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Multi-Row Pano

Let's walk through shooting a multi-row/multi-column pano, step by step. For simplicity, we'll assume that you're using our Lightweight Multi-Row Pano Elements Package Pro, a ball head, and a Really Right Stuff-style L-plate on your camera. The Lightweight Multi-Row Pano Elements Package Pro includes two PC-Pro panning clamps, one MPR-192 rail, one MPR-CL II nodal slide, and one CRD-Rail.

Mount the MPR-192 Rail

Open the panning clamp enough so that you can top-load your MPR-192 rail into the panning clamp (the safety stops on each end prevent you from loading the slide from the side). Its exact position isn't important. Tighten clamp securely.

Level the PC-Pro Panning Clamp / MPR-192

Loosen the ballhead so that the ball moves freely, and shift the ball until the large, high contrast spirit level in the MPR-192 rail indicates level. When available, always opt to reference the larger spirit level of the rail rather than the much smaller integral spirit level of the panning clamp. Lock down the ball, and make sure that the ballhead's panning base is also locked.

Mount the Vertical CRD-Rail

Standing behind your rig, decide whether you're going to shoot with the camera mounted in landscape or portrait. If landscape, mount the CRD-Rail from the left. If portrait, mount the CRD-Rail from the right. Either way, orient the CRD-Railso that the panning clamp is facing the center of the rig. Clamp the CRD-Rail securely to the end of the CRD-Rail.

Mount the Nodal Slide

Lock the panning base of the top-mounted PC-Pro panning clamp. Open the panning clamp enough so that you can top-load your MPR-CL II nodal slide into the panning clamp (the safety stops on each end prevent you from loading the slide from the side). Its exact position isn't important. Tighten clamp securely.

Mount Your Camera

If you are going to shoot with the camera mounted in portrait mode, only a conventional plate is required; mount camera securely in the clamp at the end of the nodal slide. If you are going to shoot with the camera mounted in landscape mode, an L-plate is required; mount camera's side dovetail securely in the clamp at the end of the nodal slide. Use the laser-engraved centering index marks to properly align your camera in the nodal slide's clamp. The image above shows camera mounted in portrait mode.

Position the Nodal SLide

Loosen the clamp on the PC-Pro, and slide the nodal slide fore or aft until you've aligned the nodal point (calculated by you earlier!) with the laser-engraved centering index mark on the PC-Pro panning clamp. Tighten clamp securely.

Center Your Camera

Loosen the pan lcok on the top-mounted PC-Pro panning clamp and rotate the camera straight down. Re-tighten the pan lock knob. Now loosen the clamp on the bottom of the CRD-Rail and slide the entire rig so that the central axis of the lens is positioned directly over the axis of rotation; in this case, the very center of the bottom-mounted panning clamp. See image above.

Check Camera Settings

Set exposure mode to Manual (not Program, not Aperture Priority, and not Shutter Priority!). If you're not sure what exposure to set, pan your scene and snap a few images in Aperture Priority; set an aperture that will give you the depth of field that you want. If you have no idea what aperture to set, try starting out with f16; this will give you suitable depth of field for most landscapes. Assuming you're shooting digital, review these images and compare the shutter speed that your camera chose for the series; select a shutter speed that will be acceptable across the entire image. Now switch your camera to Manual and set both aperture and shutter speed. Turn off Auto White-Balance. Instead, set the White Balance manually. For most landscape scenes, the Sunny or 6100K setting is just fine. Now you're ready to shoot!

Shoot In Rows

Starting at the left-hand side of your scene, capture each overlapping image from left to right. You can shoot from right to left, but all of the software auto-stitching features are designed to grab the images in numerical order (by using the file name) and assemble them left-to-right. The exact amount of overlap isn't usually important; to start with, shoot for about 30% to 50% overlap (just estimate by looking through the viewfinder). A simple way to visually indicate the beginning and end of a sequence is to shoot an empty first frame and an empty final frame; just place something in front of the lens like your hand, or a piece of paper, etc. When reviewing your images later, it's then easy to pick out your pano images just from the small thumbnail icons.

Import, Stitch, Adjust & Crop

Assuming you're shooting digital, now you're ready to import your images into your computer. For convenience, place all images from a single sequence in their own folder; some of the software programs with automerge features work better if you can just point them to a folder.

Speed Tips

One of the best ways to speed up your performance is to practice the mechanics, so let's break it down:
Get Level: If you're using RRS pano gear, lock the ball when the panning clamp is level. Perform this step with the nodal slide installed in the panning clamp; this allows you to use the larger (and easier to see) spirit level on the nodal slide.
No-Parallax Point: Determine if you need to worry about parallax. If you do, then position your nodal slide at the No-Parallax Point. The known NPPs listed here apply only when you use the Really Right Stuff MPR-CL II; position the MPR-CL II at the millimeter setting indicated.
• Find the beginning and end of your pano sequence: Always include a bit more image along the edges of your pano; you'll be glad you did when it comes time to crop the final image. Also, one useful tip that I heard from Scott Kelby is to shoot a pre shot with one finger in the frame (to let you know the pano sequence started) and then a post shot after the pano with two fingers in the frame to let you know that the series has ended. If you're shooting multi-row, the fastest method is to shoot the first row from left to right, tilt down, then sweep from right to left.

Reference table for Canon EOS-5D Mark II with 24-105mm f/4 lens; NPP measurements indicate where to position the Really Right Stuff MPR-CL II nodal slide.

Tilt / Shift Panos

If you have a tilt-shift lens in your arsenal of glass, you can use the shift function to achieve wonderful panorama images. There are three key advantages to using a tilt-shift lens to create stitched-image panos:
• You don't need to worry or adjust for parallax
• The stitching process is dead-simple for the computer
• No special support gear is required.

Both Canon and Nikon make tilt-shift lenses in various focal lengths, but if your goal is to get as wide a view angle as possible, pick the 17mm or 24mm version. The image capture process is straight forward:
• Set camera to "manual exposure", image quality to "raw", and turn off "auto white balance".
• Rotate the lens in its housing so that the shift function operates laterally (i.e., side-to-side) rather than vertically (up-down).
• Compose your image so that either extreme of the shift function captures the subject you want to include in the final stitched image.
• Position the lens in the extreme left position for the first image (left or right doesn't matter, but for this example, choose left).
• Capture the first image or series of images if shooting HDR.
• Shift the lens to the right extreme position.
• Offset the shift of the lens by laterally shifting the camera to the left. The goal is to keep the front element of the lens in the same position it was in before the shift. The maximum shift of our Nikkor PC-E 24mm/f3.5 lens is 22mm. Really Right Stuff 60mm or 50mm-wide quick-release clamps can accommodate that much shift.*
• Capture the second image or series of images.
• Process images and stitch pano in computer.

When shooting images for tilt-shift panos, be aware that the corners of the images will vignette at the extreme shift positions. You can keep the lens shift inboard 1 or 2 mm from the extreme limit or deal with the vignette in the computer via cropping or localized exposure adjustments. Other considerations are noted in the following table comparing tilt-shift pano capture versus using a system like our Pano-Elements Package to capture pano images.

*Note: current generation RRS clamps have a full millimeter scale laser-engraved on top of the jaw; previous generations had 24mm & 36 mm-on-center marks; the earliest clamps have no marks. If plate or clamp lacks center index marks, simply place colored tape on the plate and jaw and mark accordingly. The quick-release plates on some wide bodied-cameras or grips cover the clamp jaws enough to make it difficult to read the corresponding index marks on the RRS quick release clamp. For those cameras, it is easiest to use any of our rail systems that accommodates lateral shift. Please don't hesitate to give us a call if you need any help.

Capture Left: Shift Lens to far left position. Shift camera 11mm to the right of center.

Capture Right: Shift Lens to far right position. Shift camera 11mm to the left of center.

Alternate Gear: Any Really Right Stuff gear that can deliver lateral shift can be used to shoot a Tilt/Shift Pano. In the pano image at left, our PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head was used. Note that lens stays centered at all times, and PG-02 Vertical Arm is used to shift the camera. Gear used for image: Nikon D3s camera with BD3-L plate; Nikkor PC-E 24mm f/3.5 lens; TVC-23 tripod, TA-2-LB leveling base, and PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal head.