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Click to open a 360 degree panorama from the Baltoro Glacier beneath the
Trango Castle in the Karakoram Mountains of Baltistan, Kashmir.

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How Do I Create My Panoramic Images? What is HDR imaging?

I used to use only Nikon 35 mm film cameras and professional quality film.

But that has changed. I now use a Nikon D200 Digital SLR or a Mamiya 60 mm x 70 mm film camera much of the time.

I still often use a lightweight Nikon N65 35 mm film camera when backpacking without porters or horses.

And sometimes I just bring a monopod along on a hike instead of a tripod.

My "dosts" (friends) Balti tribesmen Ibrahim Shahid, guide, and Nak-sha Ali, porter, rest along the Baltoro Glacier beneath 6109 meter (20,042 ft.) Uli Biaho Tower in the Baltoro Mustagh, Baltiyul, Pakistan.

About a year ago when I was collecting equipment for an expedition to K2 in the Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan, I decided to buy a set of medium format gear so I would have the option of making poster size prints when I came back.

The image to the right is of a Mamiya RB67 with a 50 mm wide angle lens, rotating back and waist level viewfinder.

This camera is a tank, very tough, and the format, 60 mm x 70 mm, turns out to be ideal for panoramic work. The camera is completely manual and does not use batteries of any kind. It does add about 5 pounds to my backpack to carry this camera, but thanks to my buddy, Nak-Sha Ali, that was not a problem on the K2 trip!

A special tripod is used to shoot a set of images around in a circle. The special tripod provides consistent rotation between images and ensures that the rotation is around the "nodal point" of the lens. An advantage of the Mamiya RB67 is the rotating back, which allows you to shoot in portrait mode without changing the mount of the camera on the tripod.

What are the Advantages of Medium Format (60 mm x 70 mm) Film for Panoramic Photography?

To the left you can see an image of 2 60 mm x 70 mm negatives, 8 35 mm x 24 mm negatives and 12 APS or 23 mm x 15 mm negatives. As you can see, one 60 mm x 70 mm negative gives more image capture space than four 35 mm x 24 mm negatives and more capture area than six APS size images. It took me a while to figure out the implications of that for panoramic photography.

When I use a 50 mm lens on my Mamiya RB 67, it pulls in the detail the same as a 50 mm on my Nikon 35 mm camera. But since the negative is more than twice as wide in the portrait mode, 60 mm instead of 24 mm, I only have to shoot 9 shots instead of 24 to provide adequate overlap for the 360 degree coverage I want.

And, since the negative is twice as tall, 70 mm instead of 35 mm, I get coverage vertically which would necessitate 3 rows around with a 35 mm camera. Because of the need for overlap, just two 35 mm rows would not cover the vertical amount of your scene that a 70 mm capture area will - THREE rows would be required.

So, instead of needing 72 images (24 each row, x 3 rows) with a 35 mm film camera, I only need 9 shots with the 60 mm x 70 mm medium format camera to shoot the same pano. This more than compensates for the extra cost of the medium format film and processing. And with the D200 digital, which has a 23 mm x 15 mm capture area, I would need 4 or 5 rows of 36 shots each to cover the same area, which is as much as 180 exposures instead of the 9 I need with the Mamiya. That's TWENTY times as much work! At K2 I shot a row up and a row down with the Mamiya, 20 shots in all, which gave me tremendous coverage.

Mamiya has released a digital back for the RB67 that creates 24 megapixel files, the same size my scanner produces from 60 x 70 mm film exposures, but the capture area is only 4.5 mm x 60 mm. The back is priced at $25,000. I would not be comfortable putting a $25,000 back in a duffel bag strapped loosely to the side of a donkey on the crevassed ice of the Baltoro glacier!

Concordia - The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods!

I shot 2 rows, 10 shots each, one row up and one row down, with my RB67 to create this image of the high Karakoram beneath K2. K2 is the mountain somewhat cloud enshrouded in the middle of the image set back at the end of a canyon. We had hiked up the rubble covered glacier to the left above the red backpack in the foreground. The peak in the far distance there is Paiju peak.

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