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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


How to create large-scale panoramic images with intricate detail using your everyday DSLR

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GigaPan EPIC For
Automatic Gigapixel Shooting

Stephen Oachs makes his gigapixel images manually. If you'd prefer to have an automated way of creating these sorts of massive files, GigaPan makes a variety of robotic tools that will do all of the shooting for you and their GigaPan Stitch software will then take care of all of the stitching.

The GigaPan EPIC Pro model is designed for DSLRs. Mount the unit on your tripod, set the upper-left and lower-right corners, and the robot does the rest. The EPIC Pro costs $895. If you want to try automated gigapixel photography at a lower cost, the EPIC model handles most compact cameras and costs $299. Go to gigapan.com for details and to see if your camera is supported.
Cropping. If all went well, you're well hydrated and the dog got his exercise, you should have one big photo! However, it may look a little bowed around the edges. The more accurate you are in finding the nodal point during the shoot, the less parallax each frame will have and the straighter your final stitched edges will be. If you have a lot of bow around the edges, the more parallax you had, and you'll need to do some extra work to correct the final result.

If the bow is minimal, you can make a quick crop, then flatten, and your panorama is stitched and complete. However, if you have a lot of curvature, you may need to flatten the layers and use Edit > Transform tools (such as Warp and Perspective) to adjust for the curve. In my experience, I've learned to use these tools sparingly to keep the photo looking natural and to avoid degrading the quality of the stitched image.

Final Postprocessing. Now that you have a successful stitch and you've flattened the layers, you have a single and very large photograph. I typically apply a couple of last postprocessing steps at this point, such as sharpening and sometimes a slight contrast or levels adjustment. I have, from time to time, arrived at this final step, and once I see all the images combined, recognize I could have done a better job with the initial group RAW adjustments, and I start over by making those adjustments to my RAW files collectively, then redo the stitching steps.

Quality Versus Quantity. Often, when you see multi-row panoramic images around the Internet, they're many gigapixels in size as the result of the stitching of hundreds of photos. While this provides a fantastic game of "Where's Waldo?", it can be overkill and the images might not be ideally suited to printing.

Another challenge with producing high-quality multi-row panoramic images has to do with the amount of time it takes to pan through the scene and capture each image. If you estimate it takes three to five seconds per image to pan, let the vibration subside, then take the photo; a multi-row panorama of just 24 images takes nearly two minutes. Now imagine 60 images would take four to five minutes. While time is passing as you shoot, the clouds are moving, the wind is blowing, and the sun is on the move, shifting exposure and shadows. The amount of frames you choose for your panorama helps determine the type of conditions you need for a quality end result.

My goal with multi-row panoramas is to provide my viewers with bigger print size options, but with the same fine-art print quality you'd expect from a single frame. A multi-row panorama of just 24 images produces enough combined resolution for stunningly large prints 10 to 15 feet wide and larger.

If you're not into printing and want to capture the tiniest detail in the expanse of a scene, then shoot away! I've seen some amazing gigapixel panoramas with an amazing amount of fun details to seek and explore.

The founder of Aperture Academy, Stephen Oachs is a photographer, gallery owner and workshop leader. You can see more of his work and sign up for his workshops at www.apertureacademy.com. and www.stephenoachs.com.


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