A new storytelling technique: the Panotriptych™ photo expedition

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Telling a story has never been an easy task, especially when it comes to being at the forefront of the battle for the survival of endangered species. Using a unique photographic concept called the Panotriptych™, Philozoephy has definitely succeeded in capturing people dedicated to the protection of endangered species.
Rhino Pride Foundation - Panotriptych™ - South Africa
Francis & Eliana - Philozoephy
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Francis Assadi and I am a filmmaker, photographer and designer. I have over 20 years of experience as a director, cinematographer, producer and editor. The last 12 years have given me exceptional opportunities and experience as a TV Producer and Head of Media Production. I always have been an avid photographer and I am bringing together my skills and passion to this production. Eliana Escobedo is a communications specialist, production manager and social media expert. She has spent the last 20 years working either as a producer, production manager or communications specialist for media companies.
Can you briefly describe this project? What message do you want viewers to remember and act on?
With Extraordinary Conservationists we set out to bring more attention to the work of individuals dedicated to the protection of endangered species. To visually tell the stories of the conservationists, we have developed a photographic concept called the Panotriptych. The Panotriptych is a panorama image that is made up of three scenes and is designed to capture the essence of a subject matter in a three-act story. We spent a year researching, preparing and communicating with the conservationists before setting out on our Panotriptych Photo Expedition to southern Africa in last July. The Panotriptychs we created together with these Extraordinary Conservationists and their teams, depict key aspects of their story, their passion and work, in one single image.

``The Panotriptych is a panorama image that is made up of three scenes and is designed to capture the essence of a subject matter in a three-act story.``

What have been the best and worst moments of your trip in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa?
It’s been an incredible journey, meeting passionate individuals and their teams and witnessing first hand what challenges they face and how they go about their important work. These conservationists are all extremely busy and preoccupied with their work, so we did not have them for very long on shoot day. The shortage of time was one of the main pressures we faced. Equally problematic was the weather. On two of our shoots we were surprised by overcast skies and bad weather. We had a tight schedule of four days in each location and most of that was for location hunting, testing and preparation. A sun drenched Africa simply looks much better than an overcast one, unless maybe you shoot in black and white. For the Penguin Panotriptych, for example, we had to wait for a whole week for the sea to calm down and then, because of the rapidly changing tides and difficult access, we had only an hour and a half to pull the shots off. It worked out in the end, but it was certainly stressful. Ultimately, the moments on this expedition where overwhelmingly great and an unforgettable experience.
How did the Panotriptych™ concept come into your mind to make this project?
I was on a long flight to Afghanistan, playing with the pano feature of my iPhone, when I thought of doing something with panoramas. As head of the media production unit for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan I wanted to do something different and visually striking, but it also needed to have a humanitarian/political aspect to it, while simultaneously telling a story. Initially I was thinking of five linked scenes, but after a lot of experimenting, it was clear to me that three scenes would be ideal and given my filmmaking background, it made total sense to tell a story in three acts. So the panorama led to the triptych, which is why I always say that the Panotriptych is inspired by a panorama and defined by a triptych. I ended up creating nine special Panotriptychs in Afghanistan for the United Nations’ 70th Anniversary in 2015. Inspired by the success of the UN images and exhibitions, my wife and I, who are both passionate about the environment and the protection of endangered species, decided to apply the concept to create Extraordinary Conservationists.
What features of Autopano Giga do you like the most and why?
If you shoot your panorama correctly, meaning with a well aligned pano-gimbal setup and no parallax, then Autopano Giga always stitches flawlessly. In our case, since we had very little overlap between the three scenes, it was key for us to have the control points editor, which allowed us to assist the software in finding common objects in the overlap zones and stitch. The Mask feature also came in very handy on the overlap areas since it allows you to choose which part of the two shots you want to keep. Autopano Giga also does a great job in blending. During our prep and research phase we had tested several of the top pano-stitching softwares and Autopano Giga simply stood out from the pack.
Any tips for someone who would like to start using the Panotriptych™ technique?
The core of the Panotriptych concept pivots on what or whose story you want to tell. Knowing what you want to communicate and how, within three acts or scenes, is key and will take almost more time than the actual shoot. This concept is about storytelling rather than landscapes or cityscapes, so it’s about people, animals, a process or activity, motion, action and progression. The other thing to consider is that even though the end result is frozen due to them being photos, the scenes are live action and not posed as is often the case in fashion photography, for example. If the scenes are exterior shots, then natural lighting and the time of day become very important. If there is inconsistency in the skies, such as changing cloud patterns, then merging will become an issue, because of the large time interval between the shots. Under sunny conditions the position and angle of the sun become crucial, because of how the subject is lit and where the shadows will fall and how long they are, as they might go into the next shot, which will make merging an issue. So, preproduction for light in exterior shots is crucial. Depending on what final aspect ratio you choose, ours are 4:1, I would recommend taking additional left/right, sky and ground shots in order to fill empty corners due to the wide angle lens distortions. Also, because you need to research and understand your subject long before the shoot, pre-visualization and a storyboard will be very helpful.
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