Creating panoramas is an imprecise art – a photographer has to account for several variables when planning a shot. Composition is itself the most simple of these variables – despite the fact that what you see is rarely what you get. A good vantage point at a higher altitude than the subject is ideal, although occasionally elements which frame in the view add interest to the image. Symmetry isn’t necesary, but unbalanced shots should have either objects of interest or follow the rule of thirds (which is by no means an actual rule). A panorama need not be a full 360 degrees, and besides the ‘wow’ factor there is usually little value to this property. The picture ends up being more like a strip than something easily viewable, and takes a great deal of time to see and appreciate.
The most difficult aspect of manually photographing panoramas is the lighting – you have to shoot with manually set values, otherwise the light metering will vary between each constituent photograph. While this is possible to remedy, it requires a significant ammount of time and effort, in addition to some knowledge of photo manipulation. Shooting into the sun is not recommended as doing so has a tendency of throwing off the uniformity of lighting and contrast between shots. The list of do’s and don’t’s is impossibly long, and experimenting is probably the only way of learning how to compose and execute a panoramic shot.
Vertical panoramas are an unusual sight, despite the fact that we have 360 available degrees vertically as well as horizontally. Although distortion is inevitable, making use of 180 degrees or less can often result in a pleasantly tall image, ideal with trees (but be sure not to make the mistake of tilting too much).
The cross of a normal photograph and a panorama is the wide-angle shot – short of using a special lens, this is essentially a very small panorama. While it doesn’t have the huge range of a panorama, it does have a greater impact than a regular shot, and gives a sense of space and largeness.
All the shots above (and below) were taken in a single day while driving through Munnar, a hill station in Kerala famous for its (pictured) expansive tea estates. Click on any of the photos for a larger version.