A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Flickr when I came across a stunning panoramic shot taken by Patrick Mayon (check out Patrick’s Flickr feed here) of the inside the beautiful church, in Dedham, Essex.
Now I’ve had the urge to try panoramic photography for quite a while but had never gotten round to it. As I sat on the sofa looking at this image I knew it was time to jump in and give it a go. Dedham is only a few miles from my home so we soon had a trip to the church planned with the intention of trying a similar shot.
Dedham is a very popular with day trippers and as we arrived on a very hot Saturday afternoon it soon became clear we had picked the wrong day. It was absolutely packed with people and not a parking space in site. Even the ample car park was full. We were a little disappointed but knew there would be other opportunities so headed back home for a re-think.
A slight change of plan
Earlier in the year we visited another church in the Suffolk village of Long Melford which has a fabulous interior and plenty of space at one end to set up a tripod without getting in the way of other visitors. Perfect location for a few panoramic shots we thought!
Next day we arrived in Long Melford and parked up just beside Holy Trinity Church. There were a few people milling about, enjoying the sunshine or tending graves but much quieter than it was in Dedham.
After a short stop off along a lovely flower border to watch the bees, butterflies and Hummingbird Hawk Moths feeding on the flowers we headed up to the church. Now if you have ever been to Long Melford you will know the church sits on the hilltop and the tower can been seen from quite a distance way because of its shear size. I mean this church is big, really big, especially for a village. It’s one of those buildings where you find yourself standing to admire it for a few minutes before venturing inside.
Once inside we were surprised to find only a couple of visitors wandering around. Perfect I thought.
Setting up the shot
I’d read a few articles on panoramic photography and had a pretty good idea of the shot I wanted. Vertical panorama covering approx. 90 degrees.
A few months earlier I had purchased a Manfrotto geared tripod head which would be ideal for this shot as it allows smooth vertical panning between each shot. I have recently started to use exposure bracketing to maximise dynamic range so I planned to use a 5 shots for each image with 0.7 stops between each. This would then be repeated each time I panned the camera up for the next image. Anybody would think I’d set out to make this as difficult for myself as possible! Still, I like to try and push myself out of my comfort zone and was feeling up to the challenge.
Time to shoot the vertical panorama
With my tripod set up (a nice sturdy Manfrotto 055) level, as central to the interior as I could get it and geared head with D500 securely attached , I was ready to shoot.
Before I began taking the first shots I panned the camera up slowly to double check I had everything level and central in the frame. Everything looked good!
My Nikon D500 has a handy feature called ‘memory banks‘ which allows you to pre configure 4 different camera setups and quickly change from one to the other. I had one of the memory banks set up for HDR shooting so with this selected I pressed the shutter button after a pre set 2 second delay, the camera fired the first 5 bracketed shots. Very gently I turned the vertical panning knob and moved the camera position up, being sure to leave at least 1/3 overlap to the first shot. Your processing software will need this overlap in order to stitch the images together correctly.
Another careful turn of the panning knob and the next 5 shots were done. This process was repeated several times until the camera was pointing vertically up to the ceiling. I knew it would be virtually impossible to be sure everything had gone to plan until I got back home and loaded the images onto my PC but the shots looked pretty good on the back of the camera.
The final image
This is the final image of the vertical panorama and I have to be honest, I am thrilled with the result, especially as I’d never tried a panorama before!
How about a horizontal panorama?
By this time a few people were milling about, admiring the stunning interior so I used the time to set up a horizontal panorama. I’m always very aware of other people and try to make sure I’m not in the way of other visitors, especially in a public place.
Once the shot was set and the view was clear I set about taking the next set of shots from the back of the church.
Here is the final image of the horizontal panorama shot.
On my previous visit I’d noticed the ends of the pews had a lovely curve to them which I thought could work really well as foreground elements. So moving up towards the far end of the church I set up for one final panorama with the pews in the foreground, and the Altar and large stained glass end window towards the back of the shot.
This is the final image of the vertical panorama with the lovely pews in the foreground.
I’m so glad I found that Dedham church image as without it I may have not taken the plunge and attempted these panoramic shots. If you’ve been thinking of trying some panoramas, all I can say is just go for it. I had such a great time trying this and it’s defiantly something I want to do more of.
Hopefully I’ll get to try a few panoramas at Dedham chuch. If we can find a parking space that is!
Have you tried panoramic photography or thinking of giving it a try? If so I’d love to hear your comments.