By Rob Turner
28 Jan 2008
I discovered an interesting technique with film some time back, inspired much by the digital technique of stitching multiple photos together to form longer, panoramic shots. "Endless panoramas" can be created using a (preferably cheap) medium format camera. My favourite for this technique is my trusty Holga 120N or Diana. The basic idea is to shoot single frames that overlap slightly at the edges, panning across with each shot. The finished result is a strip of film with several overlapping photos, forming one long panorama with slight mismatches where the images join.
First things first: You will need a medium format camera, the cheaper the better, as a cheaper (and crappier) camera will more likely allow you to partially advance the film. As mentioned earlier, a "toy" camera such as a Holga or Diana works best, the red window type frame-counter making it much easier to judge the advancement. I usually load up as normal, using the 6x6 frame, but make sure I set the frame-counter to the "16" setting, which is normally for 6x4.5 negatives. This means that you can advance each frame using the frame numbers for 6x4.5 frames, which creates roughly the same amount of crossover between each frame, and also keeps you from getting lost within the roll. Before you shoot, another good idea is to check the rough horizontal angle of view of your lens. You can work out this out using the following formula (hope you remembered your trigonometry from school!):
Angle = 2 x arctan 56/2 x lens focal length in mm
If your math isn't so hot you can use this very useful online calculator. (http://www.imaginatorium.org/stuff/angle.htm). Simply enter 56 in the "width" and "height" boxes, the focal length of your lens in the "focal length" box and hit calculate. Use the "width angle" box. For example, the 60mm lens on a standard Holga has an angle of roughly 50˚. So rotation of roughly 50˚ is needed between each shot (NB: if you chose to use a Holga, Diana or similar, don't even waste your time with the viewfinder, it is crap!).
Now the fun part! Find a nice scene which you would like to capture as a panorama. Good examples are bridges, tall buildings and scenic views. Take your first shot as normal, then wind on to the second. Move your camera roughly the amount calculated previously then shoot your second shot. Continue with this until you have taken as many shots as needed, working from left to right (I tend to stick to four shots so that the negatives fit in my filing wallets when I cut them up). Take your film to be processed as normal, making sure to ask the lab to not cut your negatives (they have cut through my pics in the wrong places many times).
When you get your negatives back, carefully cut them up with clean scissors, wearing lint-free cotton gloves to avoid scratching or finger-printing them. You will have to cut through the edges of the pictures where each panorama joins to the next. I tend to crop out this bit during scanning. I then scan with my Epson 4490. I can only scan 12cm of negative at once, so it takes more than one pass for each picture. I scan then stitch the multiple images together in Photoshop using the "photomerge" function, but it is not difficult to do manually. You will now be left with stunning and very interesting panoramic images. The plastic lens of the Holga lends a slightly blurry, dream-like, image, whilst the overlapping edges and slight mismatches of the exposures add interest and uniqueness to the image which just isn't possible using digital.