Archive for November, 2009

Problems of shooting panorama and solutions I found 1

November 21st, 2009 2 comments

Leveling tripod and camera

For months I’ve been focusing on panorama photography.  I have discovered several problems and solutions to solve them.

First, leveling tripod and camera was one of the biggest problems. A conventional way is to level the tripod perfectly with a leveler spirit (assume that you have a ball head in your tripod), and then level the camera.  The whole process is painstakingly slow and could take several minutes.  Now, imagine after all those troubles, you just discovered the height of the camera is too low and you need to move to a different angle.  Believe me, I’d been there and done that many times – it is frustrating and time-consuming.

The solution?  I found that Really Right Stuff PCL-1 Panning Clamp makes my panorama photography a lot easier and allows me to concentrate on taking good images.  All I have to do is to find the right angle and set my tripod and level the panning camp with the built-in level spirit).

Camera mounted on Really Right Stuff panning head PL-1

Camera mounted on Really Right Stuff panning head PL-1

Problems of shooting panorama and solutions I found 2

November 21st, 2009 2 comments

The problem of shooting on a perfectly level platform is that many times angle of view can be very restricted to the lens you use.

For example, let’s say I want to include more sky or some of fog below the mountain horizon.  I can’t do it because I would no longer have a perfect level, and therefore the degree of my view starts to shift upward or downward, which makes it difficult if not impossible to stitch images later.

You might argue that I could use a wide-angle lens and crop the image later after merging images.  The problem with that method is that you will get a lot of distortion and have to do a lot of cropping later, which reduces the resolution of the image.

Whenever I shoot panorama, I prefer between 50mm-200mm range lens to avoid distortion and to shoot it vertically, so I will have more images to merge together, which will produce a higher resolution panorama.

Camera with Cannon TS-E 45mm tilt and shift lens

Camera with Cannon TS-E 45mm tilt and shift lens

Both Nikon and Canon have a “Tilt & Shift” lens from 17mm (Canon only) – 90mm – Canon: TS-E lens (Tilt & Shift for EOS),  Nikon: PC-E (Perspective Control Lens).  It is a unique lens that allows a photographer to correct point of view by tilting and swinging the front of the lens, or by rotating and moving it up or down.

I found a Canon 45mm TS-E to be a perfect lens for my panorama photography.  I could shift the lens upward and downward (+ / – 11 degree) without having to move the camera up or down.  Therefore, I could include more sky or foreground below with a correct perspective.

McWay Cove Fall (Big Sur, California) is a good example.  The place where I was standing was way too high to have a perfect horizon in panorama.  If I were to shoot with a conventional lens, I would not be able to include waterfall below.  With the tilt & shift lens, I was able to include the waterfall and the sky as in the image.  One thing to be careful is to take a exposure reading (in manual exposure) before tilting or shifting the lens, or you will get an incorrect exposure due to lens barrel shifting the light to the camera sensor/film.


One Spectacular Sunset at Big Sur, California

November 13th, 2009 1 comment

After three cloudy days, I didn’t expect much from my fourth day in California.  Good landscape photography highly depends on one source-light, sun, and without it, even beautiful Pacific Ocean can be just flat and dull.

On the fourth day after patiently waiting all afternoon, finally my patience and persistence paid off.  As the sun was almost ready to set on the horizon, clouds started getting thin for sun to peek and reflect on the ocean and the sky above.

Graduated filter attached in front of the lens

This was the perfect condition for landscape photography.  I had one camera mounted on Canon 45mm TS-E (tilt & shift lens) for shooting panorama and the other camera with Canon 17-40mm wide-angle lens.

Graduated filter attached in front of the lens

For the one with wide-angle lens, I decided to put a polarizer filter to cut the glare of the ocean and add more contrast to the cloud.  In addition, I also used a Singh-Ray graduated filter (-2 stops) to correct exposure of the sky.  A duct tape comes in handy when shooting wild-angle lens, which already has a polarizer filter attached.

McWay Cove Fall, California (with 17-40mm wide-angle lens)

Right before the sun disappeared, I shot a panorama, which consisted of 14 images.  I shifted my lens (tilt & shift lens) downward 10 degree to get more of the ocean and McWay Cove Fall.  It took 4 minutes to shoot all 14 images.  The final result was stunning.  After printing the final image to 68 x 22 inches print and looking at the details of the print, it feels like I am there again.

One thing you have to be really careful with a long exposure like this is moving objects such as waves.  Each wave moves differently, which could create a zagged image later.  But if the exposure is long enough, it could create havoc when merging all images together.

Unfortunately, you can’t really do that with wildlife.  That’s why I’m wishing for a digital panorama camera at a reasonable price.  It will not only allow me to take a panorama with wildlife, but also save me a whole lot of time from stitching images together.

McWay Cove Waterfall

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Camera Bag for Traveling Photographers: Think Tank Airport Security

November 1st, 2009 3 comments

In the past, I’d used Lowe Pro Photo Tracker AW backpack.  It is a good bag, but these days I have a lot more gears to carry.  Nowadays  I often use a smaller Lowe Pro fanny bag for a shorter lens with other accessories.


Lowe Pro Photo Tracker AW (left) & Think Tank Airport Security (right)

I was introduced to Think Tank Company in 2007, which claims to make a bag “by photographers for photographers.”  So far I found most of their bags extremely well-designed and well thought-out.

The Think Tank Airport Security roller bag is big enough to fit my 600mm f/4 or 500mm f/4 (even 800mm f/5.6), two camera bodies, several other lenses and accessories, such as flash, extra batteries, battery pack, etc.  This bag is so deep that I can fit both my EF 70-200mm f/2.8 and EF 180mm f/3.5 macro lenses straight down.  Moreover, my Mac Book Pro 15 inches laptop fits well in the stretchable front pocket.

Think Tank Airport Security

Think Tank Airport Security with 600mm along with other lenses & accessories

The Think Tank Airport Security also comes with a backpack strap, but I won’t recommend anyone to use that, considering its size and weight.

The bag has combination locks and cables, so I can safely leave this bag locked inside my vehicle (most of time).   The way I do it is to wire the cable around the vehicle frame and lock it with a combination lock (TSA lock).

The quality of the bag is a first class material and guarantee for life unconditional.  I won’t hesitate to recommend this bag to anyone.  In fact, many photographers who I introduced it to now love it too.

Categories: Camera Equipment Tags: