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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Capture The Gigascape


The GigaPan EPIC Pro creates the ultimate combination of camera technique and computer power for incredibly large, high-res images

This Article Features Photo Zoom
The GigaPan EPIC Pro robot facilitates the capture process for expanded depth of field because it can repeat the same matrix of images as many times as you wish. When I can't capture the entire depth of a subject in a single image because I'm using either a telephoto lens or a macro lens, I treat each series of images as a single slice of a multiple-focus composite, making sure that the sharp focus of each slice overlaps the sharp focus area of the previous slice to avoid out-of-focus bands in the final product. In this case, I assemble each slice (that is, each pass of the GigaPan) individually into a composite image and then assemble the set of slices in Helicon Focus or CS5 software to eliminate all out-of-focus areas. When it all works, the result is an image of incredible resolution and depth of field that can be printed extremely large to cover an entire wall.

A stitched together panorama with this much detail can provide interesting ways to explore an image. GigaPan has a website for users to post and share images (www.gigapan.org), and you can browse through numerous detailed panoramas from across the world. This image showcases the HDR possibilities of the system.

The "No Free Lunch" Clause
If you've been to my seminars, you know I'm fond of the term "No free lunch" to represent all the things that are imperfect about the photographic process. It applies here, big time. First, you must work in a concentrated, methodical way to achieve success with the GigaPan, especially when you expand into areas such as HDR and extended depth of field. Second, you must make sure that nothing in your entire range of capture moves during all of the sequences. Since that's usually not possible outside of the studio, be prepared to photograph (at exactly the same focal length of the original) individual areas or subjects within the scene and drop them into the final image later. Think about it. You can have fun with this aspect.

There are a few add-ons you'll need if you're going to do this in a serious way. The mounting platform that currently comes with the GigaPan isn't quite up to the task. Order the GigaPan Clamp Bar from Really Right Stuff to provide a more stable base for a big camera/lens combo. And since the robot itself is a fairly large piece of gear, it's helpful to carry it in its own case along with an extra battery and a lens and camera. Finally, when it gets to the processing, you're going to need up-to-date software and hardware to manage and store all those gigs.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of giga-photography is finding a worthy subject. A boring picture doesn't improve with size and detail! So before you engage in GigaPanning, get out there and mine for subjects that are pure gold.

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