the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

SPREADING OUT THE SPRAWL

By MICHAEL PERKINS

PANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPHY IS REGARDED BY MANY AS A BIT OF A GIMMICK, an effect confined to the same  realm as 3-d, fisheye lenses and faked pictures of cats driving sports cars. As a result, it’s rare that a pano is used for anything serious beyond landscape views, and, although apps have allowed even modest phone cameras to produce a modified panoramic effect, the majority of shots are still of ultra-wide, scenic vistas….the view from the beach to the resort hotel two blocks inland, and so forth.

But panos can be used to convey both scope and scale on subjects that have nothing to do with mountains or shorelines, and it’s encouraging to see more new photographers using the recently evolved technology to take advantage of that storytelling option. To use one example, the whole concept of sprawl–congested cities, vast arrays of clutter, the aftermath of the industrial age—seems custom-made for the panoramic’s less limited space requirements. It can actually open up editorial angles on a whole new range of subject matter.

The Pondrous Pile, 2015. Some subjects benefit from this obvious distortion of perspective.

The Ponderous Pile, 2015. Some subjects benefit from this obvious distortion of perspective.

Panos are great for showing overabundance, the sensory overload of contemporary life. In the above photo, it’s used to show the bulging, burgeoning, out-of-control volume of stuff in a congested antiquarian bookstore. The composition is dictated by the ultra-wide format to a degree, but when it’s married to the right subject matter, the shots can have a singular impact.

As with any other effect, there has to be a bottom-line benefit to the tale you’re trying to tell. It’s not enough to elicit a reaction of “wow, that looks weird”. That just relegates what you’ve shot to mere novelty. The upfront question should be: why are you deciding to distort visual reality or amp up the drama on this particular occasion? The effect has to seem inevitable in the result, with your audience admitting that, certainly, that was the best way to approach the shot and get the story across.

Sometimes photographs are about both process and subject. Panoramics have their place in serious photography, but only in serious hands.

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3 responses

  1. I had a panoramic option on my camera and I LOVED it! Great post, keep up the good work!

    May 13, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    • Which camera did you have? I have only recently done them on iPhones. The newest Nikons have the option as well, but I’m unsure if it works the same way. Thanks so much for visiting and come back soon!

      May 13, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      • it was an entry level $200 canon I purchased from newegg.com great camera, I still have it.

        May 13, 2015 at 8:58 AM

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