Let's walk through shooting a multi-row/multi-column pano, step by step. For simplicity, we'll assume that you're using our Ultimate-Pro Omni-Pivot Package
, a ballhead, and a Really Right Stuff-style L-plate
on your camera. The Ultimate-Pro Omni-Pivot Package
includes two PCL-1 panning clamps, one MPR-192 rail, one MPR-CL II nodal slide, and one CRD-Rail. Animation at right shows the build, starting with a panning clamp mounted in BH-55 LR
by using our custom PCL-DVTL
Building an Ultimate-Pro Omni-Pivot Package. Bottom panning clamp is mounted in BH-55 LR ballhead by using the PCL-DVTL mount.
Mount the MPR-192 Rail
Open the panning clamp enough so that you can top-load your MPR-192 rail into the panning clamp (the safety stops on each end prevent you from loading the slide from the side). Its exact position isn't important. Tighten clamp securely.
Level the PCL-1 Panning Clamp/MPR-192
Loosen the ballhead so that the ball moves freely, and shift the ball until the large, high contrast spirit level in the MPR-192 rail indicates level. When available, always opt to reference the larger spirit level of the rail rather than the much smaller integral spirit level of the panning clamp. Lock down the ball, and make sure that the ballhead's panning base is also locked.
Mount the Vertical CRD-Rail
Standing behind your rig, decide whether you're going to shoot with the camera mounted in landscape or portrait. If landscape, mount the CRD-Rail from the left. If portrait, mount the CRD-Rail from the right. Either way, orient the CRD-Rail so that the panning clamp is facing the center of the rig. Clamp the CRD-Rail securely to the end of the MPR-192 rail.
Mount the Nodal Slide
Lock the panning base of the top-mounted PCL-1 panning clamp. Open the panning clamp enough so that you can top-load either your MPR-CL or your MPR-CL II nodal slide into the panning clamp (the safety stops on each end prevent you from loading the slide from the side). Its exact position isn't important. Tighten clamp securely.
Mount your Camera
If you are going to shoot with the camera mounted in portrait mode, only a conventional plate is required; mount camera securely in the clamp at the end of the nodal slide. If you are going to shoot with the camera mounted in landscape mode, an L-plate is required; mount camera's side dovetail securely in the clamp at the end of the nodal slide. Use the laser-engraved centering index marks to properly align your camera in the nodal slide's clamp. Image at left shows camera mounted in portrait mode.
Position the Nodal Slide
Loosen the clamp on the PCL-1, and slide the MPR-CL or MPR-CL II fore or aft until you've aligned the nodal point (calculated by you earlier!) with the laser-engraved centering index mark on the PCL-1 panning clamp. Tighten clamp securely.
Center your Camera
Loosen the pan lock on the top-mounted PCL-1 panning clamp and rotate the camera straight down. Re-tighten the pan lock knob. Now loosen the clamp on the bottom of the CRD-Rail and slide the entire rig so that the central axis of the lens is positioned directly over the the axis of rotation; in this case, the very center of the bottom-mounted panning clamp. See image at right.
Check Camera Settings
Set exposure mode to Manual (not Program, not Aperture Priority, and not Shutter Priority!). If you're not sure what exposure to set, pan your scene and snap a few images in Aperture Priority; set an aperture that will give you the depth of field that you want. If you have no idea what aperture to set, try starting out with f18 or f22; this will give you suitable depth of field for most landscapes. Assuming you're shooting digital, review these images and compare the shutter speed that your camera chose for the series; select a shutter speed that will be acceptable across the entire image. Now switch your camera to Manual and set both aperture and shutter speed. Turn off Auto White-Balance. Instead, set the White Balance manually. For most landscape scenes, the Sunny setting is just fine. Now you're ready to shoot!
Shoot in Rows
Starting at the left-hand side of your scene, capture each overlapping image from left to right. You can
shoot from right to left, but all of the software auto-stitching features are designed to grab the images in numerical order (by using the file name) and assemble them left-to-right. The exact amount of overlap isn't usually important; to start with, shoot for about 30% to 50% overlap (just estimate by looking through the viewfinder). A simple way to visually indicate the beginning and end of a sequence is to shoot an empty first frame and an empty final frame; just place something in front of the lens like your hand, or a piece of paper, etc. When reviewing your images later, it's then easy to pick out your pano images just from the small thumbnail icons.
Import, Stitch, Adjust, and Crop
Assuming you're shooting digital, now you're ready to import your images into your computer. For convenience, place all images from a single sequence in their own folder; some of the software programs with automerge features work better if you can just point them to a folder.