Dec 6, 2011
I think of South Dakota as a horizontal place. We don’t have many towering skyscrapers, our mountains are called “hills” and even our gigantic monuments are basically horizontally-oriented.
This means that when photographing South Dakota you can typically hold your camera in its natural position instead of “uppey-downey.” There are also a lot of places where you can take the horizontalness to the extreme and shoot very wide panoramic photos.
While it is possible to crop just about any horizontal photo into a panoramic shape, better results can be obtained by shooting several photos and “stitching” them together with computer software. Some cameras have a panoramic mode built in that will match up a series of pictures taken from one spot and combine them into one shot. Even without that feature, any camera can act as a panoramic-capturing device.
All that is required is to shoot two or more photos without moving, but panning side to side to cover a wide area and overlap each image on the sides. Obviously some subjects work better than others, but you can do this just about anywhere.
Wide angle lenses might seem like an easy choice here, but the technique actually works better with 40-60mm lens. It’s also important to keep each shot as level as possible, but they don’t have to be perfect unless you’re really going for professional results.
Once you’ve got a set of images with overlapping edges, you will need to load them into software for the “stitching” part. Many cameras now come with software that does this for you, or programs like Photoshop and Lightroom do it as well.
If the idea of taking super-wide photos appeals to you a bit more instruction and practice will be needed, but hopefully you get the basic idea.
Finding horizontal subject matter is easy here. Small town main streets, prairie landscapes, wildlife in their environment, kids on the beach and scenic vistas all make great panoramics. Thinking completely out of the box, turning your panoramic on its side is also useful if you want to photograph our few vertical things – the Campanile in Brookings, aspen trees in the Black Hills and Nicollet Tower in Sisseton come to mind. Just shoot a series of vertical shots top to bottom and stitch those together.
With a little horizontal thinking, South Dakota becomes “panorama heaven.”
Chad Coppess is the senior photographer at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. He lives in Pierre with his wife, Lisa. To view more of his work, visit www.dakotagraph.com.
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