Shooting Panoramas with a Holga

Panoramas in camera terminology are where you create an image of a scene which is wider than the camera can natively handle. In essence you take multiple photos of the scene, panning the camera as you go, and then either stitch them together manually or use software like Photoshop to do that. In our modern world, many cellphones have this technology built in, where they let you pan the scene and they automatically take photos and connect them together based on features in that scene.

Film photography with a manual wind lets you do this the old fashioned way. Normally, when you wind the film, you wind an ample distance so that the two photos in a row do not end up “on top of” each other. There is a blank buffer space between them.

But the only reason there is that blank space is that you wind the film far enough ahead. You rely on the numbers you see in the window, which let you create that space. If instead you wound only part-way, and then took another photo, they would overlap. If you did this several times in a row, while turning the camera between each press so that you were showing a different part of the scene, you would create a panorama.

See how they overlap on top of each other? Each new image falls on top of part of the previous one. It’s not exact, but it is happening. You could do this along an entire roll to create one long panorama of a scene. The film doesn’t care. It just keeps exposing as you go.

The challenge of course is moving the camera itself enough to get the next part of the scene – and also turning the dial enough to get to the next section of the film while leaving overlap. This is the fun of it – the trial and error to see what happens. It’ll rarely be perfect, but it’ll be a lot of fun.

If you have a cell phone with you, try doing it manually with the cell phone. See how far you have to turn to get the next part of the scene while still having a slight overlap. Get a sense of that framing.

With film, you don’t get the instant feedback, but the more you experiment with your camera, the more you get a sense of the scene it will capture. Remember with a Holga that you can’t go exactly by the viewfinder – the viewfinder is in a different location than the lens. You aren’t looking through the lens – you’re just looking through a square that is nearby. Still, find a landmark on the right hand side of your image. Then move the camera so that landmark is now on the far left. Click the film forward about 2/3rds of the way to the next spot. Then take another one.

Panoramas are just one style of fun image you can do with multiple exposures that overlap.

What other kinds of effects could you create by only partially advancing the film before you took your next photo?

Play with some ideas!