Category Archives: Technique

Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama

Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama - Little Planet view

Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama – Little Planet view

Up in California’s Gold Country, the former site of Sierra Equipment is now the Community Hope Thrift Store – and they still have the impressive muffler man! This 360 panorama was shot using a Nodal Ninja carbon fiber pole with an R1 pano head. A three shot bracket was taken at each camera position. I used a natural looking fusion setting in Photomatix to blend the exposures, PTGui to stitch the pano, Photoshop for image enhancement, and Pano2VR for output.

Take a look around in the interactive version below:

Stitching power lines in 360 panoramas using PTGui Pro

Special thanks to 360 pano expert John Houghton for his advice on how to get the power lines to stitch together.

  1. Stitch and optimize the panorama using your regular workflow.
  2. Use the show seams view in the Panorama Editor to see where the power lines will join across images.
  3. Temporarily switch the Editor to rectilinear to view the power lines as straight as possible.
  4. Using the masks feature in PTGui Pro, adjust the join area to be across a straight section of the power lines.
  5. Open the control points tab and select the two images where the power lines will join.
  6. Under CP type on the bottom left, select new line (t3).
  7. Add t3 points on the same power line, on each side of where they join across images. You can add multiple t3 points to define the line.
  8. Optional: Add another set of t4 points along a different line. Add t5 points along yet another line, etc.
  9. Go to the Optimizer tab, and select Optimize using: Panorama Tools in the bottom left, and then click Run Optimizer.

Hopefully your power lines will now stitch correctly. You may need to use Puppet Warp and the clone stamp in Photoshop to make things perfect.

If you’re using viewpoint optimization to add a nadir to your panorama

  1. Delete all of the new line control points. Optional: Save off a version of your PTGui project file first.
  2. The muffler man pano was 4 around + 1 down. On the Optimization tab, I unchecked all of the optimization parameters for images 0-3, so as not to disturb the alignment in the next step.
  3. Uncheck the lens parameters for image 4 (the nadir), and turn on viewpoint optimization for this image.
  4. Switch to Optimize using: PTGui, and click Run Optimizer to put the nadir shot into place.

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!

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!

360º pole panoramas: Gearing up for a bird’s eye view

This bird’s eye view of my backyard was shot at a camera height of 10 feet. The elevated perspective is a lot of fun — especially when you look straight down!

I’ve recently been experimenting with shooting 360º panoramas with the camera mounted on a 9 foot Nodal Ninja carbon fiber pole. I already had a Nodal Ninja R1 panohead and D4 rotator. I mounted the R1 on top of the pole with an adapter, and screwed the D4 rotator into the bottom. A footplate was mounted under the rotator for stability, and a bubble level was clamped mid-way up the pole to keep things level.

The entire pole setup weighs under 3 pounds, and collapses down to 3 feet for traveling. Everything works quite smoothly — my only nitpick is that the footplate must be removed to put the pole in the case. The pole came with a wireless remote to fire the camera, but at 9 feet, a standard cable release dangles down to a convenient height to fire manually.

Once I got the pole and accessories assembled, I needed to get the lens and panohead settings dialed in. I’ve been shooting panos with my backup Canon EOS 60D camera. I mounted the Canon 8-15mm f/4L fisheye lens, and spent some time experimenting with the optimum focus settings using live view at 10x magnification. Once the depth of field was optimized at f/8, I taped the focus ring down, and mounted the Nodal Ninja lens ring. Next I experimented with shooting at different tilt settings on the R1 head:

  • Tilting 7.5º down covered the ground, but left too big of a gap in the sky. And I’d still need a 5th shot to remove myself from the photo. I could restrict the pano viewer from showing the gap in the sky, but I prefer to have a full 360 degree sphere in case there are interesting clouds up there!
  • Shooting at 2.5º down or 0 degrees left a small hole in the sky and the ground. This setup would either mean patching both the zenith and nadir, or using an adapter and raising/lowering the pole 2 extra times to cover these areas. No thanks.
  • I finally settled on shooting at 5º upward tilt on the R1 — after a lot of experimenting, an 18mm rail setting gave me the best results. Shooting 4 around with an APS-C camera and an 8mm fisheye means you don’t need a zenith shot. Fast moving clouds or changing light are not a problem! To patch the hole in the ground (nadir) and get rid of my shadow, I stepped back a few feet, and took an offset 5th shot to cover the ground. This got stitched in using viewpoint correction in PTGui Pro. This works surprisingly well, and saves a lot of time — especially if the ground is too complex for content aware fill.

The resulting panorama is 10,700 x 5350 pixels, which is a nice balance between resolution and ease of shooting/stitching. I got some great tips on shooting pole panos from Wim Koornneef, and adapted the technique for removing the nadir shadow from Dennis Stover. Shooting 360 panoramas can be complex — I’m really thankful there are some expert panorama photographers out there who are willing to share their techniques. I hope these pole panorama experiments are helpful for anyone who wants to give pole panos a try. I’m looking forward to using this setup at some more scintillating locations!