Friday, August 31, 2012
I've been revisiting my panorama collections lately, and have been looking particularly at images shot in 2x3 format (35mm) which can be cropped to 16:9 or greater. (Why 16:9? That's the ratio of your wide-screen TV).
As I said some time ago in my last visit to this topic (Panorama Party), aspect ratio changes the way we perceive an image. The more nearly square it is, the more we take it in at one look (unless it's a ginormous wall print). As you make it more rectangular, things change, and when the image approaches 2:1 it becomes something you start to "read," moving your eyes left to right (in Western cultures, anyhow), and building meaning as you go. Panoramas have a strong story-telling component for that reason.
Aspect ratio doesn't work by itself. Composition has a great deal to do with how a panorama is perceived. The pano above practically yanks your eye to the subject of interest, because it is so much brighter than the rest of the frame, and because a strong diagonal also leads your eye to it.
So, which images can you crop so that they make good panoramas?
1. Start with images that are strongly horizontal to begin with. (Or, for vertical panos, images which are already strongly organized, like fire towers or the like).
2. Images with lots of empty sky or sea or grass often make good panos, because cropping the empty space helps viewers focus on what's important -- but be careful not to ruin perspective, if that's an important part of the image.
The upper image works better as a pano, at least to my eye, because we focus more on the building.
3. Choose images that play off the story-telling strength of panoramas, so that your eye works naturally with the subject and the image flows properly. The rose quartz quarry (say that 5 times fast) shown below works because reasons 1,2, and 3 all apply. The story is how material gets from quarry to grinder, and our eye naturally follows the diagonal conveyor up and to the right, again, moving from darker to lighter as it goes.
4. Images that have close-ups of wide objects benefit from being pano-ized, as in this grill of a 1957 Chevy:
Turning to vertical panoramas, the essential thing is a strong vertical or diagonal element in the subject. Ordinarily you won't have any headroom to spare, but you may have some "waste material" to left or right.
Here are two examples. in the first, all I had to do was crop tightly on the subject and let the diagonal and white streak of water do the work. Parenthetically, what I like about this image is that so much is implied, not actually shown. That gets the imagination working. In the second image, the subject is fundamentally vertical, and removing the material on the sides helped it a lot -- at the cost of a sense of scale. These mite/tite icicles are about 30 feet bottom to top.
Stitching panos together gives you bigger pictures, and often higher aspect ratios. But cropping regular images to make panos takes less time and, depending on your purpose, can give you very satisfying results.
Here's the commercial: you can look at some 215 panos on my Panos Only Gallery. You can even buy prints if you want to!