Photography - Knowledge

Wildlife Photography: Easy Techniques to Create Wildlife Panorama

749 Views - 8 mins read

With the onset of digital photography, and DSLR technology making a clean sweep, a genre previously seeing less popularity has gained entry into mainstream…wildlife photography. The latest numbers are a clear indication that this style of photography has seen a rise with many practising it professionally or as a hobby. What comes to your mind when someone mentions wildlife panorama or wildlife photography? The most basic and common answer would be a scene of nature with animals or birds as the subject. Which is exactly what wildlife panorama is – depicting wildlife in their surroundings, in their environment.

When you see any picture, you’re not looking at it frame by frame, instead, your gaze sweeps over the entire picture in the direction the photographer has intended you to do. This goes as far as to mention that many outdoor photographers have become proficient enough at amalgamating a linear set of still images, and with a slight tweak even incorporate a live subject into the final picture. 

Challenges While Clicking Wildlife Panorama

When you create a wildlife panorama you’re going to be depicting movement and actions of wildlife - live subjects oblivious to posing - within a set of compositions. This will involve time and the live movement of the subjects will alter its position within images. 

The more there is a movement of the subject, the more complex such a wildlife panorama composition will become. 

While the rate of success is considerably low for achieving correct depiction and perfection, bearing in mind a few techniques and tricks outlined you’ll be well on the way to raising your success rates.     

Mostly at the sight of a herd of wild buffalo or deer have an outdoor photographer reaching for a wide angle lens with a fast shutter speed combination to capture the fast movement and the scene at once. Among many of the wildlife photography settings, the usage of a wide angle lens can leave you with a limited experience and composition. It can lead you to have images where the subject appears smaller in relation to its surroundings – disproportionately, perspective will appear distorted, you could also end up including some unrequired extra details below and above your subject which will put your cropping skills to the test at the time of final composing and many other instances of the like.

Not to forget that some of the subjects mightn’t be positioned optimally, often working against the background story. Also, a reduced file as such would lack the sufficient resolution numbers to allow significant size printing. All of these problems can be easily erased with a properly composited wildlife panorama. 

wildlife panorama
Gear up for the complexities!

Assuming the Correct Distance 

Among the most common of wildlife photography tips is getting the sweet spot – the right distance! Too close a distance would be too close to the wildlife subjects for their comfort, too close for your own safety, or too close to seize all of it in one shot. Check these pointers before clicking the wild:

  • If you’re at a distance and have access to a wildlife scene you would like to capture, instead of opting for a wide angle photograph, head to attach a medium telephoto lens to your DSLR.
  • Use a steady surface for stability and snap a few quick series of handheld overlapping shots. A tripod is a good tool to ensure stability and a smooth and consistent transition between the segments. 
  • Use as consistent a horizon as possible, and take as many as you can while you have your subjects optimally. These individual captures when composited will result in a high-quality panorama engulfing the entire scene.  
  • A long lens will also enable you to photograph animals from a distance with detail and quality.

Create Wildlife Panorama by Shooting Vertical or Horizontal

Shooting a bunch or a line of animals or birds is much more convenient and faster as it enables you to include much more length in the shot. Vertical captures while slightly time-consuming and therefore, not easily obtained, will provide you with more pixels from the top to the bottom, more images with a bigger composited file of better quality. For taller subjects like elephants, giraffes or an ostrich, a vertical panorama is ideal. For such cases, a horizontal composition would mean a very large file and mostly life-sized prints. 

The Importance of Composition 

Wildlife panorama style of photography shows the relative positioning of wildlife to one another as well as to the surroundings, leaving you with a long and a horizontally or vertically narrow composition. Similar to still life photography, the subject needs to be harmonious with the background or the surroundings – panoramas require to tell a story with a beginning, a strong and interesting centre and an ending. When you read a book, generally the accepted format is reading from left to right except for a few cultures where it’s reversed. Thus for most compositions too, the picture needs to be ‘read’ or viewed from one end to the other and it is all up to the photographer.

The photographer creates his composition in such a way as to allow the gaze to travel from one end of the picture to another. For instance, if animals are located to the left end of a panorama frame, it is a welcoming denotation. Likewise, for an image to be aesthetically pleasing, the subject will never be facing away from the camera. 

The central section of the image is always where the main level of interest lies or the flow of action is shown. Example, intense design elements or a group or huddle of multiple subjects, or a humorous activity at play are all capable of transporting the viewer’s gaze from the beginning of the composition to its end. Like how subject at the left end would signify the start of the composition, subjects at the right side would signify the end of it. Again as an aesthetic factor and to denote a finality to the composition, the subjects aren’t allowed to stray off the edge of the image. 

create wildlife panorama
Work on the composition (source)

Capturing the Motion 

Of course, a whole load of patience and luck is paramount for wildlife photography. Photographing animals means constantly having to deal with movement, action and motion – there’s hardly a still moment! Having some time on your hand will give you the opportunity to treat each segment of the panorama frames as a separate image in itself. Frame your subjects, wait for them to face the camera or interact with one another, and take your shot. When making panorama frames, a good method is to shoot the same sequence from the same position and utilizing the same focal length to give you multiple captures and you can then choose the best rendition of them. 

Considering you’re working with subjects unaware that they’re being photographed, and prone to quick and sudden movements means you’re going to have to act as quickly or you could be looking at losing out on some important segments of the scene. Another way to capture movement efficiently is the use of a telephoto lens which keeps the background out of focus, making for a more straightforward match later on during compositions. Another way to keep the images sharp as a tack to reshoot the background once the subject isn’t in the frame anymore – again an easy fall-back while when composing.   

Wildlife Technique to Shoot Bokeh Panorama 

Known by different names – Bokehrama, Bokeh Panoramas or the Brenzier Method – are all indicative of a technique which involves the use of small sensor cameras to stimulate a large format look. To put it across simply, in theory, this method involves taking a set of linear photographs and ‘stitching’ them together with the help of a software, for instance, Photoshop – quite a variation to the regular method of wildlife photography. In the case of a bokeh panorama, contrary to a regular panoramic shot, the subject essentially comes forth in the form of a portraiture, accompanied by a shallow depth of field. This means that you’ll be able to create a panorama in a way that DSLR can’t. 

A longer lens will assure you of getting that shallow depth of field. Many varieties of software are available which can be used in making panorama compositions. Among the few popular panoramic stitching ones are PTGui and Hugin.            

If you’ve captured shots of relatively still wildlife accompanied with consistent overlapping segments, then the Merge functions of the Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS are more than sufficient to accomplish a decorous composition. The automatic software will tend to choose the most obvious merge point, which isn’t always the most efficient goal as you could end up with unwanted or duplicated elements owing to the amount of motion involved in images of these kinds. Preferably, manual assembly of the panorama is advisable with you choosing the edges joined within the overlap. 

bokeh effect in wildlife panorama
Bokeh effect (source)

The Making of Panorama Frames 

Find out the steps to make panorama frames:

  • Your first step is to shoot the image of your wildlife subjects. Now, you will create panorama around this initial frame.
  • After finalizing your first frame, start to overlap one-third of each frame repetitively all the way on one end until you’ve reached the edge of the scene you wish to capture. 
  • Now repeat the process on the other side of the frame, again overlapping one-third of the frame, all the way to the end of it. 
  • The biggest mistake is overlapping the frames whilst your subject is in motion towards the next frame. If the subject is moving into a frame same as the direction you are overlapping, allow it to exit or enter the frame before taking the overlap frame shot. If you ignore doing this, you could end up with a dual head or a dual rear end. 
panorama frames
Stitch the photos to create a perfect panorama (source)

The Final Shot!

Among the basics of nature photography lies a whole deal of planning with a certain amount of luck. After all dealing with such fidgety subjects, prone to constant movement, most of whom are even potentially dangerous, it isn’t an easy feat. While there are ways to ‘touch-up’ your shots and ultimately cultivate a composition which the viewer can ‘read’ the way you want to present it, there are no shortcuts to taking the perfect wildlife panorama. It will involve quite a bit of practice, but once you know it, there’s nothing stopping you from being a pro! 

Cover Source