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Nothing to do with chimping for taxonomists, but Pan Luminis, anyone?

In our house they are known as dad jokes, aka differently funny.

Now that you’ve all stopped slapping your knees and got your breath back, I would like to talk about getting more in, with a preference for width over height.

There was always a problem with wide angle lenses that you get both. Go for a huge width of scene and you get a whole lot of foreground or sky to go with it. This is why so many wide angle shots are aimed downwards with something attractive in the foreground, so that there is plenty of stuff to fill the frame.

The APS format film cameras used to offer a panoramic mode by masking-down the negative into a narrow horizontal strip. The quality was a bit off and my mum used to trigger the wide mode randomly throughout the film, with amusing results.

I had a nice little Vivitar compact for a while that did the same trick – press a button and a couple of flaps masked the film into a narrow strip. There are a series of medium format cameras that do the same thing, but without the flaps: they use a lens that covers a larger format and use it to shoot a much wider negative than normal. The problem you can get with these is uneven illumination – the centre of the image gets more light then the sides. I believe one of the manufacturers sold a fantastically expensive centre-weighted neutral density filter to compensate.

Fewston Reservoir

The letterbox format is fun though. I wrote something previously about cropping photos to use on some Moo mini business cards (these are the same photos I use for the headers on this web site). The Moo cards are 70x28mm, or 5:2 format, compared with the standard 35mm frame of 3:2. It’s interesting work finding a good crop within your existing photos.

The other type of panoramic film camera is one with a swing lens. The best-known of these is probably the Horizon, which shoots a 24x58mm negative, or very nearly the 5:2 ratio of the Moo cards. The Horizon uses a 28mm lens but manages to cover a field of view of around 120 degrees by rotating the lens through an arc. This achieves a very wide angle scene with a modest and fairly cheap lens. The drawback is that it can distort some objects. Chief of these is the horizon, which can bulge up or down depending on whether you point the camera up or down. I believe there is a model of this type of camera that allows lens shifts to avoid the wonky world problem, but we’re getting into serious money.

It don’t mean a thing…

The alternative to swing lens (and film) is stitching digital images. My first little Canon compact came with stitching software, and I remember watching with joy as it assembled a panorama from a set of individual shots. Of course, I couldn’t just leave this alone. I had to try stitching multiple passes to make a massive and highly detailed shot, and to try shooting a Hockney-like mess of random shots to cover a scene.

Palace pano

The massive assembly shot was fun, in a pixel-peeping kind of way. It was a scene in Edinburgh. It looked like just an ordinary shot until you tried zooming-in on a detail, and then it just kept going. This seems to have grown from just a few people experimenting to an industry.

It’s harder with film, mind.

Film pano
Stitch that, as we used to say.

I did try loading a 35mm film in a medium format 6×6 camera. This would give me a 58x24mm negative like a Horizon but without the distortion of the swing lens. In effect this would be a poor man’s Hasselblad Xpan. All was going well until I met a bit of resistance winding on. I may have broken it…

That aside, I do like the letterbox format. I took the Horizon away on holiday with me recently after it had been languishing in a cupboard. I’ve not finished the film yet but I’m looking forward to it.

What film can’t easily do though is the weird stuff you can do by stitching digital frames.

Ripon square

And really, if you have to shoot landscapes, you might a well make them interesting.


Author: fupduckphoto

Still wishing I knew what was going on.

One thought on “Pan”

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