The modern mobile phone puts an arsenal of photographic tools at our disposal. One of the strangest and most difficult to master is the panorama… yet the results can be wonderful.
(550 words. A four minute read)
The panorama is not a gimmick. It’s a wide-angled shot in which the correct proportions are retained, rather than the treatment of a ‘fish-eye’ lens, where the extremes are increasingly compressed as you approach the edge of the image. We can look on it as a short piece of video, panning left to right, where all the shot is retained and formed into a wider picture.
There are many difficulties; chief of which is how hard it is to stay level and steady as you pan across the shot. Ideally, we would have an electronic, rotating tripod in our pockets! With practice, and by carefully following the indicated line in the viewfinder, we can get a degree of stability into our photos. Also, modern phones allow a faster sideways movement than their predecessors, as they need less light to function well.
Panoramas are great at capturing the grandeur of large or historic buildings, as with the shot of Winchester Cathedral, above.
One of the little-known wonders of panoramas is that they can be taken vertically!
The above shot illustrates the usefulness of this. It was taken on a preparatory visit to Whitby, in 2018. I needed a long, thin vertical image for the sidebar of a pocket brochure for the Silent Eye’s Whitby weekend, in December of that year.
As I focussed on the ruins of the Abbey, I realised that the whole sky was covered by a single, dramatic cloud leading to the sun. But this was only available by scanning the camera vertically.
The closing images, below, are what I call ‘sky-shots’. Some of my favourite photos have been taken this way.
There’s nothing better than the successful capture of a huge, bright sky. The trick is to hold the arms out, level with the ground and then rotate the shoulders upward, in tandem, finishing overhead with the back arched. It’s a bit like yoga and takes a bit of practice, but the results are unlike any other type of shot you will take.
The key is to have a go… After a while you become your own best teacher. If it feels good to you, it is good!
©Stephen Tanham, 2021.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, A journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.