Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting Panoramas

Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting Panoramas

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According to Wikipedia,

Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio.”

One of the most dramatic “panos” that I’ve ever seen is the one below showing the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire which destroyed much of San Francisco.

Rather than being a single image, it is a composite “stitched together” out of four separate photographs.

But in the pre-digital age of photography, few, if any leisure travelers would have had the skill, equipment, or patience to create panoramic photos.

This is, not until Kodak came up with a nifty solution: Let the camera do the work.

Kodak Fun Saver “Panos”

The Kodak “Fun Saver Panoramic 35″ was a one-use, disposable camera that was widely sold twenty-odd years ago. You could find them in grocery and drug stores, and probably in tourist destination gift shops.

Digging through my stash of printed trip photos, I found these “panos” shot using that throw-away camera while I was on vacation in the Northern California and Central Oregon Cascades.

Lassen Pano Scan 1 Edited

Last summer I spent nearly a week shooting photos in Lassen Volcanic National Park. But this panorama with Lassen and Reading Peaks in the background was taken over fifteen years ago with a Kodak Fun Saver 35.

Bumpass Hell Pano Scan Edited

And you get a notion of the size of one of Lassen’s biggest geothermal features, Bumpass Hell, in this wide, wide photo taken during the same trip.

Mt Bachelor Pano Scan 2 Edited

Finally, this shot of Oregon’s Mount Bachelor taken from the Cascades Lakes Highway picks up not only the snow-dappled peak, but also the marshy lake in the foreground.

Alas, the Fun Saver 35 has become part of photographic history.

Digital Panoramas

When digital cameras that most consumers could afford to buy arrived in stores, at least some featured a built-in “pano” function.

But creating a panoramic photo with my first digital camera, a Canon SD300 PowerShot 300 Digital ELPH, wasn’t as easy as you might think.

First, I had to select “Manual” shooting mode, then go to a function menu to turn on “Stitch Assist,” then decide whether I was going to shoot left-to-right or right-to-left, and finally take a series of up to 26 photos, each one slightly overlapping the last.

But since shooting panoramic photos involved so many steps, I only did a few, such as this one in which I attempted to capture a 360 degree view from atop a hill above a water reservoir in the county where I live north of San Francisco.

Soulajule Panorama1

The ”Stitch Assist” on the Canon SD970IS that replaced my first digital camera was quicker to activate, but shooting panoramic photos with it still didn’t produce great results, particularly if I hadn’t mounted the camera on a tripod before panning across the scene before me.

Assembling a series of photos into a single panorama can be done on your computer with photo editing software, such as the one I use, Adobe Photoshop Elements. But as this instructional video shows, it is a fussy process, and one that I don’t recall ever using.

Smartphone Panoramas

“That was then, this is now” means that while making a panoramic image used to be somewhat complicated, today it’s quite simple.

For example, to shoot a “pano” with my iPhone 5 I merely have to tap the “Camera” icon, swipe my finger until “Pano” appears, then holding the phone vertically, press down the “shutter button” and pan left or right, keeping the arrow as close to the line running across the center of the iPhone’s screen as possible.

Pano Screenshot

How do those iPhone panoramic photos turn out? Here are a few examples.


Every spring, “The Mountain Play” is performed in an amphitheater constructed by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps atop Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco. This “pano” gives the viewer a sense of what it’s like to sit in this bowl-like setting high above the stage


This shot taken in the gallery of Northwest Coast American Indian art at the Denver Art Museum takes the eye across nearly all of the artifacts in that collection.

Sacramento Valley Sunset IMG_1883

A sunset with dramatic clouds makes for a great panoramic photo, such as this one taken near the wildlife refuges in the Sacramento Valley south of the town of Colusa, California, near the end of December, 2013.

Crab Fee Pano IMG_2029

And because you’ve almost always got your smartphone with you, including everyone sitting around the dining room table in a wrap-around shot is a piece of cake, as was the case when I attended a “crab feed” hosted by friends.

Point-And-Shoot Panoramas

Just as with my iPhone, the Sony RX-100 point-and-shoot camera I purchased a little less than a year ago simplifies taking panoramic photos.Instead of having to wade through a menu system in order to set the camera into panoramic shooting mode, I just quickly turn a dial on top of the camera to select “Sweep Shooting,” hold down the shutter button, and pan the camera slowly in the direction of the arrow displayed on the LCD screen, much like I would do with my iPhone.

Here are some “panos” that I shot at Lassen Volcanic National Park last summer, not long after buying the camera.

A short, easy hike around Manzanita Lake in the northwestern corner of the park affords great views of Lassen Peak hovering in the background.

The panoramic photo of Bumpass Hell that you saw earlier in this story was shot from well above that steaming, gurgling, geothermal wonderland, but his one was taken down in “Hell.”

Although I encountered several other park visitors at Manzanita Lake and Bumpass Hell, I had this view of Mount Harkness from a beach-side picnic table at Juniper Lake in the southeastern section of the park all to myself.

Shooting Panoramas “From The Hip”

Getting a decent panoramic image without having your camera attached to a tripod used to be quite difficult. But lugging a heavy tripod around, especially if you are hiking trails in a national park, can literally be “a pain.”

Today’s smartphones and digital cameras, even when hand-held, can produce great “panos.”

So the next time you want to capture the entire “wall-to-wall” scene before you, just pull out your phone or camera, and shoot panoramas “from the hip.”

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. Purchasing cameras or other merchandise from through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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4 Replies to “Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting Panoramas”

  1. First of all, I need to get myself invited to a crab feed. Looks fabulously tasty. I enjoyed this historical take on panoramic photos. I remember having to line up my photos just right so the camera could stitch them together and am now enjoying the much easier method on my own Sony Cybershot. My only problem seems to be with photographing buildings that are obviously very linear but end up looking like they’re bulging out in the middle in the finished panorama. Any suggestions?

    1. I haven’t done a “building pano,” Michele, but I assume the “midriff bulge” comes because one is shooting in a sweeping, arc-like move.

  2. Hi Dick, great post! I remember those disposable Kodak Fun Saver panoramic film. I used to take them with me in my travels. I’m yet to try photo stitching. I guess I’m lazy doing extra work that way. I wish my DSLR has a pano option. I like the pano shots you took from your Sony RX-100, especially the amphitheater photo.

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