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Vertical Panos Beat Wide Lenses

I’ve been talking a lot about using primes lenses, lately (thanks LensRentals.com), and how great they are for growing your vision. I mentioned in the first post that when your prime lens is too limiting, you can shoot a panorama to get the view you desire. Well, I found myself on a rooftop in Chicago the other day (more on that below) and my widest lens was the terrific Olympus 17mm f/1.8 for Micro 4/3, which is similar to a 35mm lens on a full frame DSLR. However, when Chicago is spilling out before you on a beautiful night, it’s just not wide enough. This image is the most I could get in the frame with the 17mm.

vertpano-1
Lumix GH4, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 200.

I remembered something Scott Bourne often used to say on the podcast, “If you want to make an impactful image, try a vertical panorama.” A great benefit to the panorama over using a wider lens is that there isn’t the usual distortion at the edges a super wide lens yields. I like this pano because it shows the perspective I had–I could see the rooftops of the buildings below me, but I was still looking up at the Willis (n Sears) Tower.

vertpano-2
Lumix GH4, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 200, five frame panorama stitched in Photoshop.

Normally to shoot a panorama, you tip your camera into portrait orientation and shoot across. In this case, since I was shooting up and down, I kept the camera in landscape orientation. I didn’t have lots of time that night, but if I were shooting again, I’d do a couple of things differently. If I used the 17mm, I’d shoot two rows of images instead of just one so that I’d have a little more room to crop the sides. Also, I’d try a longer lens as well, maybe the 45mm I had in my bag. This would yield a higher resolution, as well as less distortion.

How did I end up on the rooftops of Chicago? I was there for the Out Of Chicago Conference, which was really an incredible event. During the photowalk I lead, we talked to various people on the street and made portraits with them. Well, my new friend Z. was one such person, and he invited me and a couple others to come back later in the evening to see a different view of the town. It was really fun to see the city from the 60th floor, but I liked this portrait we made in the alley at least as well.

Lumix GH4, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, f/1.8, 1/60s, ISO 400.
Lumix GH4, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, f/1.8, 1/60s, ISO 400.

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