My most difficult pano, and my longest pano  

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DrSlony
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My most difficult pano, and my longest pano

by DrSlony » Fri Sep 05, 2008 12:53 am

1- My hardest pano. I shot his one during an all-night fire in the forest. About 2 hours. I don't remember what ISO I used, but most of the shots were around 8 seconds. Although it looks like I'm far from the fire, I was actually very close, perhaps a meter from the burning log. I couldn't move any further back because those people were also sitting on logs about 1m from me, i tried to stay in the center. Anyone who shot a night pano out in the country knows the great exposure differences that have to be dealt with. I mean in a city its easier since everything is illuminated by bright man-made lamps, but farther away from a city theres a problem: bright city lights in the distance, very bright moon overhead, very dark ground and sky. Here the situation looked more like this: very bright fire, very bright moon )but small and hidden behind the treeline at first), relatively bright faces, dark ground near me, black everything farther away. So I had to deal with a long exposure, using an 18mm lens (around 33 images needed for 360°x180° coverage), and a huge dynamic range. Tonemapping out of the question because of the long exposures. The biggest problem, however, was the wind and smoke. I spent about 2 hours standing there and most of the time the smoke was blowing at me. I couldn't shoot this pano from the other side of the fireplace because the people would be barely visible. I waited around 20 minutes just to make the 4 shots needed for the rising sparks, since each shot had to have the wind blowing them in the same direction. I shot extra photos of just the people too. This is what I came up with, the best I could do under those conditions with a non-fisheye lens.

2- My longest pano. The location is my out-of-town garden, about 8km from the nearest city lights. I started shooting at midnight, and finished at 04h10, 2 liters of tea and one energy drink later. 18mm lens, I don't have a fisheye. ISO400 I think. Problems: great exposure differences (moon vs everything else), clouds, moisture. Luckily there was no wind at ground level, although the clouds up there were moving quite fast. Each exposure was about 3 to 4 minutes. First I shot the ground. I started off by waiting for the clouds to look like they weren't going to cover the full moon. When it looked like the opportunity arose, I shot for 3 minutes. If some clouds happened to cover the moon (the only source of light there) then I shot a little longer, up to 4 minutes. The ground was easy to shoot thanks to there being no wind at all, and long exposures illuminated by moonlight are spectacular! Next the horizon and sky. I was afraid that I would need to shoot one row exposed for the ground below the horizon and another for the sky about it, but luckily only one row was necessary - the dynamic range of the horizon scene wasn't too big. Also 3-4 minutes. Here a problem arose I wasnt aware of at first. By now about an hour passed if not more, and during that time the sky changed. When I started shooting the horizon there were irregular cloud patches moving across the sky. After several shots the sky was completely clear, so I had to either make this border between cloudy and cloudless shots invisible in postprocessing, or wait for a cloud to appear and start shooting when it would not touch the right side of the photo, just move into the left, making an authentic gradient change from cloudy to cloudless. Of course the change in wind direction over time didnt help. Luckily it was a small change. The sky shots were most difficult. Same problem as with the horizon shots, except this time I had to match cloud cover in the whole photo, not just half a photo. One more problem arose: the moon. When I started shooting, it was just above the horizon. By now it was quite high in the sky and about 50 degrees further away. Well there was nothing I could do about that. Reshooting the other photos was out of the question since that wouldnt help - I would need an hour to reshoot, the moon would move. Big postprocessing problems. Ah, one more very big problem: moisture. Already while shooting the ground moisture started gathering on my lens. By the time I was shooting the horizon, moisture was a huge problem - literally a second after I wiped it off, it reformed on the lens. That is why some of the shots are blurry. There was nothing I could do about it using the things I had with me. Next time I will try fighting it.... somehow.... any ideas? No electricity out there, and whatever I use, it must last around 4 hours. I saw some homemade projects for lens warmers that work by heating up resistors, used in astrophotography, dont know if it will last for 4 hours, perhaps if I use several D cells in parallel. Cleaning my lens while shooting made it change its focal length from 18mm eventually all the way to 28mm, I realized this only once I loaded the photos into APP. Luckily there still was some coverage at 28mm, unfortunately very small image overlap meant the borders were more visible. I'm now making a shutter-release cable that wont require me holding the button pushed while shooting on Bulb mode, but while I was there I had to stand next to the camera, shutter release cable pushbutton in one hand, cup of tea in the other, flashlight in my jeans pocket, cellphone timing 3 minutes in the jacket's pocket :D I saw a nice intervalometer but it was for around 150EUR, so I'm making my own one now as well using a 555 timer. Problem is that the electrolytic capacitors wont keep the same charge over time as they change temperature, so if the time drifts too much I suppose I'll have to dish out money. Anyone know a good intervalometer? A digital display would be nice, but not necessary, small analog knobs will do. I had a lot of postprocessing to do: try to mask the moisture on the lens (local contrast helped a bit), try to even out the clouds (clone, heal), remove the several moons, even out the clouds brightness differences caused by the moving moon (duplicate and blur layers using different blending modes to even out the sky), recreate a new, single, believable moon that does have some details and doesnt look like a completely blown-out blob (from a separate moon-only shot), even out blending borders (clone, heal, other things as needed), patch nadir and even out zenith (smartblend sometimes makes a visibe pinch in the zenith, but not always). I had to set color correction to "None" in APP, with it set to LDR I actually had much more trouble with the borders. I rendered using smartblend, not only because it doesnt produce ghosting, but because it handled blending the borders (mostly color differences, not that much luminosity) a hundred time better than multiband. I actually wanted to use multiband on this pano since multiband makes the border transitions smoother (smartblend is more sharp), but multiband did very poorly with evening out the color differences around image borders. This was the best I could do with that setup.

Things learned:
1- high resolution night panos involving the sky or moving objects (moon, fire, plants if theres a wind blowing, people, etc) are impossible.
2- use a fisheye lens. Lower resolution, but at least it will take much less time and decrease problems with moving things and smaller chance of moisture forming.
3- moisture is a huge problem if shooting takes a long time. A lens heater for long shooting sessions, hair blow drier for shorter sessions where electricity is available, or any other viable solution is mandatory.
4- a shutter release cable for bulb mode is a big help, then you have 2 hands free so you can also eat while drinking tea.
5- remember to check focal length after wiping off moisture if it does form.
6- moonlight photos are absolutely beautiful if the above points are met. With a long enough exposure, they can look like daylight photos but with a much more beautiful sky and a strange, magical light, and shadows look different to daylight shadows.
7- long exposures = hot pixels. If you have an intervalometer, it is better shoot the same pov (point-of-view) 12 times at 15 seconds each instead of one long 3 minute shot. That way you get less noise and *no* hot pixels. Hopefully with APP-2 we will be able to stack exposures and use each complete photo in the stack to smooth out the pov. That way even high iso shots will appear relatively noise-free.

The rest are normal photos, shot after 04h10, because apparently standing for 4 hours wasn't enough.













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by mgg310 » Fri Sep 05, 2008 4:39 am

Wow! I love the camp fire pano, and greatly admire the committment you made to getting a good result. I was a little puzzled why the stars look blue - at least they look blue on my system using the FSP viewer.
I'm afraid the magic of the moonlit garden eludes me - each to his own!
Mike.
Panasonic DMC-G1. 14-45 (28-90 35mm equiv); 45-200 (90-400 35mm equiv); Panosaurus.

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by fma38 » Fri Sep 05, 2008 4:59 pm

Really amazing! Your night shots are great! I'm puzzled how you obtained so nice colors...

Very good work.
Frédéric

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DrSlony
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by DrSlony » Fri Sep 05, 2008 5:54 pm

Actually I think the two panoramas are failures because in 1 so little is visible, and in 2 I dont like how the sky still has a cloudy and a non-cloudy part, and how some of the ground shots are blurry because of the moisture. I posted them and wrote that long description so people who haven't yet tried such 'extreme' situations will know what to look out for and not ruin the job because of using the wrong equipment, or not having enough equipment (e.g. lens heater or dryer).

They both have great potential.
If I had a fisheye for the first pano I would have had enough time to bracket more and i would have had less problems with the fire because I would have been able to capture the whole fire and sparks in one shot. But there I had to make 6 shots at 18mm for the sparks (I ended up just using 4) and also about 4 shots for the fire. Having the smoke blow in my eyes the whole time didn't help either.
If I had a fisheye for the second pano then the sky would have been even and I wouldn't have had to spend over 4 hours there. I still would have had to fix the moon, since it would make a smudge over 3-4 minutes of exposure, but there would be much less trouble, much less **** in = **** out ;]
In fact if I wanted a high resolution pano, I could have shot the ground using a normal wide angle lens, since there was no wind (only moisture), and the sky with a fisheye. Then render two panoramas, one with the hi-res ground, the other with the low-res (fisheye) sky. The sky doesn't have any details so I could scale it up in postprocessing, but I would have used the high-resolution ground shots from a normal wide angle lens.

I hope I can save some people time in the future with this post and these technically buggy panoramas :]

fma38 wrote:I'm puzzled how you obtained so nice colors...

Full moon my friend! And I was amazed how much life there is after midnight during a full moon, the sunflowers and other plants were crawling with moths, snails, and other insects, and there were several bats around! I can very highly recommend you try midnight panos away from city lights!

The last photo shows the chair I spent probably several hours in while waiting for midnight, waiting for the moon to rise above the trees, having delicious rum tea :]

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by beeloba » Fri Sep 05, 2008 10:51 pm

What i love the most are the flowers… daylight or night-light :cool::rolleyes: :lol:
Simply great…

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by taf » Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:02 pm

I love the heart !!!
Look. There's a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up !

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by BeeZed » Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:11 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. It was great to read the descriptions, and then scroll down for the images. The moonlight is amazing. I must try it. I might even shoot a panorama at first.

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by DrSlony » Sat Sep 13, 2008 12:05 am

Campfire pano
[Flash] [QTVR embedded] [QTVR direct]

Garden pano
[Flash] [QTVR embedded] [QTVR direct]


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