Wildlife Panoramics- A New Challenge

Overcoming the challenges of shooting stitched image wildlife panoramics.

Stitched Landscape Panoramics have been popular for a while now and I have been enjoying the challenge of making epic landscape images with this technique.  On a recent trip to Botswana my mission was to try super high resolution Stitched Wildlife Panoramics.

gathering at the local watering hole.

Large herds of animals at predictable sites like watering holes made it a bit easier to plan my approach. We were always in vehicles, making it a little trying at times. When the scene was on the other side of the vehicle nobody wanted me clambering onto their lap to get the shot. But fifty percent of the time the scene was on my side and I was able to experiment with this approach. I started with single row images, comprising of four to twelve or more images taken from left to right. (making it easier to visualize when loaded into in my photo processing software). I mostly used a gymbal head mounted on a tripod and secured to the open-sided vehicle with a bungee cord.

When the animals were more stationary it made it a bit easier to shoot a sequence without the movement of animals making the stitching process flawed.  Elephants and giraffes standing still were the best subjects.

Technique for taking stitched wildlife panoramic images.

Note how my first and last pictures in the sequence are index marker images. I use my thumb in the pictures to indicate this. Later in my workflow this makes it much easier to see all the images that make up a particular panoramic, especially if I am shooting single frame images at the same time. It also is a good conversation starter when onlookers ask why I always take pics of my thumbs.

herd of elephants captured in a stitched wildlife panoramic image
Final stitched image from above sequence with dimensions of 23 075 x 4615 pixels.
On the move.

When the animals are moving, such as a herd of zebra around a watering hole, the whole process is more difficult. In this case, I had to shoot and look ahead at the same time. Quickly composing the images with overlapping areas in spots that had no animals, or at least more stationary ones, made for better results . As you can imagine this was a very fluid method and it didn’t always work out well. But by taking several sequences I usually got something I was happy with. Of course this wasn’t confirmed until I returned home and started stitching the images together.

A successful stitched wildlife panoramic image of zebra.
A successful stitched image with a herd of zebra. Some of them were on the move but I was still able to stitch this image together well in Adobe Lightroom.
Processing

I mostly use Adobe Lightroom for the stitching process and Adobe Photoshop for final touches. Surprisingly, Lightroom is able to stitch images quite well even when there is some movement, eg a zebra walking.  It intuitively picks the best parts of the overlapping images and creates a good join. Only a couple times did I end up with an animal with five legs.

After I felt comfortable with this technique I started adding double row panoramics.  To do this effectively I had to be careful to not have any animals overlapping into the row above, as the animals would have moved enough by the time I got back to that area in the second row.

Wildlife Stitched panoramic image of elephants at sunset
High resolution double row stitched wildlife panoramic image ( what a mouthful) of elephants at sunset in Botswana.
One animal surprised me.

One animal that was surprisingly easy to photograph in this way was the mighty giraffe. I did not know this but, as gangly as they look, they actually stand stock still at times.  Thus I was able to do some creative images with them, singly and in groups. Some fun images I created were vertical stitched images going up and down their bodies as they stood motionless.

individual images making up a stitched panoramic image.
Here are all the images I took up and down the body of this motionless giraffe.
image showing placement of stitched images to make high res photo
After stitching but before cropping and final editing. As I was shooting hand held I accidentally missed a part of the sky in the top left. Some cloning in Photoshop filled this in later in the editing process.
Extremly high resolution of giraffe.
Finished super high resolution image of a giraffe. Final size is 20 000 x 17 000 pixels.
Detail available in super high resolution stitched wildlife panoramic image.
Close crop of above image showing level of detail available in this super high resolution image.

This was a very fun and rewarding trial and I am very happy with the results. Of course a return trip is in the works to perfect this process!

To see all of these wildlife panoramic images go to

https://largeformatimages.com/image-galleries/african-wildlife/

Side note- After a successful day out on safari we also gathered around a watering hole for some sun-downers.

Letaka Safaris
Letaka Safaris in Botswana were our hosts and did a fine job of catering to our every need.             www.letakasafaris.com

 

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