjoyed it. Loved the intro.
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