How I Got the Shot: Fall Panorama

Photograph by Mark Bowie

Autumn Wonderland, South Branch of the Grasse River, St. Lawrence County

Exposure Data:
1.6 seconds, f/16, ISO 100 
Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70mm lens set at 43mm.
Many landscape panoramas showcase grand vistas of mountains or lakes, but effective panoramas can also be made of more intimate scenes, like this one along the South Branch of the Grasse River. This is a two-shot panorama made with a medium-range lens. I felt like I had stepped into an autumn wonderland with its mix of foliage and patches of color.

Photographers don’t need to be constrained to the 2 x 3 dimensions of a normal digital SLR image; I let the subject matter dictate the dimensions of my images. The sweeping view here practically demanded shooting it as a panorama. When composing panoramas I look for interesting visual anchor points to place on each side; in this case, the brown fern and yellow tree to the left and right respectively. I level my tripod head using the bubble level built into the tripod, then level the camera itself, using its virtual horizon indicator. I usually shoot horizontal panoramas with the camera oriented vertically for maximum height to width ratio. I expose for the most important area of the image, usually to control highlights, or shoot multiple exposures of each section of the panorama and blend them later for proper exposure (the resulting exposures are then stitched to make the panorama). I manually select a white balance setting so that it doesn’t change between exposures. If I can achieve my desired depth of field with a single point of focus, I put the camera in manual focus mode so that point remains fixed as I pan across the scene (if necessary, I can select different focus points, maybe one for the foreground and one for the background, and merge the images later in processing). For horizontal images, I overlap each shot by 25 to 33 percent, for verticals, about 33 to 50 percent, to give the processing software enough data to blend them seamlessly. I use Photoshop CC, which has evolved into a powerful tool for panorama stitching. Regardless of the technology used to create this image of the South Branch of the Grasse, I think what makes it special are the feelings it communicates—the intimacy and serenity of an Adirondack autumn. 

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He is a sought-after public speaker, offering presentations to camera clubs, environmental groups and others. For information on API events visit For more on Mark’s work, visit his website:


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