Belmonte, Spain, 2008. Phase One 645AF, Phase One P45+ back, Mamiya 28mm f4.5 lens
1/125 second @ f8, ISO 50, tripod-mounted, stitched.
Photographs can lie and they don’t need tricky post-production. This ruined castle seems to be in the middle of nowhere, yet behind the camera is a modern retirement village with hundreds of rooms, and behind and below the castle is the bustling town of Belmonte, Spain. However, this is also the strength of photography, being able to choose a camera angle to tell a specific story and to keep that story simple by not complicating it with unnecessary information.
NEW TRADITION: Stitching is an essential skill in The New Tradition. While photographers stitched panoramas together with film, the technical challenges were extreme and often there were telltale joins in the final print as well.
With digital technology, the stitching process can be invisible, although very often there will be perspectives within the image that give the game away. In this photograph of Belmonte Castle, the curved road in the foreground is actually straight and most experienced photographers would guess that this image has been stitched.
So, why stitch? There are many reasons. Some photographers used to stitch images together to collect more pixels. Rather than taking a wide-angle view, they’d attach a longer focal length lens and stitch several frames together. This produced a larger file with many more pixels, allowing larger prints to be made without suffering unwanted image degradation at the printing stage.
These days with high resolution sensors, image quality isn’t such a problem and generally we stitch so we can ‘fit it all in’. To give the impression the castle was all alone in the landscape, I needed to include space on either side. A wide-angle lens helped, but the one I had wasn’t wide enough. And I couldn’t move further back because there were buildings behind me, so the only solution was to take a series of images and stitch them together in post-production.
While modern consumer cameras and smartphones will automatically stitch images together, it is rare for them to do so without technical errors. You don’t see these problems when looking at a small LCD screen, but enlarge the image up and you’ll see objects in the subject that don’t line up, have been blurred or repeated.
To do a stitch properly generally requires a careful, manual approach. The New Tradition still demands that you understand how to use your camera, but no doubt built-in camera software will continue to improve. In terms of software, PtGUI is considered by many photographers to be the best at stitching images together with a high level of control and input. Simple stitches can be put together with almost any image editing program, but when you start to work with more demanding subjects, a dedicated stitching app may be required.
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