Panorama, Montreal, Canada

JULY 2009 – Downtown Montreal, seen in a panorama photo from the Kondiaronk Belvedere viewpoint in the Parc du Mont Real. © Mark Zanzig/

The story behind the image

We had walked all the way up from the city center to the Mont Real, the hill that gave the city its name. It had beeen a hot day, and we appreciated the shadows of the large trees in the park. Petra had been living in Montreal years ago, so she was the perfect guide to get to this viewpoint. In fact, she had promised me to get a fantastic view across downtown.

And, by all means, she was right!

I could not resist to do a panorama photo, consisting of six individual shots stitched together later with Photoshop. While the resulting image has an extreme aspect ratio, I lov ethe fact that you can zoom into the high resolution image and enjoy the view in detail just as if being in that place again.

Here’s how…

…to do panorama shots on your own. The most important point is to put your camera to full manual mode. After all, you want a seamless panorama which means that all the shots should be basically done with the same settings.

First, you need to find a focal length that provides the angle you’re looking for and that works for all images you’re going to shoot for your composition. I highly recommend to use 50 mm or longer on a full frame body to avoid distortions. A distortion free image will reduce the problems removing the overlaps between the images in the final composition. It can be challenging on zoom lenses as you should not alter the focal length. (Obvisouly, it’s easier with a fixed focal length lens.)

Second, set the lens to manual focus as well. Find a focus point that you like and keep this for all your images. Again, this reduces problems removing the overlap later on.

Third, find a good exposure time for your entire scene, i.e. all shots. This can be tricky. If you are not sure, do test shots using fixed ISO and aperture and calculate an average exposure time from all the shots you’re planning to do (using the camera’s exposure meter). Then put your camera to full manual mode (M) and nail all the settings – ISO, aperture, exposure time – to the calculated exposure time and use these for all your shots.

Next, do a sequence of shots, from left to right in quick succession, keeping the body of the camera leveled in a fixed horizontal position. A tripod can help. When shooting, always remember visible elements at the right border of the frame and put these into the next shot, but to the left. This will be your ‘overlap area’. It is essential, so the element should be well visible in both frames. If there’s no or too little overlap, you will find it challenging to compose the panorama because you can not seamlessly stitch the images together.

Now you should have all the photos you need to compose your super-large panorama. (Don’t forget to put your camera and lens back to whatever auto mode you prefer.)

In Photoshop, create a super wide image that is almost as wide as the sum of all the image you’ve taken. Starting with the first image on the left, you add in one image after another, level each one to match the horizon, and move it to overlap perfectly with the existing image. In Photoshop, to find the perfect position, you can apply a 50% transparency on the layer to find the best position for the overlap – that’s the one where all elements in the overlap area actually do overlap perfectly. Set vertical guides to mark the overlap area. Then remove the layer transparency again, and gently delete any visible borders or inconsistencies. Repeat this for all your images.

In a final step, flatten the image and crop it to show just the panorama but not its (often) uneven borders. Done.

The high resolution image

Capture Date & Time17-JUL-2009, 15:57
LocationMontreal, Canada
CameraCanon EOS 5D
LensCanon EF 24-70 mm 2.8 L USM
Exposure1/640 sec at f/8
Digital Image Source FormatCanon Camera RAW (CR2)
Edited Image FormatJPEG, 24 bits/pixel, sRGB
Edited Image Dimensions18747 x 2393 Pixels
Copyright© by Mark Zanzig/

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