Panoramic Photography is one of my favorite forms. I will briefly outline the workflow and intent of this image.
To start with – a brief equipment explanation.
With any luck this will change to a Nikon D700 ( feel free to purchase this and send it to me :-) and a new pano head to go with it. I could go into a multitude of reasons for this but that is another article altogether.
Ok – It all starts in the brain, I see something I think might be interesting to shoot, even if its not a pano subject, something, in this case a vast expanse of hi-way overpasses near downtown Dallas, catches my eye, and I start thinking about the space, and then thats when it can turn into a pano project.
To shooting – After having decided to stop and shoot this subject, or come back later time permitting, I use an iPhone to snap a pic and have the location tagged, to remind myself. I then wander around to a bit to find the best place and plop down my tripod. Pre-visualize what you want and try to work out
where everything will wind up once it is all stitched together.
With the camera, tripod, Nodal ninja and promote all in place and connected, I am ready to go. I have the Nodal Ninja setup with a de-tint ring that works with the above Camera and lens combo, which gives me about a 30% overlap between images. This is important for later when we need to stitch.
I work out exposure from spot metering the sky or bright area, then metering a dark area and decide
where to place my “middle exposure”. In the case of this setup I have a 19 brackets, 5 stops each, HDR pano. Thats 95 images once I am done. I may or may not use all of the bracketed images, I may decide to use only 3, but shooting more on location gives me the choice which way I want to go during processing, I may even decide not to use any HDR and just use my best exposure set.
At this point I shoot as quickly as possible, clouds move, trees blow in the wind, people are in constant motion. I try to minimize these by shooting as quickly as I can. It is unavoidable that some things will have to be dealt with later.
All the above might sound like a lot, and that it takes forever, really, thus far I have spent the most time deciding where to park, the whole process to this point is really only minutes.
So now we have some images on the card. It’s back to the Batcave to do some processing.
Now we bring our images into Aperture or Lightroom, your choice, I then usually go through and start testing which way I am going to go with HDR, tonemapping, or exposure fusion, or tone compressor, whatever method looks the best, or none at all. I grab a good image that represents the overall shot, light to dark, so as to get a good idea of the range. I process this a couple of different ways and then decide on the method to go with, then set up a batch process, where all the brackets are run through whichever method I have chosen. Now I have a set of 19 images that are ready to be stitched.
On to stitching, I use multiple programs but it generally works out to one that will work well for all I want to do with the image. PTGUI and Autopano Giga are excellent, Hugin is a fav of mine as well, and it is open-source as well as free. PTGUI and Huginn support “Little Planet” or 300 x 300 stereographic projection methods.
Bring in the images and align them with the tools available in the Pano package. The exact method differs a bit in each, but is dead easy if you shoot as outline above. I can’t stress enough how much better and faster stitching is when you have your gear setup properly. When you shoot handheld or just on a tripod it is more difficult to get good alignment. There are tools in the apps to allow you to rearrange and place images so they line up before you stitch. At this point it is a matter of letting the software do its thing. You may need to go back and make adjustments based on the results are, but as I said if tour gear is setup it should go well. I save out the pano image to 16 bit tiff, then bring that back into Aperture and do final cleanup and color correction. Sometimes you may find a small alignment problem or a blending issue that is too small to go back into the Pano app, and you can fix that in Photoshop.
At this point you should have a fabulous image. I did ramble quite a bit here but if you want a button by button tutorial there are plenty of those around, I wanted to write something a little more like I experience it, as if I was explaining it to you over a cup of coffee.