For me personally, long exposure (LE) photography allows me to explore a sense of calm, a visual relaxation that matches the way I feel when I look at the landscape. But for some, the technical side of this style of photography makes it incredibly frustrating and stressful.
Before we get into the technical side of LE photography and counting exposure increase on our fingers and toes, there is something that is far more important than the technical issues. It is vision, interpretation and connection with your subject.
Ansel Adams said “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”
There are many times that using a wide angle or telephoto lens just won’t get the results you want. They’re either too wide or too tight but you know in your heart that your viewpoint is correct.
It’s frustrating and causes many photographers to give up and go home without a shot they’re happy with. However you should persevere and with the introduction of photo-stitching software built into Lightroom and Photoshop you should try the third option which is to shoot a stitched panorama.
By stitching together individual images you can render your scene in greater detail and make extremely large prints without the image breaking up.
For those who want a bit of background early examples of a panorama include the Bayeux Tapestry, at nearly 70 meters in length it’ll take some stitching to get a photograph that will rival that!
I’ve shot panoramas for a number of years and find the discipline fascinating. The normal guidelines of composition do apply, but they also don’t – you have much more area for the viewer to explore, more details being captured and there can be cameo roles for people in the different areas of the image. These all come together to create a story or feeling that literally absorbs the viewer – well that’s the idea anyway!
To shoot your very own panoramic image:
Firstly, if you can – use a tripod
It’ll make stitching the images together far more straightforward. Make sure your tripod is level too – most come with a spirit level but luckily most of the Fuji X series have horizon levels built in. If you press the display/back button on the back of the camera a few times this normally brings it up on screen if it has one. To check that the camera and tripod are level, gently pan the camera from left to right and check the display to see if the level line is straight throughout the motion. When attaching the camera to the tripod – set it so that you are shooting a series of upright images (portrait orientation). You’d be forgiven for thinking that you should shoot three or four landscape images – although you can if you wish, but you will end up with a very strip like image. I have found the upright method to be far more rewarding.
Your focal length is generally a little longer than when shooting conventional landscape images.
For example, I recently shot a panorama in Paris using the XF50-140mm, to get the same result normally I’d have needed to use a XF10-24, but the detail in the bridge and the compression of perspective would have been lost.
In a perfect world you would use a panoramic tripod head and set the nodal point of the lens.
Basically this means the middle of the lens sits over the middle of the tripod – but with good stitching software you can get away without it being set, if you’re careful. The reason for this is that if you have the nodal point set correctly the perspective doesn’t alter as you rotate the camera, but when the lens is off-centre perspective from the lens to the subject distorts ever-so slightly.
Once you have chosen your composition and have panned the camera backwards and forwards a few times to check your image works, you must set your focus and exposure. Once set, do not alter them, otherwise you get very awkward tonal changes between the different images. The same applies to graduated filters – although you can adjust them slightly.
Finally you are ready to shoot!
Start on the left-hand side of your shot and take your first picture. Then turn the camera using a panning motion through about 15 degrees, or using the framing grid on the screen – move it round by 1/3 of the frame – this will give you enough overlap to avoid the distortion caused by turning your camera. Repeat this shooting process until you have completed your full composition.
Once have finished your series – shoot a blank frame so you know where the start and finish is.
You may need to fine tune your shot so always check the image on the back of the camera to make sure you’ve got every aspect of the shot you need.
When you get home the process is very simple.
Load your images into Adobe Lightroom – highlight the pictures that make up your panorama – take your cursor across the top menu bar to the heading ‘Photo’ then scroll down to ‘Photomerge’ and select ‘Panorama’. Lightroom will show you a rough render of the image then simply press OK and a few seconds later you’ll get the stunning panorama you planned.
Occasionally Lightroom doesn’t quite do the job, so if that happens – open the images in Photoshop, use your cursor to navigate through File – Automate – Photomerge – Panorama – the same process will happen only this time you will have a layered Photoshop document to work with.
It will take a little practice to create the perfect image but it’s great fun to try. For more inspiration look at the work of Horst Hamann or Nick Meers
If you buy an X-Pro2 and register the warranty on our website before the 8th April 2016, you could win a place on one of our fantastic workshops.
1st May – Portrait workshop with Dave Kai Piper – (4 delegates)
Location: Amersham Studios
Being a photography lecturer, Adobe Community Pro and Fujifilm X-Photographer, Dave Kai-Piper will take you on an exciting journey into portrait photography.
His workshop starts off with a conversation with each participant discussing individual goals for the day alongside a group objective. As part of the morning set-up you will have a look at some iconic images from influential photographers. Then he will break down what makes those images work & talk about how different lighting types can create moods and styles. You will learn how to build on simple lighting styles like Butterfly lighting, Split lighting and Rembrandt lighting and then put them into practice using live demonstrations with a stunning model.
Once your objectives are set, you will jump into the studio full of the newest WiFi controllable Broncolor lighting to put your new Fujifilm X-Pro 2 through its paces. You will look at ways to shape, control and create that perfect image. Within this workshop you will also learn the best way to communicate and pose your subject to get the best from your model.
Whether you have spent a lot of time in the studio using lighting or have never used additive / flash lighting in your photography before, each attendee will leave the workshop with a broader knowledge of various techniques from lighting your subject, creating a scene and directing your model.
4th May – Street workshop with Matt Hart – (4 delegates)
Spend the day with Street, Event and X-Photographer Matt Hart in this candid street photography workshop. It is here that Matt will give you an insight into the way he works and how to shoot his style of street photography.
He will show you how to anticipate and capture decisive moments, how to be invisible in public spaces to get the best images and how to to develop confidence shooting street photography. He will show you the best places in Liverpool to capture great street images – so in the future you can come back and have another go!
Matt’s workshops are always fun, informative and relaxed whilst at the same time challenging and have been designed to stretch your imagination.
7th May – Landscape workshop with Paul Sanders – (4 delegates)
Location: Dungeoness and surrounding areas
Your day will be spent with Fujifilm X photographer and landscape artist Paul Sanders, he will help you develop your own way of seeing the landscape to create images that resonate with how you feel about the location.
Paul’s specialty is long exposure photography, he will take through a natural and easy to follow workflow that enables you to get to grips with the technical side of this style of photography. He will have some Neutral Density filters and graduated filters for you to use on the day. Filtration is one of the key aspects of landscape photography, it allows you to control contrast, mood and exposure time. Paul will explain all of the pros and cons of using filters and the different types of filters available.
The day will be split into two sessions – one at Dungeness and the other at Winchelsea beach.
Dungeness is the only classified desert area in the UK, its flat bleak landscape has inspired photographers, artist, writers and filmmakers for many years. The beach is a detritus of fishing boats and fleet. The decaying hulls of boats are left on the shingle, nets, huts and machinery make this a photographers dream location. Paul will explain that landscape photography isn’t always about the big vista but also lies within the details and the abstract he will guide you around the area so that you don’t miss anything.
Winchelsea Beach is a long exposure dream, lines of decaying groynes stretch along the beach. These make the perfect subjects for getting to grips with the minimalist style that long exposure work generates. Paul will also pay special attention to composition and exposure time to create beautifully minimal images.
Our X-Photographer “Why I love” XF lens series continues with our super sharp, super fast aperture prime lens, the FUJINON XF56mm F1.2 R.
Kevin Mullins – Reportage Weddings
Most wedding photographers want to be able to separate their subjects from the background at some point during the day and the amazingly fast 1.2 aperture of the 56mm (85mm full frame equivalent) allows me to do that. Even when I’m shooting fast moving subjects, such as a confetti throw, I will sometimes want to offer a luscious depth of field and there is no other lens that offers that f1.2 aperture that allows me to do that right now. This lens, along with the 23mm lenses are my goto lenses for every single wedding I shoot.
The super fast aperture of f1.2 and the full frame equivalent of 85mm make this lens an essential part of my kit. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting a documentary wedding, a jazz artist in a dimly lit room or a well lit portrait, the 56mm lens has a unique look and produces some of the best shallow depth of field creaminess of any lens I’ve ever used. Like all the Fuji XF lenses, the 56mm is also razor sharp and it beats the best of the high end 85mm lenses from the other big manufacturers. I haven’t tried the 90mm f2 yet, but it looks like that too will be an amazing portrait lens.
Many photographers came to the X-Series because of this lens. Offering F1.2 at 85mm equiv. focal length in a compact package that happens to be one of the fastest focusing lenses in the range… The F1.2 effect has so many benefits, from striking portraits to being invaluable in low light conditions. The later is particularly helpful for me. In tropical rainforests you don’t often see wildlife from a far but instead stumble across it. Here the F1.2 helped to capture this baby elephant dozing, ISO1600 F1.2 1/120sec. If this were with a F2.8 lens I would have been shooting at 1/30sec, risking motion blur as I tried to contain my excitement.
The 56mm F1.2 is my most used lens, it’s almost always the first lens I reach for on every shoot. I love the narrow depth of field and the super fast focusing. As a landscape photographer people are surprised when I say that I often shoot with the lens quite wide open, but for my style of long exposures where I’m trying to create a sense of infinite space the wide aperture looses the background nicely obscuring details I don’t need in the image.