Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Pan Burst: How To Take That Exhibition Shot (And That Centre-Page Spread)

ORDINARILY, you would need a digital full-frame camera to produce an exhibition quality print like this. Its actual size is 5,746 × 3,232 pixels (more than capable of producing a crisp 24 x 13.5 inch print).

'Don't get it,' said my mailbox. 'According to the meta-data, you took it using a Nikon Coolpix P7000.'

That's right.

It's an 18.5 million pixel image - produced from a 10.1 million pixel chip.

It's a pan-burst - in this case: four frames, fired quickly in succession using a high shutter speed, whilst panning the camera from left to right. Those successive frames are then merged together to produce the final image.


I also took another, around the same time, that illustrates what can happen if you don't pay close attention to detail when employing the technique: -

You have to look closely, at this resolution, to see it; but the frames used to create this shot do not share the same focus point. The distant masts give the 'trick' away. (A consequence of the camera being permitted to refocus while taking the sequence).

You need to lock-down the focus, and the exposure, to employ the technique successfully. In this image I didn't - and, although processing has corrected for the exposure shift between frames, which the camera's program also imposed: nothing can repair the drift in focus.

Grain (introduced into a photograph when using high ISOs, or when enlarging an image) is often more noticeable in digital images. Unlike traditional negatives, where the developed specks of silver halide are distributed randomly, pixels are positioned uniformly throughout the image - making them more noticeable.

Traditional 35mm film is equivalent to 6,000 x 4,000 digital pixels - so it is worth pointing out that, using this technique to overcome the limitations of the P7000s smaller chip, would not have been necessary had I employed a full-frame digital camera. On the other hand, it does illustrate just what you can do with modern technology when you don't want to draw attention to yourself.

Here is an impossible shot, that employs a similar technique: -

Roman Bath House
In this case, the image is 11,361 x 6,391 pixels in size (72.6 million pixels - or 3 x full-frame size). At 240 dpi, that'd produce a 47 x 26 inch print with ease.

Again, it has been produced from a hand-held pan-burst on the P7000; but, this time, I've executed three separate pans - 'painting' the building through the viewfinder and using the horizontal ledges as guides. (Starting at the top left corner: left to right; down; right to left; down; left to right).

It's an impossible shot because the Bath House is so large, and the street in which it is located, is narrow. You cannot back-off far enough to frame the whole building without using a very wide angle lens and introducing more distortion.

In this case, even a full-frame would not have solved the problem - unless you employ the same technique.

Digital is wonderful, isn't it? Photographers no longer need to be constrained by what they see in the frame - or be forced to slice and dice their precious negatives.

You do not have to use an expensive camera to employ this technique. If it does not permit you to take a sequence of continuous shots by holding down the shutter release - just take them individually. Moreover, if it does not permit you to lock down the focus and exposure for a series of shots when using a program - just revert to manual mode.

'Paint' what you see in the viewfinder, taking advantage of any horizontal features to assist your pan - and aim to overlap the shots sufficiently to join the 'sweet spots' (that central area of the lens that is devoid of any distortion).

Merge the sequence together during processing, and, hey presto! You can now have it printed and hang that exhibition shot on the wall...

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