Night photography: 360 pano of Mojave Desert mining ruins

360 night panorama of Mojave Desert mining ruins -- by Joe Reifer

360 night panorama of Mojave Desert mining ruins -- by Joe Reifer

The lights on the distant horizon to the left are the Mojave Air and Space Port. The red lights in the far distance on the right are windmills on the Mojave side of the Tehachapis. An almost full moon is obscured by clouds to the left of center. The extensive tailings pile in the foreground appears to be two piles due to the mining ruins being the center point of the panorama (see the 360 interactive version below).

This was my first 360 night panorama shoot in the desert. I was able to make 23 panoramas in 8 hours of shooting at this location. The mining ruins are extensive and required a lot of hiking. I’m still processing the results, but I’ve already learned a lot about choosing a good camera position for panoramas. Finding a place to stand where you have an interesting subject in all directions is really challenging. A 12mm circular fisheye lens on a full frame camera is extremely wide compared to my favorite wide angle focal lengths of 18mm, 21mm, and 24mm.

Technical details: The image is composed of 4 shots with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 12mm on a Canon 5D Mark II. When mounted vertically, this lens has over a 180 degree field of view. The exposure time for each image was 2 minutes at f/8, ISO 800. The ISO was boosted to keep the exposures short enough to show cloud definition, to use the optimum aperture setting for sharpness, and to keep star and moon movement minimal for panorama stitching. Noise was not a big issue because the temperature was in the 40′s. I used a Nodal Ninja R1 panohead and the initial results for long exposures look good. The images were processed in Lightroom and then stitched with PTGui. The 360 interactive was created using Pano2VR.

2 thoughts on “Night photography: 360 pano of Mojave Desert mining ruins”

  1. Wow. This turned out great Joe. I can imagine that stitching night exposures for a 360 is kind of complex. PTGui looks like a can of worms. I am surprised to see that the R1 mounts the camera with a lens ring and not by attaching it the the body’s tripod threads. Results look great, but I don’t see the advantage.

    1. Thanks JW! PTGui has a lot of advanced features, but the basics are pretty reasonable. The R1 lens mounting system makes shooting single row panos really easy because the no parallax point of the lens is perfectly centered over the tripod even if the lens is tilted up or down relative to the horizon.

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