360 night tour of an abandoned cement plant

A full moon 360 from up on the catwalk at the abandoned cement plant

A full moon 360 from up on the catwalk at the abandoned cement plant

Long exposures at night with moving clouds can make stitching 360 panoramas difficult. The 6 panos in virtual tour below were shot some time ago. Over the last 6 months I’ve finally developed a reasonably efficient post-processing technique to get the clouds to stitch smoothly. I’ve also upgraded my pano player software to Pano2VR Pro, which makes building a virtual tour really fast. I’ll be adding 1-2 more panos to the tour over the next few weeks, and then creating a separate tour for another part of the facility. In a regular web browser, click the button on the bottom right to go full screen. The virtual tour also works on on iPad or iPhone. Enjoy the panos!

The Christmas Card Filter: Please Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

When I was a kid, my Mom would get Christmas cards from far away family members and people we knew who had moved away. The card or Christmas letter recorded the peak moments in a family’s year. So and so got married. So and so graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth. This was more than enough news.

I want to bring the spirit of the yearly news report back. I want social media to be like a Christmas card. The volume is currently much too high. There needs to be a Christmas card filter for Facebook.

I’m willing to make a compromise between current reality and the Christmas card filter. How about a monthly update from everyone you know that tells you the one big thing that happened. Look at this awesome cat photo. I had the best Sazerac at this bar. You’d have to pick the best thing that happened all month, and that would be the only thing you could post. Facebook — limited to 1 post per month, and everyone could see your post without filters or promotions.

I’d even make a further concession. Using my Watching Reading Listening Doing (WRLD) formula, you could make 4 posts per month on social media. The best movie you saw, the best album you heard, the best book you read, and the coolest thing you did in real life. Once your posts were done for April, you’d have to wait until May for the next ones.

Think about how much time you’d save. You wouldn’t have to hide or unsubscribe to so many of your “friends.” The world online would be a much of a better place with some editing.

But I’m an idea guy. I’m not going to start my own social network. So you’ll have to continue to please stand clear while dumping. Break your own rocks online if you want to. It’s optional.

Take a 360 virtual tour of the industrial plant at night

Panorama Stitching Challenge: Telephone Wires and Parallax

Night Photography: Panorama Stitching Challenge

Night Photography: Panorama Stitching Challenge

The 8-shot panorama above features telephone lines that are not stitching correctly in Photoshop CS6 or PTGui 9 with the standard software settings. The images were shot with an 18mm Olympus lens mounted vertically on a 5D Mark II. The camera was on a nodal slide, but the setting wasn’t perfect. The power lines were also moving in the wind. You can download a zipped folder with 2000×3000 jpeg versions of all 8 images (33MB download).

Do you have a good panorama stitching technique for correcting parallax error in long sections of telephone wires? The warp tool and masking in Photoshop is too tedious. There has to be a better way. Thanks for taking the time to give this stitch a try — I’ll be curious to see if anyone has a good way to fix the wires!

Update: Below are 2 techniques to solve the powerline panorama problem:

1. Puppet Warp to the rescue — Over on fredmiranda.com, a photographer from Mexico who goes by the name Eyeball provided an excellent step-by-step technique for fixing power lines using Puppet Warp:

  • Do a copy merge of a section of the power line up to the break. You want to select a long enough piece of the line that the slight change in direction won’t be noticed.
  • Paste to a new layer.
  • Do an Edit>Puppet Warp on the layer with the piece of power line. Select a pivot point at each end of the segment as close to the line as possible.
  • Move the end of the line to eliminate the discontinuity.
  • Accept the Puppet Warp change.
  • Use a quick clone edit to remove any fuzziness around where the line connects.

2. PTGui’s horizontal control points — On panoguide.com, photographer John Houghton from the UK provided a PTGui technique using horizontal control points and an optimizer plugin for PTGui from 2001. This also worked quite nicely. John went the extra mile and provided a PTGui file so I could see his technique.

One thing I love about panoramas is the wonderful community of photographers who will go out of their way to help you. Thanks to Eyeball and John for their help with the powerline panorama problem. Cheers!

360 Night Panoramas: A Full Moon Virtual Tour of Eagle Field

Eagle Field Junkyard Full Moon 360 Panorama

Eagle Field Junkyard Full Moon 360 Panorama

Six interactive 360º panoramas are included in the full moon virtual tour of Eagle Field. Look for the red hot spots to navigate between panos. If you’re on an iPad or iPhone, you can navigate the pano by moving your device around. My portfolio site has more night photography from Eagle Field.

Panorama Gear and Technique
All of the panos were shot with a Canon EOS 6D and an 8-15mm fisheye lens. I used a Really Right Stuff PG-02 panohead on a Nodal Ninja rotator and leveling base. The files were processed in Lightroom and stitched using PTGui Pro. The interactive panos and tour were created using Pano2VR.

Most of the exterior shots were 90 seconds at f/8, ISO 800. The exteriors are 4-shots-around at 12mm with a 5th shot to patch the ground (nadir). The interior of the hangar was 6-around at 15mm plus a zenith (up) and nadir (down). Shooting 6-around provides more resolution, but 4-around was necessary outside due to the fast moving clouds.

Even with the short exposures, blending the clouds between shots was sometimes difficult. In the junkyard image above, the Enblend plugin for PTGui did a better job with the clouds. Enblend couldn’t stitch the foreground well, and the stars weren’t as sharp. So I output a second version with the standard PTGui blender, and combined the two files in Photoshop.

Blending bracketed exposures without that HDR look
The shot of the plane outside the hangar required a lot of dynamic range, and includes 6 bracketed images at each camera position. The 5-shot bracketing available in the EOS 6D’s custom menu worked well, but only goes up to 30 seconds. I switched the camera from M to B and used a timer remote for a longer exposure of 75 seconds at each camera position.

PTGui’s Exposure Fusion was used to combine the bracketed exposures. I’ve been impressed with Exposure Fusion’s ability to quickly create natural looking images. The controls are simple, with only 4 sliders. I’ve found that about .5 of highlight reduction and .5 of shadow boost with a Sigma setting of .11 is a good place to start.

Reducing the orange glow of Sodium Vapor lighting
Before stitching and blending, I wanted to reduce the intensity of the orange sodium vapor lighting in Lightroom. Placing the white balance eye-dropper on a silver airplane or gray sidewalk yields a color temperature of 2000K. This makes the sky a deep intense cyan that looks wrong. A tungsten balance of 2850K looks a lot more natural. I finally settled on a slightly warmer 3250K for the overall scene.

The easiest first step for neutralizing sodium vapor is to switch to the Camera Neutral profile under camera calibration (the bottom panel on the right in Lightroom’s Develop module). This also works in Adobe Camera RAW. Then I slightly reduced the orange and yellow saturation in the HSL panel. This looks more natural than using bigger desaturation moves to deal with the orange cast, especially when the image will be viewed alongside other photos from the same location.

I hope these technical tips are helpful for a few people!