Picture: Sunset light on clouds with full moon rising over Mono Lake from above Conway Summit, Mono County, Eastern Sierra, California
Question: Is there a definite point when something can or should be called a “Panorama” vs. a time when it shouldn’t? Is this image a Panorama? If it’s not a Panorama, what would you call it?
The shot shown here is a 7-frame stitched image taken with my Nikon D800, using a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens set at 30mm in the vertical orientation, shooting individual frames while moving from left to right with an approximately 30% overlap between frames. Even though this is a nearly square format image, I still call it a Panorama. Do you think this is a correct name / label / designation? Is there a better designation I should be using?
When I teach my Panoramic Photography workshops, I teach that there are two modes of thought when referring to a “Panorama” image. First is the traditional wide view format image we all think of when we hear the words panorama or panoramic. But I go on to say that the process of shooting images intended to be stitched together can also be said to be “Shooting a Panorama,” regardless of the format of the finished image. Some people might well argue that because of the finished format, this isn’t a true ‘Panorama’ as much as as stitched image.
In my opinion, the moniker of ‘stitched image’ is a cold and sterile designation. It refers to an output that can only occur after a post production action has taken place, i.e. the act of stitching together multiple frames. It doesn’t account for any deliberate choice or action when actively shooting while on location. If you look up the definition of panorama, you’ll find something akin to “a wide, or wider than normal field of view.” (Hooray for specifics!)
This image was made specifically by shooting a series of images to render a finished image that was wider than what the normal 30mm vertical field of view was capable of seeing. So in that case, I’d argue it is a Panorama. But if I took the same shot with a single, wide-angle horizontal frame, and then cropped the image to this same proportion, surely no one would call the resulting square-framed image a panorama, right? Conversely, what about those 360 Virtual Reality Images? Clearly they are all created by the act of stitching together photos, but nobody calls them either a Panorama or a Stitched Virtual Reality Image. They’re just known as a VR image. Again, the stitching aspect is just a given due to the production aspects, but not needed as a given designation to describe the finished image.
So, did I shoot a panorama, or didn’t I? Is it the resulting display format what counts when you call something a panorama, or is it the process of shooting multiple frames to be constructed later into a view beyond what a single frame field of view could produce that makes it a panorama? Personally I fall on the side that says Panorama is a Process which w
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d care to leave a comment.
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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.