Travelling with multiple lenses can be a nuisance.
Yes in an ideal world you’d have a lens for every occasion, but for the majority of people out there, it’s a matter of buying one lens that you’ll get the most use out of, and sticking to it.
When it comes to wildlife, more often than not a good zoom lens is what you want. You’re not always close to the action so need a bit more length for some nice close-ups. One with a decent range is preferable; Canon’s 100-400mm and Nikon’s 80-400mm are very popular. If you want information about hiring lenses during your Londolozi stay, click here.
Sometimes, however, it’s less zoom that you’re after. If your telephoto lens just doesn’t have the width that you need to adequately capture a scene, and you don’t have a wide-angle lens to switch to, don’t despair.
Stitching is the answer.
Stitching is combining multiple digital frames with overlapping fields of view into one final image.
Modern photographic software is tremendously powerful. By analysing and comparing the pixels that make up different digital photographs, programs like Adobe Lightroom are able to recognise when there is a significant amount of overlap between them, and merge them accordingly.
Knowing this, by taking multiple images one is able to capture a much wider scene when limited by a zoom lens, letting the software merge them into one.
Kylie Jones ran a post a few months ago on how to take Panoramic photos using merging software, and the concept is exactly the same, the only difference being that you are not only shooting laterally, but vertically as well. The only difference between the two processes in Lightroom is for stitching a photo that isn’t a single-plane panorama, you’re better off clicking Perspective instead of Spherical in the Panorama Merge Preview box:
Spherical may well still work, but is usually better employed in wider panoramas.
The following photo of the Anderson male leopard is actually a composite:
Just taking a photograph of the leopard, or just the hyena, wouldn’t have been enough to tell the story, and I was shooting with a 70-200mm lens, which, for where we were parked amongst the bushwillow trees, was nowhere close to giving me a wide enough angle to capture the whole scene in one image.
Realising this, I was forced to take multiple shots and then stitch them together in Lightroom afterwards (refer to Kylie’s blog for the actual step-by-step on how to do this):
As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap between the individual photos. This gives the post-processing software more information to use and makes it far more likely that the final stitch will be seamless.
If one looks carefully at the Anderson male in the small images, you can see that he’s not exactly in the same position in each shot; he was cleaning the blood off his paws, and this kind of movement can end up compromising the final stitched image.
Luckily I got away with it, as the stitch that Lightroom put together didn’t have him looking distorted. This technique is risky when you have a lot of movement in a scene, but in this instance it was only really the leopard’s head and paw that moved, and the final result was relatively unaffected.
Most of the rules for this kind of photography were covered in Kylie’s blog, as the principles are essentially the same, but I thought I’d reiterate some of the more important ones:
Shoot in Manual Mode
As you move your camera around the scene, there will most likely be changes in the amount of light it is detecting. In the above shot, pointing the lens at the hyena vs pointing at the leopard with a bright sky as a background would have given me very different exposures. Manual mode will keep a consistent exposure throughout the scene, making the final merge far more reflective of the scene instead of giving a range of exposures across a single image.
Overlap each photo by 50%
This gives the software more to work with, and will usually result in a much more seamless stitch.
Pause for each shot
When moving the camera quickly across the scene, it can be easy to just shoot while moving continuously. Even if you have a high shutter speed, moving while shooting will compromise the sharpness of each image. Make sure you pause and keep the camera still before pressing the shutter, then move again afterwards.
This is a very easy technique to master. Thankfully these days the software takes care of the grunt work; you just to tweak some settings and push the shutter button a few times, then let the computer do the rest…