I’ve been an adventure film maker for over 18 years and a major part of my storytelling is visualising the huge vistas that appear in front of my lens and attempting to give them and my subjects a perspective.
I seldom have the luxury of much pre-production so I am forced to get the shot first time and most often than not in quite challenging conditions. For this reason, it’s important to see the world through a panoramic perspective. After all this is how the camera presents the world through my eyes and eventually to the wide screen.
Whether you are filming of taking still the following are 5 tips that I use to enable me to create the final visuals in my films.
Wide screen imagery or panoramic shots require you to see the world in a 150+ deg view. I tend to keep my head still and explore the far left and right side of my field of view. Try and encapsulate all the surround’s in that perspective, making sure that there is a centre of focus that stands out. This could mean the highest peak or largest cloud formation or most unique feature. This will centre the view and give scale to the shot. When I translate this to film I hold the same shot and let the clouds or action flow through the scene with zero camera movement.
Life is not always as you see it through the lens though utilising your exposure well can create some staggeringly cool silhouettes. This allows the eye to focus on a specific subject or even more create a mood that is essential for your storytelling. You don’t always have to wait for the right light, rather work with the available light and shadows, together with playing with your exposure settings to create the shot. Also embracing the panoramic format, it also allows the eye to focus more effectively on a scene or subject, creating a greater visual story.
In many cases it’s a matter of waiting and waiting as long as possible or try and re-visit a location when the environment changes. In the wilderness it could be as short as a matter of an hour or choosing early morning or later in the day. A blue bird sky day may be to clean to create a mood so waiting for clouds, or other weather elements to develop around a scene can create a perfect shot to convey your story. In many cases it opens up a wide variety of shooting possibilities and also allows you to take advantage of contrasts in the shot to draw a viewer’s eye into the scene.
With panoramic images there is always a risk of filling the frame with too much information, which could render the image to busy and therefor fail to convey the right story to the viewer … the result is they flight to the next image or turn the page, or in my case change the TV channel. When looking at wider outside spaces try and weight the image so that the eye will gravitate to a major part of the scene and then it can flow to other reference points. This keeps the eyes and brain busy and allows for an emotion to be created. This could be fans in a stadium or using the sky vs buildings … shift the weight to draw attention to the subject.
In many instances the vividness of a scene can also distract the viewer from the story you are trying to convey. Quite simply try using B&W to generate a heightened focus &/or mood through the panorama. In addition, with a still format allow the image to dictate the field of view … going beyond 150 deg in B&W can create some stunning visuals.
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