Andrew York in concert: panorama

Andrew York, one of my favorite living guitarists and composers, and former member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, played in Austin last night (22 June 2013). He gave us a great show of pieces by himself and some selections from Bach’s fifth cello suite. The Bach was in cello tuning, which was a revelation to me—a much lower pitch than the versions normally heard on guitar.

Normally at classical guitar concerts I try to shoot as discreetly as possible (and as discretely as possible, not being very good at multiple exposures), releasing the shutter only during loud passages or during applause. But this was the first Austin Classical Guitar Society show to take place at GT Austin (the Church of Glad Tidings) and I wanted to capture something out of the ordinary to mark the occasion.

2013-06-22-4929 Panorama

My guest at the show (sitting with legs crossed at bottom left) told me that while I was shooting “I was getting looks” from someone in the crowd. Thankfully, that guy is not looking at me in the final picture . . .

Tech specs: 15 images (5 wide by 3 high) + 1 at a different exposure for the performer. Performer: ISO 3200, f/8, 1/60th. Crowd: ISO 3200, f/8, 1/5th. Then in post I upped the exposure on the crowd by another full stop. With a panorama full of people, even seated people, some of whom may even be sleeping, I don’t like to use too long of shutter times. Plus, as I was reminded after my first shot, on the 5D Mark III the “silent shutter” mode is negated when one uses the 2-second timer. So in the dark, my face red from mirror-slap embarrassment, I silently turned off the timer, and did my best to hand-press the shutter for each of the required exposures. The results turned out to be perfectly acceptable, in this case, but touching the camera during a 1/5th-second exposure could easily result in unwanted blur.

Also moved the camera 30º laterally instead of my normal 25º, in hopes of getting this semi-obnoxious business over with more quickly. (If only I had a sound-proof box to shoot from . . . or a mirrorless camera.) I think it saved me perhaps 3 frames . . .

Still pondering the blending on the final image—I am not sure about the way the white curtain looks directly behind Andrew York. Thinking it should be brighter.

BTS: Hamilton Pool panorama

Someone asked how this picture was assembled, so here’s a behind-the-scenes look.

To get detail in every part of the scene, multiple exposures are required. I used three:
—sky and daylight areas
—the dark areas under the lip
—transitional areas between the two extremes

I shot the daylight areas first: 11 frames shot with a 50mm lens. With the 50, I shift horizontally 25º between each frame in a given row, and 20º vertically between each row. This leaves about 35% of overlap between frames, making it easy for PTGui to find control points. One could pivot as much as 37.5º horizontally and still retain a tiny overlap area, but the program gets confused when dealing with such a small overlap area, and in many cases one wants the extra area because there may be few distinguishing features to identify as control points (e.g., in ceilings of buildings, where sprinkler heads, recessed lighting fixtures, etc., may not be grouped very closely together). So approx. 1/3 overlap seems a good rule of thumb to me.

Here’s the sky area stitched together. There’s a lot of black at the top because, given my starting point on the bottom and my strict 20º vertical shifts, I ended a row with a tiny sliver of sky not accounted for . . . and had to add an extra row on top.

hamilton-pool-sky-layerNext step was to cover the whole area with my “baseline” exposure: 8 wide by 5 high, or 40 images total.

hamilton-pool-baseline-exposure-layerThe final step was to shoot the darkest areas a little brighter. For this step, I could skip the bright areas of the scene altogether. In my very early panoramas, ca. 2009, I would shoot entire scenes with three exposures and 66% overlap, which led to a lot of superfluous frames. I’ve slowly become more economical in my technique. As you can see below, I didn’t save a lot of frames by omitting the sky . . . but I did save a few. (Four, to be exact.)

hamilton-pool-bright-layerThe total number of frames shot, then, was 87. 11 for the sky, 40 for the whole-scene layer, and 36 for the bright.

Then the three layers have to be blended in Photoshop. I dislike the look produced by HDR programs like Photomatix and others, for the most part. I prefer the “natural” look that comes from painting in the layer masks by hand.

hamilton-pool-layer-masksThe middle layer mask has a little grey area painted in to compensate for the bright area that showed up in that exposure. Not sure if that’s part of the coloration of the rock, or if it’s a photographic artifact . . . but I didn’t like it. I also fixed the bottom corners in the final version.

Hamilton Pool

West of Austin about 30 miles. Very nice place—I can’t say anything about it that can’t be found elsewhere online, except that this was my second time there, and I hope not my last visit.

Here’s a panorama of the whole pool, in 3 layers of exposures. I will post separately on my method for creating this pic.
2013-05-08-9880 Panorama-water

This is a shot of the underside of the rim, rotated 180º.
2013-05-08-0092 This pic was made from 4 exposures taken from 3 frames. The sky was hard to deal with, due to the time of day (11 minutes past noon) and the angle I was shooting from. Still not 100% happy with it, sub specie aeternitatis, but can accept it during this life . . .2013-05-08-0100-Edit-1200

Another multiple-exposure composite: for the pathway, ISO 100, f/11, 1/125th, and for the big rock, 1/20th sec.2013-05-08-0105-Edit

The path to the pool is beautiful and sometimes steep. Could be dangerous for someone blindfolded or drunk.2013-05-08-0110-Edit

The restroom building next to the parking lot.2013-05-08-0123 This last pic shows what happens to the flowers when you invert the Curves line for the A and B channels in LAB mode, and then mask off the rest of the picture.2013-05-08-0123-Edit-2

Family portrait with goat

Did some family photos for friends in Bastrop, Texas, last year. This was the last location on our list. We were doing just fine until Carmelita the goat trotted into the pic—then we were doing great.


This was lit with an Einstein 640 in a Softlighter II. ISO 125, f/8, 1/160th sec. On a tripod, so I would be able to swap out faces between frames if need be. Manual focus, so I didn’t have to worry about Carmelita throwing off the AF.

Precision Camera in Austin

Precision Camera panoramaFor many years I have been getting almost all of my prints made at Precision Camera. I think they are the only camera store left in Austin. They offer a good balance between high quality and low price. This is their new location on Anderson Lane just west of Burnet Road. Much bigger than the old place at 38th and Lamar.

I never remember to move my tripod bag out of these 180º panoramas . . .

This is 36 images (9 across by 4 high) done with a 50mm lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/8th sec.