I like to travel light and I don’t carry many specialized tools that only do one job. I recently purchased the B150-B Macro Focusing Rail from Really Right stuff. I mainly bought the macro rail to use with the new Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Lens, but I knew it would also work as a nodal slide for shooting panoramas. Really Right Stuff gear is expensive, but in my experience it is solid as a rock and very well made. The B150-B is no exception.
I DID skimp a bit on a panorama base. I got this model on Amazon because it was a third of the price of the RRS equivalent. I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the piece when it arrived, and I am glad I saved some money here.
A nodal slide allows you to pivot the camera around the nodal point of the lens. This allows you to get better results when shooting panoramas. Elements in the foreground and the background line up easily when stitching multiple images together.
I found the nodal points of my favorite lenses using the B150-B before I set out for north Georgia last weekend. It took me about five minutes per lens, no big deal. RRS has several articles about the process on their site HERE.
For the pano at Lake Winfield Scott I also used a graduated ND (neutral density) filter. The exposure for the sky was brighter than the lake and foreground. The grad ND filter allowed me to darken the sky so that the exposure was even across the frame. I also used a grad ND filter to even out the exposure for the bright trees at the top of the frame in the waterfall pano. I don’t use optical filters a lot, but for images like this it saves a ton of post processing time.
When you are shooting a pano, don’t rely too much on the novelty of the process. The composition is is still important, and maybe more so. You are responsible for everything in your frame, and a pano has a lot more to be responsible for. With a little practice you can learn to pre-visualize your pano composition just like you do your “regular” photos.