400-megapixel image of New Sweden Evangelical Lutheran Church

New Sweden Evangelical Lutheran Church

I’ve been experimenting a little bit with shooting panoramas with my 70-200mm lens, zoomed in to 200mm. The black and white church image above was taken in this manner, requiring 48 shots to obtain complete coverage of the area. (The area extends somewhat on all sides of the above crop.) The same shot done with a 50mm lens takes 12 shots—which is what one might expect, I suppose. 200/50 = 48/12.

It’s black and white because the day was overcast and ugly, and the color version merely serves to underline just how ugly. The final image, as shown above, measures 20,068 pixels square, or about 402 megapixels. But really I’m just glad that it stitched as well as it did. There’s only one spot I could see where it doesn’t seamlessly line up, but it is only visible at the largest size. And it’s on the central roofline, too—not in the trees or some obscure place.


Technical Concerns
The reason I’m surprised at the stitching’s not being worse is that I was just guessing as to the “nodal point” of the camera/lens apparatus. To make panoramas that stitch properly, one has to position the camera so that the optical center of the whole rig is placed directly above the vertical axis of the tripod, both left-to-right and also forward-to-back. It’s relatively easy to eyeball the left-to-right positioning—one can see whether the lens is over the tripod’s center. But determining the forward-to-back positioning is a matter of trial and error and close observation. You have to pan the camera back and forth with two fixed objects in view, one near and one far. When you pan left and right you observe the amount of parallax that occurs between the two objects. If they stay in the same place relative to each other, you have no parallax and you have found the right front-to-back positioning for that camera and lens and focal length. Problem is that zoomed in at 200mm, one can only pan about 7.5º before the objects leave the frame . . . and I can’t tell how much parallax is happening. Have only tried this in my apartment so far, though—maybe I need to go outside.

At any rate, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to get good results without buying more equipment. I was planning on buying the Really Right Stuff PG-02 VA with B2 LR II clamp, which is the newer and beefier version of their CRD rail (mine has a panning clamp on it). I thought I would have to hang the camera off the back of the vertical component, as with the standard 3-rail panoramic setup—which, with the 70-200, is too heavy for the old-skool panning clamp on my existing vertical rail—but as it happens, I seem to be able to clamp the 70-200 right into my existing vertical rail and obtain acceptable results. When I get my 600mm lens, I’ll revisit this question . . .


Here’s what the individual shots look like arranged in a grid. I assume that the misalignment of some of the pieces results from my guessing at the positioning of the camera, but don’t know for sure.


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.

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

St. Louis Cathedral ceiling panorama (New Orleans)

A certain type of “artist” (in quotes because I’m not sure straight photography is an art) would not post this picture, because it wasn’t done correctly. The bottom corners were left unphotographed during the panoramic process, and had to be filled in in Photoshop with warped parts of the top corners. The bottom right corner is particularly ugly.

I’m not yet proud enough to suppress an image (or, at least this image) for such an imperfection. Like the medieval craftsman, I’m happy to have those imperfections as mementos of my own imperfections and of the inferiority of all art to the creations of the supreme Creator. Then there’s the practical difficulty . . . I can’t just pop back over to New Orleans to try again . . . Continue reading

New Orleans: Hotel Monteleone panorama

I just got back from four days in New Orleans (and two days on the road), and had the pleasant experience of staying at the beautiful and very hospitably run Hotel Monteleone.

Hotel Monteleone

(ISO 500, f/9, 1/80 – 1/20 sec.)

The facade faces Royal Street, a one-way affair that is about three car-widths wide (i.e., when the cars’ sides are touching each other). No possibility of backing up far enough to capture this much of the structure with a wide-angle lens, at least not without the kind of distortion that comes from a fisheye lens. So I used my favorite lens for panoramas—the Canon 50mm f/1.4. This is wide enough to allow the capture of a large area in relatively few repositionings of the camera, but long enough that one obtains a lot more detail in the final image than if the shot had been captured with a single wide-angle frame.

Uncropped, unwarped frame from the center of the Hotel Monteleone panoramaHere is an uncropped, unwarped frame from the center of the panorama.

Another point perhaps of technical interest is that there are three different exposures in the final image. The top area was shot at 1/80th sec. But the surrounding buildings made the bottom part of the facade considerably darker, so the shots in this area were done at 1/40th sec. The awning further darkened the area beneath itself, so a final shot of just that area was done at 1/20th sec., and blended into the final stitched panorama using Photoshop. I prefer this method to HDR, which I think looks too funky too often. Plus, every time I try to make a tasteful HDR photo, it ends up looking like the HDR shots I don’t like.

Back to the question of distortion: Any shot like this is going to have its share of distortion, especially evident in the smaller platforms jutting out above the two middle flags. But it looks good enough, and the panoramic technique gives a unique view that can’t be obtained through other means.

I wish I had reshot the bottom left image when no people were there. I thought it would be good to include the man crossing the street, but didn’t reckon on his being distorted so as to appear twice as big as the people near the awning.

I also didn’t reckon that I would lose my Powershot S95 on this trip. I may have left it somewhere, as I don’t think there are any thieves among the folks working at the Monteleone. But hey, if you’re reading, and you come across it . . . drop me an e-mail! I’d be glad not to have to buy a new camera.