How To: Shoot A Night Time Panorama

How to photograph a night time panorama with your camera by Chris Gardiner Photography Kelowna, BC, Canada November 2013
A night time panorama from November 25 2013 by Chris Gardiner
Capturing a panorama can seem hard enough, and then add the variables included with night photography and it can become an even greater challenge… perfect! Challenges are what keep us entertained with what we do. 
So a few days ago I went down to the beach to capture a few photos after the sun had set, and this was the first photo I captured, well it's a panorama, so it's the first seven. Here's how I made it;

1. Go with the right equipment. In this case, tripod, cable release, camera. Check. 
2. Go with a plan, or at least an idea of how to make a panorama that's easy on you and your computer. 
3. Work Fast,

So a few things to keep in mind, I'll keep it short form; 
  • night photos are challenging to focus, with a good lens you should be able to lock it at infinity, strictly by looking at the information on the outside of your half-decent lens. Lock your focus.
  • keep your photos 30 seconds or under ideally. more than that allows too much movement of clouds between shots, and error if you have to do bulb exposures without a proper intervalometer. 
  • lock your exposure for the most ideal portion of your scene, in this case, I chose the site of the already set sun, the yellow glow to the left of the pointy mountain (aka Boucherie to a local)
  • I stopped up as far as I could at ISO 400 while having an exposure at 30" This put me at f/8 - great. 
  • Keep your shots level, rotate on the tripod. Trigger with two second timer and a cable release after every recomposition. 
  • Like all panoramas, spot your overlap point before you move your camera.
  • Lock your white balance, which is part of your exposure, but just a reminder. Also, I like to shoot raw, it can help. 
After shooting the panorama with the above in mind, I went home very shortly after. My battery died, and although I had another one, I was in a time lapse at that point and didn't want to start a new. So upload photos, and edit in lightroom if they are RAW. Export as jpegs to your temporary panorama building folder. 

Open Hugin, (or other panorama builder) - a great program, I haven't mentioned yet, but it can compose those really hard to put together panoramas. This this is incredible. It also gives you an incredible amount of control.  PS - Hugin is entirely free, it's hard to say no. 

Most of the time, Hugin has no trouble putting my panoramas together, when it does, I just try again, accept both outputs and tweak the best of them individually in a photoshop program. 

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