Moonlit Motorcoach Madness: Night 360 Panorama with Light Painting and Gyroscope Control

This full moon 360º night panorama includes light painting on two of the classic buses. I was able to find a camera position where there was no overlap between shots on the buses I planned to light paint. I knew the lighting on the bus inside the garage would be more tricky, so I did one take without lighting, and then 2 versions with light painting before rotating the camera around to make the rest of the shots. I also did a practice shot to make sure I could nail the light painting on the back of the bus on the trailer.

Shooting 360s at Night: Noise and ISO

The pano is composed of 4 shots around with a Canon 8-15mm f/4L fisheye at 8mm on a Canon EOS 60D. I also made a 5th shot to patch the ground (the “nadir” in panospeak). Each exposure was 90 seconds at f/8, ISO 800. Balancing the exposure time and ISO is important when shooting 360s at night. If the exposure times are too long, the stars may not line up well. By testing different exposure times and ISOs, I’ve found that I can usually shoot up to 90 seconds at ISO 800 without an objectionable amount of noise. This particular night was pushing the limits because there is more noise in long exposures when it’s hot outside — and it was about 70º at midnight when I made this pano!

Light Painting a 360 Pano

I used a Streamlight Stinger flashlight for the light painting on both buses. There was already moonlight on part of the bus in the garage. I went inside behind the blue wall (between the buses) and lit the front window and top of the bus. Then I walked back outside and lit the side of the bus at a shallow angle. The blend of moonlight and light painting was optimized using a layer mask in Photoshop before stitching the pano in PTGui Pro.

The bus on the back of the trailer was lit from over by the left corner of the blue building. The test shot looked a little bit too flat, so I chose a more shallow angle to show contrast and detail. If you zoom in on the bus, you’ll see a little kiss of moonlight on the top left corner. I love it when a light painting plan comes together.

Viewing the Pano on an iPad or iPhone

If you’re viewing the pano in a web browser, you’ll see the Flash version. If you have an iPad or iPhone, you’ll see at HTML5 version, and you can use your finger to move around inside the 360, and pinch to zoom. Unfortunately, the panopress plugin for WordPress does not show the navigation on the HTML version or allow gyroscope control.

If you’re on an iPad or iPhone, here’s a direct link to the HTML version of the pano that takes advantage of the gyroscope functionality. Hold your iPad or iPhone up and spin in a circle to move around in the panorama. It’s the next best thing to being there, and you won’t get any mosquito bites. Enjoy — and don’t get too dizzy!

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