Brief History of Panoramic Photograpy

The word panorama is attributed to Robert Barker (1739 – 1806) who coined the word from the Greek word ‘pan’ meaning all and ‘horama’ meaning view when describing his paintings of Scotland.

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Barker is said to have made a fortune showing a panorama of London as if painted from the roof of Albion Mills in a purpose build circular building in Leicester Square. It was more than three meters in length.

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Barker’s London panorama of 1792, from the top of the Albion Mills.

These panoramic paintings became incredibly popular for a time with panoramas displayed in many major cities. Notable artists include Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

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Long View of London from Bankside, a panorama of London by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647.

and the Russian artist Franz Roubaud (1856-1928) who created great circular paintings or cycloramas of battles which were viewed from the inside.

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Panorama of Moscow battle in 1812 (or Battle of Borodino). Created y Russian painter Franz Roubaud in 1912. Panorama is installed in Moscow Poklonnaya Hill Museum. Only part of the panorama is shown in the image.

I understand that around 30 of these 19th Century panoramas can still be seen today. One of the oldest being Wocher Panorama of Thun in Switzerland.

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By Tobikuehn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
‘Moving panoramas’ were created by scrolling the painting in front of viewers.

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) took panoramas to another level by developing the diorama theatre. Audiences would sit in a theatre to view a large painting created on several sheets of linen that was transparent in places, then as light was manipulated using mirrors and shutters the image would appear to change. After 10 or 15 minutes, the audience would rotate to view a second or even a third painting.

Daguerre went on to develop his well documented photographic technique and some of the earliest panoramic style photographs were created by placing two (or more) daguerreotype plates next to each other, carefully moving the camera after each exposure.

The image below is of Nashville, Tennessee created from two daguerreotype plates taken by George Barnard in 1864.

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1864 George Barnard albumen silver print; US Library of Congress

George Barnard is also known for taking panoramic landscapes for the Union Army during the Civil War. These would have been very useful for army officers making plans for their next attack but making the prints would have been very difficult as all plates were prepared, exposed and negatives developed in the field. Prints would have been made back in the studio where they would also be trimmed and mounted into a panoramic spread.

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View from the top of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. February 1864, George Barnard albumen silver print, US Library of Congress

Slightly earlier in the 1840, William Henry Fox Talbot was doing something similar with Calotype photographs.

The image below is taken at Talbot’s studio in Reading, west of London in 1844 and consists of two salt prints. I understand that is Talbot in the middle of the picture operating the large camera.

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Reproduced from the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television collection, by courtesy of the Science and Society Picture Library

Eadweard Muybridge created an impressive 13 photograph panorama of San Francisco in 1878. Each print is captured over four or five hours on wet collodion negatives. Each print was attached to a sheet of paper and all of the photos attached to one long sheet of fabric nearly 18′ long.

It is interesting to note that just 30 years before this photograph was taken San Francisco was a small town of no more than 1,000 people until James Wilson Marshall found gold in 1848.

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There were lots of problems with this collage technique of panoramas. Odd distortions can occur and people can appear more than once in the photograph or even appear with limbs missing.

The problem was that originally cameras had a narrow field of view, perhaps 25-40 degrees but later cameras began to be manufactured specifically for taking panoramic photographs These were either swing-lens cameras where the lens moved sideways while the film remained still, or 360 degree cameras where both the lens and the film moved around.

The earliest record of a panoramic camera is from a patent in Australia in 1843 for a hand crank-driven swing lens panoramic camera awarded to Joseph Puchberger, a chemist and Wenzel Prokesh, an optician. It still used daguerreotype plates but they were 19 – 24″ and the lens was able to cover a 150 degree arc.

Friederich von Martens (1809-1875) a German, living in France developed the Megaskope Camera in 1844. It was similar to that of Puchberger but used curved daguerreotype plates and later wet collodion emulsions on curved glass to help minimise distortion.

In 1857 a patent was given to an M. Garella in England for a rotating photographic instrument. Instead of just the lens moving, this camera pivoted through 360 degrees while inside, a sensitive plate moved in the opposite direction to the camera.

Several panoramic cameras followed in quick succession. Thomas Sutton invented this camera in 1858.

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And this was closely followed by Johnson and Harrison’s Pantoscopic Camera in 1862.

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Victor Albert Prout invented a panoramic camera in 1865 and we have previously mentioned Camille Silvy and the panoramic camera that he invented in 1867 to name just a few.

Silvy’s innovative design used a sensitive sheet that gradually unwound from a spool and passed through the camera. In 1881 a flexible celluloid photographic film invented by Hannibal Goodwin made this process even easier and in 1884 when George Eastman’s roll film became commercially available swiftly followed by the Kodak camera in 1888 photography became available to the masses.

With the invention of digital photography and home computers photographs are now stitched together to create sophisticated panoramas in no time at all. Many cameras and even mobile phones have an in-camera panoramic capability and freely available Apps can perform the most sophisticated manipulations that the likes of Robert Barker couldn’t even imagine.

This image was created using an app called 360Panorama by Occipital.

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References:

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Camille Silvy

French photographer Camille Silvy was born in 1834, near Chartres. He began his career as a diplomat having trained in law.

Silvy took up photography as an amateur in 1857 while he was a government diplomat. He was sent to Algeria to draw and document buildings and scenes but soon realised that he couldn’t actually draw very well and turned to photography.

Like Constable, Silvy liked to represent his local countryside and one of his most famous prints is called ‘River Scene, France’, taken in 1858 from a bridge over the River Huisne that runs through his birthplace Nogent-le-Rotrou. It was described as a “triumph of the art” when it was exhibited in France the same year at the first exhibition to include photography as fine art.

“One critic said of his landscapes: “It is difficult to obtain a greater finesse in the details with such grand and well combined effects of light.””

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Elizabeth Martin, Senior Conservator at the V&A explains that two negatives would have been used to make the image, one for the foreground and one painted with the clouds and river reflections (this was because the wet collodion process was overly sensitive to the blue part of the colour). Under high magnification she located the join in the poplar trees. She was also able to enhance the two figures in the image so that their outfits could be dated. She says that, “Excitement set in when a hitherto undetected ‘man in the bush’ was found.” What a naked man was doing in a bush can only be speculated about but perhaps a nude sunbather chose to save any blushes when a photographer began setting up nearby.

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The farm workers (actually railway workers) and the wealthy couple about to go boating were paid to be in the picture. It was an idyllic scene set-up to illustrate the division between rich and poor.

Another well-known photograph is of men reading an Order for the Day sent by the Emperor Napoleon III from the frontline in Italy and posted on the streets of Paris. It was to his army and reminding the people that he was still in charge.

Silvy gave up his diplomatic career in the late 1850s and moved from Paris to London where he opened a photography studio at 39 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater. The yard at the back was used to print the photographs out using sunlight. The building included finely decorated recption rooms, a dressing room and even a ‘Queen’s Room’ in case Queen Victoria ever came to call. Although she never came herself Prince Albert was photographed by Silvy as were other royal friends and relations. It was close to Hyde Park where, as a keen horseman he was able to make equestrian portraits which were particularly fashionable at the time.

When setting up, Silvy needed people to take photographs of, so he sought out actors and performers who wanted to sell their photographs to fans. this was a great tactic and helped spread the word about him across the city and beyond. One of his most famous performer subjects was opera singer Adelina Patti who he photographed in many of her roles at Covent Garden recreated in his studio.

Generally, two poses were recorded, three times each, on one glass negative. When the sitter had chosen which they preferred, the portraits would be printed, gold-toned, trimmed, mounted on card and dispatched by post. Over 17,000 portraits were made here (up to 30 a day) between 1859 and 1868, and over a million prints produced for sale.

“The great French photographer Nadar described Silvy as a “formally clad, white-tied charmer who – as each client entered the studio – would negligently cast a pair of white gloves into an already overflowing basket, and don another, irreproachably new pair… “”

Silvy took many of the portraits for carte de visite or calling cards. People would create albums of these cards and show off about who they knew. Some of Silvy’s photographs were even of people involved in creating these albums.

A series of 3 photographs taken in 1859 called ‘Studies on Light’ used a number of groundbreaking photographic techniques and manipulations to create them. Scholars suggest that up to four negatives were combined to create the photograph entitled Twilight. It is also thought that this picture is one of the first to deliberately use blur to suggest movement.

Photographic portraits was not Silvy’s only business venture. He established a Librairie Photographique in 1860, photographing and restoring manuscripts. He also published a magazine called the London Photographic Review.

Silvy met and married Alice Monnier in 1863.

Silvy’s self-portraits show him, and his wife, to be very handsome and fashionable. One particular portrait shows him four times, reminding viewers of an Andy Warhol print and like Andy Warhol I understand that Silvy turned his studio into a bit of a photography/portrait factory.

Silvy developed a panoramic camera in 1867 and demonstrated it by taking a 360 degree panorama of Paris taken from the Champs Elysees. Most cameras prior to this involved swinging the camera around and taking a series of photographs that were then stitched together in the darkroom. There were many problems with this so Silvy’s design involved a photosensitive sheet that was slowly unwound from a spool through the camera.

Silvy ended his photographic career early, in 1867 due to ill health. The London smog didn’t suit him and photographic chemicals didn’t agree with him. Still at aged just 35 years he returned to France and fought in the Franco-Prussian War.

In his later life Silvy suffered from manic-depression and spent many years in and out of psychiatric hospitals before he died in 1910.

References:

 

Becoming the Editor of Your Blog

Another talk I went to see at the Photography Show last month was one by Catherine Connor, Founder of Aspire Photography Training who gave a talk entitled ‘Becoming the Editor of Your Blog’ and discussing how to build a brand for your blog and how to encourage engagement with loyal fans.

I was a few minutes late to this seminar but found a space at the back as she was telling everyone to share their blog to as many places as possible. She always shares her posts to Pinterest and re-shares it on as many different boards as it is suitable for. On Pinterest it will encourage others to share your information.

Connor reposts to the Aspire accounts on twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Periscope.

Connor recommended that if someone comments, we should always comment back and always accept any compliments. This helps us to build a relationship with the people that are reading our work.

Another good way to increase your following is to ask other people to guest on your blog. If you ask other people to write for you, you reduce some of the workload and may pick up some of their fans too. Customers, clients and suppliers are all good advocates who can write for you.

Connor reminded us that our blog should be a gallery and not a library. Post our best work and not all of our work. Curate it as an art gallery. Don’t ever apologise for your work (“this image could be better if…” type comments).

Blog readers are generally women of all ages and Conner told us to get to know our customers. She urged us to entertain our customers and enjoy our blog. Saying that we shouldn’t make it about the words but about the message. Consider what message we are trying to get across in each blog post and ask ourselves have we inspired, informed, entertained, educated and sold in each blog. Don’t forget the blog is there to support our business, it must attract new clients and keep the clients we already have. It is ok to keep bigging yourself up.

Where possible Connor suggested that we include moving pictures. She said that customers don’t want to scroll through 70 photos but a short scrolling collage in one post and a gallery in the next will keep interest.


I do enjoy writing my blog and may continue to do something after my course has finished. I thought this was a really useful talk that actually did inspire me to keep going with it.

 

Building Your Brand Through Social Media

At the Photography Show I popped along to the Mobile and Social Stage to hear photographer James Beddoes speak about building your brand through social media. Although he wasn’t a very confident speaker and he was a little patronising to those of us of more mature years, he did have some useful tips for us.

He suggested that we Piggyback on the back of other things, national events, national holidays and the like. A themed photo is likely to get added attention if it links in to whatever others are talking about.

Beddoes has had good success by submitting his work to others and asking them to share it on. People that you admire and follow on social media are likely to support you in this way.

Another message that I have heard elsewhere over the past few weeks is about specialising. He recommended that we develop a style and an aesthetic. He pointed out that agencies want to see a style and not a range of different things. He said that when people are looking for a photographer they want to know what they are going to get from you. He told us to become known as the person who shoots X…

It is a good thing if people can sum you up in one photograph.

Beddoes encouraged us to think about who we are targeting our work at. If we are talking to everyone, we are talking to no one. He told us not to post the same photograph everywhere but consider posting different photos to different sites. While Facebook is still the most popular social media site, Twitter, Instagram and even SnapChat are all key. I have found Beddoes on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot and Pinterest.

He suggested that posting something three times a day was a good number as people may be checking their social media sites on the way to work, at lunch time and then again on the way home from work. I thought this was a very good tip especially as it doesn’t all need to be brand new photos, some of it can be reposts.

Although we may not put much weight behind likes and followers Beddoes pointed out that Likes = credibility. He said that they have value and that agencies understand the value of a strong following.

Finally he said that the aim of social media was to drive traffic to your website where it can be used as leverage for book deals and other work. Surprisingly I have not been able to find his website though!

Constable Biography

John Constable was born in the Suffolk village of East Bergholt on 11 June 1776, the son of Golding and Ann Constable.

 

Golding Constable inherited Flatford Mill from his Uncle, Abram Constable, who didn’t have any children of his own. The family also had a part ownership in the mill at Dedham, a family farm at the back of the house at East Bergholt, two windmills, one at East Bergholt and one at Brantham, two briggs – ships that sailed around and into the Thames Estuary, one called Telegraph and one called Balloon. They also manufactured Lighters, the name for the barges used on the Stour and other canals in East Anglia, each capable of carrying 13 tonnes and towed by Suffolk Punch horses for a distance of some 23 miles between Manningtree and Sudbury. The lighters were used for carrying grain and coal along the Stour which during this period was a busy trade route. These lighters were to feature in many of Constable’s canal scene master pieces and would have been a familiar sight in Constable’s day.

Constable’s early life he was spent around some of East Anglia’s most idyllic countryside. This was to have a lasting impression throughout his life and was to become the main subject of his most notable works of art.

Constable’s older brother, also called Golding, had special needs. Unable to take over the family business he became a gamekeeper at Bentley woods, Suffolk. He was known to be ‘a fine shot with a gun’ and would occasionally supply Constable with a ‘feathered subject’ for him to sketch.

As the next male son John Constable’s destiny to become a miller and take over the running of the family business was almost fulfilled when he started work in one of the family windmills. This gave him an appreciation of the weather and cloud formations, all important for the operation of a windmill that needed to be turned into the wind in order to operate efficiently.

The windmill itself was to provide Constable with his earliest canvas as the earliest known work of art from Constable is in fact a carving depicting a windmill which Constable scribed with a pocket knife on to one of the beams at Brantham.

Constable’s neighbour in the village was Mr John Dunthorne, the local glazier and odd job man, who was Constable’s earliest influence. He was an amateur artist who shared Constable’s passion for painting, despite their class differences, the two were to become unlikely companions.

Coming from a wealthy family who owned much of the land surrounding Flatford Mill gave Constable free access to the countryside where he and Dunthorne would go out to find suitable views to paint.

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View of Dedham Church from Flatford.

Constable’s passion for painting was further encouraged by two influential people, Sir George Beaumont, a member of the Royal Academy whose mother lived in nearby Dedham and Dr John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury who had, as part of his diocese, the small church in nearby Langham village. These influential supporters gave Constable the opportunity to be considered for entry into the Royal Academy. An artist was a relatively new occupation for a gentleman and the suggestion that Constable would like to go to the Royal Academy for training was not greeted with much enthusiasm from his father. However, Constable’s persistence prevailed and he was allowed to set off for London to join the Royal Academy in 1798/9.

Upon arrival, Constable set out what type of artist he wanted to be; he was a painter of landscapes – a subject which was not considered to be of any great value or worth at this time. To add to this burden Constable chose not just to paint any landscapes but landscapes that were meaningful to him, landscapes of his own places.

“Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate “my careless boyhood” with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful; that is, I had often thought of pictures of them before ever I touched a pencil, and your picture [‘The White Horse’] is one of the strongest instance I can recollect of it.”  Letter to Rev. John Fisher (23 October 1821), from John Constable’s Correspondence, part 6, pp. 76-78

These subjects were to be Constable’s passion however they were not to be a source of income and he was forced to paint portraits in order to make a living as an artist, like many artists at the time. His early years at the Royal Academy were against the backdrop of the rise to fame of his almost identical contemporary, Turner, who achieved great success very early in his career, achieving full academician status soon after his arrival. Constable was to only achieve the same academician status at the age of 50 years and only then did he get admitted by 1 single vote. His ambition to achieve recognition in Britain was to be the driving force of his artistic career.

Each year Constable had the opportunity to exhibit his most valued works at the annual Summer Exhibition. The first of his so called 6ft canal scenes depicted a white horse on the bough of a lighter, yards from the family mill. The subject of local working class lightermen, farm buildings and cattle was unique and revolutionary for the time and it would take the British public a number of years to fully appreciate them. This scene, painted in 1819, entitled the White Horse was to become the first of a series of canal scene paintings that are known as the constable 6fters.

The White Horse 1819
White Horse

So in Constable’s time the Summer Exhibition was at Somerset House in rooms which today form the Courtauld Gallery. With space at a premium (every inch of wall space was covered with paintings) Constable realised that he had an additional challenge. With so many artists painting portraits and, naturally in a portrait aspect, when Constable arrived with a 6ft landscape painting it was hard to place his works alongside the others as it would be disruptive to the symmetry of the display. As such his paintings would often be positioned by the hanging committee in the less desirable ante-room, a smaller room which led off of the great room where the most prized positions were. This would cause him great anxiety and was to influence him to paint a number of landscapes in an upright portrait format later in his career, e.g The Lock, The Cornfield.

Another influence on Constable’s art was his personal life and the beautiful Maria (pronounced Mariah) Elizabeth Bicknell.

Constable was known as the handsome miller and is known to have wandered around the area in a white coat which was ‘quite becoming of him.’ On one occasion Ann Taylor, who composed Twinkle Twinkle little star, went to visit him with her sisters. His mother is said to have asked them “Do you want to go up and see him one at a time, or en masse?”

But it was Maria who stole Constable’s heart. Although 12 years his junior, Maria would often stay with her grandfather, Dr Rudd and it was at the local church, just along the road where Constable lived that they first met. They had an on off relationship for a number of years, restrained due to her families disapproval as a struggling artist was not the upper class man they had hoped for their daughter. The Bicknall’s were lawyers to the admiralty and moved in circles with royalty. Despite the Constable’s relative wealth their standing in society was not quite up to the same level.

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View of East Bergholt Church.

The Bicknell Family were tolerant of Constable’s interest in Maria to begin with however when it became clear, after a number of years that things were a little more serious, the immediate family and to a greater extent Dr Rudd, played a more decisive role in influencing the course of true love. It culminated in Dr Rudd threatening to cut Maria out of his will with an ultimatum that she was to cut off all ties with Constable. Despite clear mutual affection Maria, while staying with her half-sister Sarah Skey in Worcester, wrote to Constable to end all ties, telling him not to contact her, speak to her and that “We both must be realistic,” putting the cause of the break-up down to “cold hard cash, something that neither of us have.”

Constable received the letter while in bed with flu, broken-hearted, he took a carriage to Worcester where he requested an audience with Maria. His gamble paid off, supported no doubt by Sarah Skey’s fondness of him and Maria relented and they decided that no matter what, they would indeed get married with or without the family’s blessing.

Maria though, was in constant poor health. Constable’s subjects of Hampstead Heath and Brighten are largely due to the doctors at the time recommending Maria take country and sea air. Her poor health was not helped by giving birth to seven children. Eventually Maria succumbed to tuberculosis  in 1828, just 12 years after they were married. Although short, Constable’s marriage to Maria was a happy one and it is during this period that some of Constable’s greatest works were produced, including The Hay Wain and The Cornfield.

A year after Maria’s death Constable finally achieved full academician status at the Royal Academy, an honour that grieved him as Maria was not there to share the success with him. Constable’s paintings after this take a noteable turn in direction with rainbows featuring and stormy skies becoming more prevalent. Constable’s dearest friend Rev John Fisher also passed away around this time adding to Constable’s gloom.

In 1821 Constable planned to exhibit a scene of Waterloo Bridge at the Royal Academy’s Annual Exhibition, a subject quite different from his typical chosen landscapes, upon showing this to Joseph Farington, an influential member of the Royal Academy, Constable was persuaded to continue with his canal scenes. Valuing Farington’s opinion highly Constable set off immediately to begin a new canal scene. With limited time Constable had to set to work with great haste in order to complete the picture which he exhibited under the title Landscape Noon, a picture that was later to be referred to as The Hay Wain. The Hay Wain was received positively at the Royal Academy but it was not until 1824 when a French dealer took the painting together with two others (View on the Stour near Dedham and Yarmouth Pier) to Paris to be exhibited at the Paris Salon – the French equivalent of the Royal Academy. With Britain having been at war with France over the preceding years the French were startled to see the style and subject of this most English painter. The stark contrast of Constable’s works against the classic French works was significant enough to receive the Gold Medal from Charles X. Constable had wowed France and received the highest accolade from them. This recognition however gave little comfort to Constable who still continued to doubt his abilities based on his persistent desire to achieve fame in his home country. Constable would not even travel to France to collect the medal.

Constable went on to lecture at the Royal Academy and died in 1837 at the age of 61 from heart failure.

References:

  • Anthony Bailey, A Kingdom of His Own
  • Constable in Love, Martin Gayford
  • Constable Letters, Suffolk Record Society, edited by Beckett
  • Memoirs of John Constable, Robert Leslie

Thank you too to Mark Cable, National Trust Guide at Flatford, Suffolk.

No-Parallax Point and Creating Panoramas in Lightroom CC

I have struggled a bit to understand about the no-parallax point and the part it plays in panoramic photographs. I understand that parallax can easily be seen by holding up a finger, looking at it through one eye and then through the other eye causes it to apparently move in relation to the background. This is because the entrance to each of of our pupils is in a slightly different position. This parallax will have an effect when taking photographs that are to be stitched together to form a panorama and I need to be careful not to have objects in the foreground change position against the background. I can do this by keeping the entrance to the lens in the same place while I turn the camera.

There is lots of science and minute measurements to help photographers find the no-parallax point for their particular camera and lens. The PanoTools Wiki has a useful chart that lists the entrance pupil distance for a range of cameras and lenses. JohnHPanos also has a useful guide that talks about how to find the no-parallax point for an SLR camera.

To help further there are a number of manual and motorised tri-pod heads that can be purchased from the usual photographic outlets, some that are even controlled from a smart phone. However as a poor student I cannot afford any of them! I have been using a simple bracket that holds my camera slightly back so that the front of the lens is close to the centre of the head of the tripod.

Having said all of that, the software that is currently available to automatically merge photographs together is so good that any parallax is hardly noticeable.

Today I have been out taking a few local panoramas to see if I can spot any parallax errors when my photographs are merged together.

With tripod extension
Without parallax bracket
Without tripod extension
With parallax bracket

I have used the Photo Merge / Panorama option in Lightroom to create these panoramas. It is very straight-forward to do and fun to mess about with it but there is also a very useful tutorial about how to create panoramas in Lightroom on the Adobe website that explains the process I have used very clearly.

I can’t honestly see an awful lot of difference in the two images above. Some of the clouds in the first image look as though they have been cut off as they appear to have some harsh flat edges but when I zoom in on my computer they are not as unnatural as they appear on here.

While I was at it I have merged one of the panoramas several times using the different options available in Lightroom.

With parallax bracket, spherical photo merge
With parallax bracket, spherical photo merge
With parallax bracket, cylindrical photo merge
With parallax bracket, cylindrical photo merge
With parallax bracket, perspective photo merge
With parallax bracket, perspective photo merge

Adobe suggests that the spherical setting is best for 360 degree panoramas, the cylindrical setting is best for very wide panoramas and the perspective setting is best for shorter panoramas.

I like the cylindrical setting for this particular shot.

Alresford Creek, EssexThese are another couple of shots I took this morning and the edited photo of the ford. I’ve left them in colour as the sky and daffodils look great after the past few stormy days.

St Peter's Church, Alresford, Essex

St Peter's Church Yard, Alresford, Essex

The Ford, Alresford Creek, Essex