Sutro Baths 360 Night Panorama in the Fog

This 360 night panorama of the Sutro Baths in San Francisco was challenging to shoot and stitch. The full moon was nowhere to be seen in the fog. Bright street lamps and lights from the Cliff House and Louis' Diner created a high contrast situation. The waves were moving during the long exposures, and the ocean mist was getting on my lens.

I shot 4 images around and 1 down using a Nodal Ninja R1 with an 8-15mm fisheye on a Canon 6D. I did a 5 image bracket at each camera position, 1 stop apart - from 4 seconds to 1 minute at f/8, ISO 800. If the mist wasn't so bad, an additional bright exposure would have been useful.

After optimizing the photos for HDR in Lightroom, I merged each set of files into a 32-bit tif in Photoshop. The tone of the resulting images looked good, but I didn't like how Photoshop handled the street lights.

Next I tried Exposure Fusion in Photomatix. The street lights looked way better, but quite a bit of noise was introduced in the sky. I switched my Photomatix settings to Tone Mapping, and eventually found a natural looking setting that didn't add noise. Then I batch processed the 5 sets of images for the panorama.

Next, I switched to PTGui Pro for stitching. Everything went together quite easily, but the stitching engine left a seam along the moving waves. I output the PTGui file as layers, and blended them in Photoshop. This produced much better results.

After some more wave cleanup on layer masks in Photoshop, there was still some additional work to do on the ground. Patching the tripod area on 360 panos is my Myth of Sissyphus -- instead of moving the rock up the hill, I'm healing rocks on the ground over and over.

Once the ground looked OK, I selectively sharpened the foreground, in order to prevent additional noise from being added to the sky. Photoshop and Lightroom aren't 360 aware, so sharpening requires a few extra steps to prevent unsightly seam lines: I extended the canvas of the pano, duplicated and expanded the image, sharpened, and then cropped back to actual size.

Finally, the image went into the display software, krpano. After a few adjustments to the code, the pano files were uploaded. I hope these HDR 360 night panorama workflow notes are helpful, and that you enjoy seeing the Sutro Baths on a foggy night.


360 Panorama Portfolio Update

All of the virtual tours on my 360 Panorama page have been updated with a new look. You'll see night photos of car and airplane junkyards, a weird hotel, abandoned buildings, old neon signs, and Nevada's amazing International Car Forest.

If you're viewing the panoramas on a desktop, you'll fly down into the scene. Then hold down your mouse button and take a look around! The arrows or thumbnails will take you to the next panorama. You can also right click and select Little Planet View to transform the look of each pano.

If you're viewing the tours on an iPhone or iPad, hit the gyroscope button and then move your device to explore the pano. Works great with an iPad in an office chair.

Gyroscope for iPhone or Ipad 360s

I hope you enjoy the new, smoother, more responsive 360 panorama viewing experience!


Valley Junkyard 360 Night Panorama: Windshields, weeds, and moonlight

The full moon shines through racks full of windshields, and spring rains have created a junkyard weed garden. Fly on in to the interactive version of this 360 night panorama. Follow the arrows or use the thumbnails to tour the rest of this amazing junkyard.


Valley Junkyard Night Photography Post-Processing Comparison

The four images above were shot during the Valley Junkyard Night Photography Workshop. I've been experimenting with luminosity masks in Photoshop to control tone and color in my night photography post-processing. Luminosity masks are simply saved selections that are based on specific tonal ranges.

While luminosity masks are easy enough to generate and play using Photoshop Actions, Tony Kuyper's TKActions Panel has a lot of time-saving features. Sean Bagshaw offers video tutorials on working with luminosity masks and the TKPanel. Jimmy McIntyre has a more basic set of luminosity mask actions for free, and also offers video tutorials.

The biggest takeaway from reviewing these tools for night photography post-processing has been the ability to lift the 3/4 tones without killing contrast. In the past, I've often used the Photoshop Blend If sliders on a Curves layer with hand-painted masks. Luminosity Masks are faster to generate, and offer more control when pulling up and enhancing shadow details.

Below are side-by-side comparisons of the RAW file after basic adjustments, and the finished Photoshop file after post-processing. The differences can be subtle, but the subtle differences are what can make a good picture even better.


Valley Junkyard night photography: Piles of steering wheels, old Fords, and a pink Buick in the weeds

Out in the weeds, a bad case of steering wheel overindulgence

I saw this pile of steering columns in the daytime, and returned to shoot the scene under the moonlight. Five shots were layered for 20 minute star trails. Each exposure was 4 minutes at f/8, ISO 200. The 14mm focal length has an interesting effect on the star trails.

Incongruous Ford Mustang in section 34

A Mustang sits with some older Ford cousins along the back wall of the Valley Junkyard. This shot is a single 12 minute exposure at f/11, ISO 200. 16mm focal length. The lighting is a mix of full moonlight and distant industrial lighting.

Pink Century with portholes in pastels 

Who can resist a pink Buick Century sitting in a pile of weeds. Industrial lighting mixes with moonlight to turn the sky various shades of purple and orange, while the moon lights the right side of the frame. Two exposures were layered for 15 minute star trails. Each shot was 7.5 minutes at f/9.5, ISO 200. 14mm focal length.


WRLD: Time travel, ESP, giant ants, great cinema, weird cartoons, road trips, occupied Japan, sun trails, San Francisco, and free funk


Future Cops
A really weird, so-bad-it's good, early 90's Hong Kong movie based on the Street Fighter video game. Worth watching just for the opening scene. Featuring Andy Lau, Simon Yam, and Jacky Cheung.

Beyond the Black Rainbow
"The movie looks like it was lit by lava lamps, scored on Moog synthesizers, written between bong hits and acted underwater. None of this is meant as praise." - Miami Herald

Phase IV [Amazon, Netflix]
Scientists engage in a battle of wits with some super smart ants. Unfortunately this isn't currently available streaming. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of this film is fun, and sometimes available on YouTube.

Side by Side [Amazon, Netflix]
A fascinating documentary on the motion picture industry's transition from film to digital. Featuring interviews with David Fincher, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Soderbergh. Highly recommended.

Life Itself [Amazon, Netflix]
Most of us just would have given up and died. Watch the difficult end to Roger Ebert's interesting life in this painful, intense documentary.  The vintage footage of Siskel and Ebert arguing on and off camera is amazing. The love of cinema shines through the hubris at times. This one stayed with me for weeks after viewing.


The Criterion Channel on Hulu Plus

For $7.99 per month, there are 900+ Criterion Collection movies available streaming on Hulu with no commercials. Kurosawa. Fassbinder. Ozu. Fellini. Antonioni. Godard. The best entertainment and art education value that you can buy anywhere.



Powr Mastrs 1 - C.F.
"It reads like the dream of someone who spent all night copying art out of the Dungeons and Dragons manuals while watching Yellow Submarine over and over." Volume 1 is out of print, and due to be reprinted in December of 2015. Very unique. Worth seeking out.

Drive - Andrew Bush
Bush took the passenger seat out of his car and replaced it with a tripod. He put a flash in the back seat, and photographed people driving next to him in Southern California. I've always enjoyed seeing this work online. Seeing the whole project in book form is a treat.

The Dog of the South - Charles Portis
A young guy's wife runs off with her ex. He tracks them to Mexico in a crazy road trip in a 1963 Buick. A cast of eccentrics populates this hilarious, meandering journey. Couldn't put this one down. Great fun.

Chewing Gum and Chocolate - Shomei Tomatsu
An amazing body of work documenting occupied Japan. The essays are excellent, too. On many best photo book lists for 2014, including mine. Highly recommended.

Asylum of the Birds - Roger Ballen
Ballen keeps evolving. He started as a photographer, moved into a mix of photography and installation, and this book pushes the work even further away from straight photography. A unique, singular, dark vision.

Megahex - Simon Hanselmann
Well, this ain't Three's Company. A stoned witch, her cat boyfriend, and their often pranked owl roommate have some every day adventures. Sometimes Werewolf Jones shows up and things get really out of hand. Beneath the demented, gross, and weird situation comedy are some deeper truths about relationships that may get under your skin.

Sunburn - Chris McCaw
McCaw uses large hand-built view cameras with aerial photography lenses to take extremely long exposures of the sun on paper negatives. The results are often astonishing. If you're into long exposure photography, this book is essential.

South of Market - Janet Delaney
Large format portraits of San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood in the 70's and 80's, accompanied by short interviews. A wonderful document of a neighborhood that was about to undergo some dramatic socio-economic changes. This work is on view at the de Young in San Francisco until July 19, 2015. Highly recommended for those interested in Bay Area culture and history.



RPM OOP - An amazing blog that features high quality transfers of out of print jazz, free jazz, and free funk records. Don't know where to start? Check out James Blood Ulmer's Tales of Captain Black featuring Ornette Coleman. There are a lot of gems on this wonderful site.

75 Dollar Bill - What if you took Mauritanian music from the Sahara, mixed it with the raw boogie of Hound Dog Taylor, and then added a sprinkle of jazz and improv influences? Maybe some Velvets and No Wave, too. 75 Dollar Bill's Wooden Bag blends all of this stuff up into a great album that'll make you nod your head and stomp your feet.


The Valley Junkyard Night Photography and Light Painting Workshop was a lot of fun. Below is a little planet time-lapse video of the photographers who attended. About 60 360º stills were shot with a Ricoh Theta, one every 5 seconds. The resulting images were processed in Lightroom and output as TIFF files. The TIFFs were batch converted to little planets in PTGui Pro. The little planets were brought into Photoshop, where the animation was created and timing adjusted. This one looks best in HD full screen.


Pier 24: Secondhand Photography Exhibit Time-Lapse

Pier 24 Photography presents Secondhand, an exhibition featuring artists who build repositories of found images. Amongst the treasures in the 1000 pictures on display, there is a room featuring every photo in Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan's book Evidence. The exhibit also features a large room showcasing work collected by Erik Kessels in the In Almost Every Picture series, including Shooting Gallery, Black Dog, and a slide show of Fred and Valerie.

The exhibition runs through May and is free.
Make your appointment here:

The time-lapse was shot with a GoPro Hero 4 Silver on a simple rotary clamp mount, and edited using Lightroom 5, QuickTime 7, and iMovie 10. The music is by Group Doueh.