Panorama, Anyone?

Raven Looks

Panoramas are a really fun thing to do in photography, and there are a lot of ways to do them, and why or when to do them.

For me, the panorama is best for landscape, just because I do not tend to do portraits.  Bokeh panoramas are the brain child of Ryan Brenizer – he uses them specifically with his wedding photography.  (If you go to his website, scroll to the very, very bottom – there are some links for his methodology.)  Panos can have great DOF, or shallow – Brenizer specializes in shallow to isolate his couples in a landscape or cityscape.  Be aware, that a shallow DOF can work in a landscape, too, to isolate your subject.

Only one rule, in my opinion:  set your camera to manual, focus on your subject, set your technique (iso, f/stop, time), and then shoot.  And shoot.  And shoot.

Overlap those pictures!  Use the guidelines in the viewfinder to help you.  Go back and take some extras if you think you missed an area – but even then, you might.  Oh, well.

Below is a mosaic of all the images I took for the final panorama shot seen at the end of this rather long post – there were about 45 in all; here I reduced them to 1000 pixels for easy viewing from 16 meg images.  If you click on an image, it will pop into a slide show for you.

For landscapes, you can handhold your camera.  Bokeh panoramas can also be handheld.  There may be some distortion when you look up and click, or look down; the end result can be interesting or awful, but it can be cleaned up in post.  For longer exposures, though, the tripod is best.

HDR panoramas can be done a few ways.  Set up your camera to do the +, 0, – images and take them that way, or do three different panos at different exposures, and blend the final ones in your software.  You can also create different exposure levels in LR, such as +1, 0, -1 and then merge them.  I’ve been happy with the results all 3 ways, but find that the ones which require the least work (the last two) are less frustrating.  If you have to sort out a lot of bracketed photos to create the initial panos,  it can get a little crazy-making.  The point here is find what works for you.

For a bokeh panorama, put your area of interest into focus.  For Brenizer, the couple is in focus.  Use your largest f/stop, such a f1.8 or f1.4.  My suggestion is to take the couple first, or the main area of interest.  From there, keeping the same exposure, click away, developing some kind of grid pattern – like right to left, up and down.  Get more into the photos than you think you need because . . .

. . . because when you do a panorama, you can crop it into a lot of different pictures!  I like doing this to look at compositional elements, such as lines and color.

That said, here is what I do when I shoot:

  • Find the place I want to shoot.
  • Determine exposure factors.  Set everything up in manual mode.
  • Make sure that if handheld, I can avoid blur.  This means at least the reciprocal of your focal length (on a full frame 50mm, use at least 1/60; for a crop sensor, multiple your lens length by the crop factor, such as 1.5 crop would need about 1/80).
  • Shoot my main areas first.
  • Shoot around my main areas.

But, if you are out on a photo shoot and have a lot of pictures that are not a pano, you need to separate things.  I take a picture of my hand in between the panos – totally out of focus but it shows me a beginning and an end point.  Here is an example of my blurred-out hand.

My Out-of-Focus Hand

So, back to the laboratory to process those pictures.  This is my process, using LR and Photoshop.

  • Separate each photo series into a subdirectory of wherever I have put my photos on my computer.  I sometimes end up with “Pano 1,” “Pano 2,” etc.  If I have shot bracketed images, the subdirs become “Pano 1a,” “Pano 1b,” and so on.
  • If I have only a few pictures for a pano, I don’t reduce them in size.  However, 90 images of 16 megs can become an issue.  I usually reboot my computer when I begin processing, to clear its memory.  I like 2000 – 3000 pixels per image.
  • Using LR, I collect all the images I want in each subdir, using the Library.  From there I export them into a subdir of the subdir, naming the new subdir “2000” to show the size to which I have changed the image.  I use the rename function to include “x of y” to know how many images I am using in the pano.
  • Once done with this, in the Develop module in LR, I highlight all the resized images, right click on Edit, and Edit in Photoshop as a Panorama.  I take the default settings and wait.  If you haven’t done this before, find a video to follow, or just take each step at a time.  Let Photoshop work its magic – be patient – it can take some time depending on both your images sizes, number of images, and your computer’s setup.
  • When done, save, and name your new pano – it will also return it to LR for you.  If you cannot find it, use your Import when in the Library.
  • Make your adjustments and edits in LR, Photoshop, or whatever.  Merge them for HDRs if you want.

Unfinished Pano_

You see a gap in the above pano – the Fill in PS did not do a good job – so, I ended up cropping around it.  This next pano was pretty nice – no gaps.

Unfihished Pano 2

Cropping the above image produced some gaps – but those are easily filled in with PS or just cropped out.

Pano 2 - With Gaps

Panoramas are really quite easy – all you have to do is play a bit.  I am not a sophisticated post-processor, and certainly cannot do the magic a lot of people do in PS, but I can do a few things . . . like use the Lasso tool and Intelligent Fill to fix gaps . . .  Below are my final edits, some subtle, some not too subtle, of my final image.  To see each one individually, start the slideshow by clicking on an image.

Depending on what I want to do, I do my post processing in LR, PS, PPS9, Photomatix, and Nik.  Every now and then, something else will stray in.




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The Path Less Traveled

There is always something seen before that, seen again, is totally different.  Normally when I head out to Wildwood for an evening photo shoot and walk, I go toward the open spaces.  Last night, I decided to head toward the little creek that runs through a small oak wood, and went in both directions.  As I perambulated (isn’t that a great word?!), I looked ahead, and I looked back.  The sun was lowering in the western sky, and as I looked, the light was shifting and changing in beautiful ways.  The light was fun to capture as it bounced down the hillside and into the small canyon.  Click on an image to start a slide show.


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The Making of the Mushroom

Making of the Mushroom - Original

I am not really sure how to write a tutorial for a software program, but I think it is interesting to read about people’s processes in photography, whether it is in approaching a shot or processing it later on. Often, I find, when I look at pictures with a bit of distance from the time of the shoot, other perspectives emerge. These include composition, points of interest, how to process. Of course, tomorrow, the same picture could become very different!

Above is the original picture. I shot it using a Tamron 17-50mm on my Nikon D7000. This was taken in the fields surrounding the Paramount Ranch in Agoura, CA. The day was rather dull and overcast, the lighting was not spectacular, and it was in the middle of the day. Lots of things about that day made for very poor lighting conditions.

This next picture is my first crop of the picture. The biggest mushroom was the one I liked the best. The bit of grass to its right is an eyesore, and I guess now I would be more inclined to squash it out of the way or just uproot it. Still, software can work its magic to remove it. I tried it in LR and did not like the results, so used the eraser in the Layers portion of Perfect Photo Suite 9 (PPS9).

Making of the Mushroom - First Crop

Moving along, once I had removed the grass in Layers, I also used Clone Stamp to copy some texture from other areas in the image to hide where the grass had been removed a bit more. From there, I moved to Effects. In Effects, like many of the video-makers I have watched on the OnOne tutorial site, the first Effect I choose is Dynamic Contrast, using the Natural formulation. A few adjustments here and then.

Next, I used Color Enhancer twice; the first was Darken Sky, and the second was Increase Color. Layer Opacity for each was adjusted to my liking.

Moving from Color Enhancer, I used Shadows Darker, Midtone Contrast Boost, and Lighter, adjusting each. From there, I went to Texturizer, using Earth (which seemed the best, and certainly appropriate given the conditions under which mushrooms flourish!). Finally, Vignette and Big Softy with a few adjustments.

To me, the most important element of the post-processing was the use of the texture. The picture itself was okay, but not interesting to my eyes.

And below, the final result . . .


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The Beauty of Color

The natural world is endlessly variable and surprising in what it brings to our eyes.  In photography, much can be done to manipulate color, contrast, detail, and so on; this imparts mood and emotion vial tonality, shading, nuance.  Playing with post-processing software is time-consuming (because it becomes so fascinating at times) and can lead to fun and interesting results.  A palette of presets in software can be a blessing, or a curse.

Below are some pictures I took yesterday at the local botanical garden.  Some trees were alight with color, others were wonderfully subtle when backlit by the setting sun.

The first group is the same image, processed four ways.  I used Photomatix Pro, LR 5.7, and VSCO presets for LR.

These next images were of the colored leaves. Here in SoCal, colored leaves don’t exist in abundance! The leaves of native plants tend to be somewhat pale and small. Many are fragrant from resin, which makes for terrifying fires. The local botanical garden has brought in plants from different parts of the world, some of which put on a beautiful display in the fall. Lucky me to catch them!

At times I wish I lived someplace else. I miss the hardwood woods that change color in the fall and the rush of excitement when bulbs peep out through the snow. I don’t miss the snow, though – having lived near Buffalo, NY, I remember those winters, as I do the damp, miserable cold of Chicago in the winter. While SoCal is sometimes too monochrome, the beauty is there, too, if you look for it.

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I Like Pie!

Apple Pie! (1 of 2)

With both of our having the entire week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is good reason to celebrate! And, with a bunch of apples hanging around, pie is the perfect answer.

Apple pie is a very subjective thing. Undoubtedly a favorite – but favorites come in many varieties, just like apples. Time and energy play into it as well – homemade crust? peeled apples? bottom crust? crisp topping?

I am very partial to crisp toppings. In fact, I usually just make apple crisp as it requires no crust. I don’t peel the apples, either; the skins add something to the entire melange which I find quite good. Apple choice is important in many instances, but a variety of apples often makes for the best pies for flavor.

Spices are also critical to flavor. Your favorite may not be mine. I like my pie with lots of spice – not hot, though adding pepper when there is a lack of ginger gives a pie a bit of zip.

Here, then, is my recipe for this particular pie. Next one may vary. Enjoy – and happy holidays!

Apple Pie! (2 of 2)

Apple Pie & Crisp

6-8 apples, sliced, peeled if you want, and cut into bite size pieces
Zest of lemon – all of it if you want from the lemon you juice
1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 c. white sugar
2-3 T. tapioca
Fresh ginger, finely grated – 2-3 T.
Mace – 2-3 tsp.
Nutmeg – 1/2 grated (about 1 tsp.)
Cinnamon – 2-3 T. – the hotter the cinnamon, the less you should use
2-4 T. water

If making a pie, preheat oven to 425 F.  Mix all the stuff together and let sit while you create the pie crust and/or topping. Stir it now and then so it can juice up.

Pie Crust – one or two, pre-made or homemade.

Crisp Topping

Up front, I don’t measure anything. It is thrown together. Too wet, add more dry ingredients of your choice; too dry, add more melted butter.

1 stick butter, melted
1 c. oatmeal (more or less)
3/4 – 1 c. flour
1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar
Nuts (I used walnut halves)
Spices as used in the pie, and a bit of salt

Mix dry ingredients together. Pour in melted butter. Mix until rather crumbly but holds together if squeezed in your hand. Pat topping onto pie or crisp (or both – which is what I ended up making because I had oodles of apples).

Let’s Bake It!

For the pie, place pie in 425 F oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn to 350 F. Bake another 40-50 minutes. Baking the pie at a very high heat helps prevent the bottom crust from being soggy. Failure to turn down the oven after 10 minutes can be disastrous. Set that timer!

If you are making a crisp along with the pie, do not put the crisp in the oven until you turn down the temperature. If you are only making a crisp, bake it at 350 F for about 40-50 minutes.

Serve warm, cold, with ice cream. A good cup of coffee and pie is a great afternoon treat.

Enjoy! And happy holidays to everyone.

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Cleaning Up the Flamingo Pond

This is from a trip to the zoo! I love flamingos, but you have to admit, they are pretty messy birds. They live in large flocks, on muddy ground, and filter for food in muddy water. Additionally, they moult, leaves fall into the water, and the whole place can become rather rank.

Flamingo Pond Original (1 of 1)

Taking a picture of flamingos can be a bit of a challenge, but here the challenge was the messy pond. Above, you will find the original picture. And below, you will see the pond all shiny and clean, and cropped a bit. Click on any one of the three pictures below to play the slide show.

I used OnOne Photo Suite 9 to clean up the pond, add a texture layer, and finally a sun flare to modify or hide a rather rough patch where the big leaves on the lower left side were removed. Some final finishing in LR 5.7.

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I Needed a Change!

I have just written about how I am disgusted by becoming obsessed with photography.  What that means is that I don’t like getting so focused on one thing that everything else I like to do takes second, third, or some place down the road.  Life then becomes – for me – rather dull and quite uninteresting.  And way too focused.  It becomes a trap.

I don’t like thinking of only one thing at a time.  I like being in different areas of interest in my head, and in my daily life.  It keeps everything in balance.  Creativity is an energy which can become quite wonky if not properly directed.  It becomes a chore, and downright unpleasant when decisions are not being able to be made.  Stagnation then sets in.  And frustration.  And so on.

To break this up, this is what I have been doing these last few days:

Other Things to Do (5 of 11) Other Things to Do (3 of 11)Other Things to Do (10 of 11)

Other Things to Do (9 of 11)Other Things to Do (7 of 11)

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