It’s quite true that cameras can open doors for a photographer, so when I started a project to hone my skills on stitch panoramic photography, where better to do it than one of Dorset’s highest profile buildings ; The Vitality Stadium, home of AFC Bournemouth.
As a lover of football it was an ideal venue which turned out to be a gem in many ways. My initial idea for a shoot became three, four, five and more images, each with a different challenge to test how stitch panoramic photos could be used to great effect – and not just a snappers gimmick.
My first invitation (by the head press officer) was to photograph the Press Room where after the game, reporters would interview the managers. It was also chosen for security purposes, where I could be kept a close eye on, after all, I was unknown to the club. Going into such a high profile environment I had to be watched and show that I was not just some fan blagging a free tour or looking for souvenirs. After all, my process of set up and photographing can take around one hour to complete depending on available lighting and the rearrangement of the furniture.
Attention to detail.
Once the right the angle is chosen, and the path of the ‘pan’ is worked out, attention to detail is the next crucial thing. In the resulting shot below you can see that the line of the chairs had to be spot on and the mix of lighting from above the managers’ hot seats’, daylight through the windows and fill in flash balanced for colour changes. A good test to get things going, and I’m quite pleased with the result.
A mixture of professionalism, courtesy and good results is the minimum requirement any client should expect and even though this was ‘my bag’ things were no different. This allowed me to have several subsequent visits and through different areas of the stadium further develop my skills.
The challenging signature shot.
The shot I originally wanted was the dressing room, which posed a different set of challenges. The entire room was lit by fluorescent lighting, and the floor painted in a Cherries red reflected directly up onto a white ceiling. The doorway into the bathroom also had to be lit to show separation and depth within the image. The resulting image below shows the final shot, once stitched together, and is far from the scenes when two days before Bournemouth played Chelsea and the dressing room was probably a mess with kit bags and towels strewn across the floor.
Sometimes it’s backs to the wall.
I like to work with an image in mind, as I did with the dressing room shot, but quite often something else catches your eye while planning your ideas.
That was the case with the tunnel in the Vitality stadium as it was aligned with images of players 10 feet tall from floor to ceiling. The challenge here was to get a sweep for the panoramic that would incorporate both the exit onto the pitch and the home dressing room. Coupled with that, a floor to ceiling crop was needed to incorporate the image of the nearest player,which literally meant ‘backs against the wall’. With all this going on, the corridor really wasn’t wide enough to use a standard 50mm lens, the standard considered for a minimally distorted image.
Distortion is not such a problem if used in the right way to create an effective image, which I think it has here.
Techniques for perfect stitch panoramic photography
When considering the perfect panoramic shot there are several things that I have to take in mind as a photographer besides the technical camera work. This is by no means definitive list:
- Bookends: This may sound a bit strange but the left and right ends of the panoramic image must have features of interest that also keep the eye moving back into the centre of the image.
- Leading lines: In the same way we want the eye to stay in the image lines draw us to points of interest carefully positioned to catch the viewers attention.
- Uncluttered images work best and allows the image to show exactly what you want to show without distracting objects.
- Unwanted objects: sometimes there’s nothing you can do about rubbish bins or bright shining objects but once noticed in a final image they become distractive. My moto is ‘move it, hide it or position it so it can be easily removed in editing’
To conclude I was very happy with a great collection of portfolio images, and was able to test my skills and equipment in a variety of situation all under one roof and with a subject matter that makes me tick. As far as the ‘client’ goes, and as part of their ongoing community commitment, AFCB were happy to help out and have access to a stunning set of unique images.
Of course this technique is not just suited to football stadiums. Since taking these images, and showing them around as part of my portfolio I’ve been able to take the idea of stitch panoramic photography into various venues with stunning results.
When we walk into a space our eyes naturally scan the space and piece it all together as one image. A panoramic image works in the same way giving the viewer a wider view of the space than they would naturally see. With that in mind I have found that it works well in the following venues:
- Theatres and concert halls
- Restaurants and hotels
- Corporate office space
- Outside spaces such as parks and garden
- Museums and galleries
With the format of a webpage in mind, this type of imagery slots perfectly into any front page banner with stunning ease.
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