Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama

Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama

Muffler Man HDR 360 Pole Panorama

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 krpano for output.

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 2000x3000 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, 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, 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

Eleven interactive 360 panoramas are included in the full moon virtual tour of Eagle Field. The airplane 360 above was particularly challenging to shoot and stitch due to the wide dynamic range and oppressive orange sodium vapor lighting.

360 Night 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 krpano.

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 easier outside due to the fast moving clouds.

Even with the short exposures, blending the clouds between shots was sometimes difficult. In some cases, the Enblend plugin for PTGui did a better job with the clouds. Enblend didn'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 with a natural look

The shot of the plane outside the hangar required a lot of dynamic range, and includes 5 bracketed images at each camera position. The interior shots of the hangar and radio room also required HDR exposure techniques.

Photomatix was used to combine the bracketed exposures. I've been impressed with the natural looking blending options in this software.

Reducing the orange glow of Sodium Vapor lights

The orange sodium vapor lighting was really intense in the exterior shot of the airplane. Placing the white balance eye-dropper on the silver airplane or gray sidewalk gives a color temperature reading of 2000K. This makes the sky a deep intense cyan that just looks wrong. A color balance of 3250K looks much better for the sky.

If you pick a white balance in the middle and then reduce the yellow and orange saturation during raw conversion, the image can look pretty fake and lifeless. In this case, a split conversion was necessary -- one for the foreground, and one for the sky.

I used a blended version of all 5 exposures at 2000K for the foreground. Next I did a 3250K version of the 30 second exposure of the sky, because it had the best exposure and cloud movement. The images were combined with layer masks in Photoshop before stitching.

Enjoy the tour, and I hope these technical tips are helpful!


Moonlit Motorcoach Madness: Night 360 Panorama with Light Painting

This full moon 360 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 areas that 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 that I could nail the light painting on the back of the bus on the trailer.

Shooting 360 Panos 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 (i.e., the nadir shot 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 Panorama

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.

Update: A second panorama has been added to the tour.


Berlin Ghost Town 360 Panorama

Berlin Ghost Town Mine Supervisor's House - 360 panorama by Joe Reifer

Berlin Ghost Town Mine Supervisor's House - 360 panorama by Joe Reifer

A 360º panorama inside the kitchen area of the former mine supervisor's house at the Berlin ghost town in Nevada. The house is near the entrance to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park and is filled with artifacts, photos, and news clippings. Click the image above to see the Berlin NV 360.

Technical details:

  • Canon 60D with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens on a RRS PG-02 tripod head.
  • 6 shots around at -10º, 1 up (zenith) at 70º, 1 offset down (nadir) at 45º
  • A bracketed set of 3 images was taken with exposures 2 stops apart.
  • PTGui Pro was used to stitch and blend the 24 images. Exposure Fusion was used for photorealistic blending.
  • The nadir shot was taken by moving the tripod 3 feet and then utilizing PTGui Pro's viewpoint correction when stitching. The Exposure and Color Adjustment optimization on the Exposure/HDR tab were a key part of blending the nadir.

Night photography: The bug-eyed robot overlord of Paul's Junkyard

The bug-eyed robot overlord of Paul's Junkyard -- by Joe Reifer
The bug-eyed robot overlord of Paul's Junkyard -- by Joe Reifer

Exposure and noise reduction settings for star trail stacking

Five exposures of 6 minutes at f/8, ISO 200 were stacked for star trails. When you make multiple exposures for star trails, the interval between each shot must be 1 second or less, so there are no breaks in the trails. You can light paint during the exposures, but you won't be able to review the results on the back of the camera until the stacking is done.

The 6 minute exposure time was selected because f/8 is the optimum aperture for both sharpness and depth of field. The 5D Mark II can make clean 6 minute exposures with in-camera noise reduction (LENR) turned off as long as the temperature is under about 60°. Shooting with LENR turned off is much more efficient because you don't need to wait for noise reduction to run after every shot. This also helps conserve your battery.

Start with the light painting, and leave one dark

When you're doing a series of light painted exposures with stacked star trails, it's a good idea to not light paint on one of the images. This moonlight only image will give you a base for adjusting the lighting in post-processing if necessary. The recommended shooting strategy for a shot like the one above is to do a series of shorter exposures for light painting first. The process of light painting and then reviewing the image on the LCD allows you time to really assess your lighting and composition. Once you've nailed the light painting, you can decide if you want to commit the time necessary to fill the sky with star trails, or move on to another shot.

Shorter exposures for light painting

In this case, I actually started the series of star trail stacking images, and went to help someone with another shot. I was confident that I liked the composition, and knew I could come back to add the light painting. Half an hour later, I reviewed the moonlit images on the LCD. I made three additional exposures of 3 minutes at f/8, ISO 200 for light painting. I didn't worry about the interval between exposures, because these additional shots were only for the foreground subject, not the sky. The shorter exposure time of 3 minutes allowed me to work faster, and made the light painting more contrasty because there is 1 stop less moonlight on the foreground.

The star trail images were stacked in Photoshop using the Lighten blending mode, and the best of the 3 light painting exposures was added to the foreground using a layer mask. Bringing the light painting in on a mask allowed me to make subtle adjustments to the lighting.

Explain the light painting and win a print

Can you tell where I stood to do the light painting? The first person to correctly answer the question in the comments wins a small print of the image.

Hint: Almost all of the lighting was done from one position, and a little bit of fill was done from a second position. Look at the shadows, and explain what was lit from where.

The print will be a 6" x 9" image on 8" x 10" paper. Lower 48 only.

Update: The image was primarily lit from camera right at a 45° angle from the right of the machine using a Streamlight Stinger flashlight and a piece of Cinefoil to control spill. The tires would have been completely black without light painting, and required quite a bit of light. The shadow on the circular piece between the tires, and the shadow on the left front tires are the key to lighting direction. The interior was lit from the same position, and I pivoted slightly to add a little bit of fill to the tires on the right. A small amount of fill was added from camera left to the muffler area and the 2 metal pieces that stick out above the windshield.


Night photography: Dodge Charger light painting step-by-step

Headlights and interior - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand
Headlights and interior - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand

During the Paul's Junkyard Night Photography workshop, I worked with photographer Michael Bertrand on light painting a cool old Dodge Charger. Having someone stand at the camera position while you test your light painting is a big time saver. Instead of waiting 2-3 minutes to see the results of each lighting experiment, I was able to give Mike feedback right away on the angle and intensity of the light. He did all of the hard work, I just stood behind the camera and watched. Let's take a step-by-step look at Mike's shot.

Step 1 - Headlights and interior

Mike wanted to light the interior of the car with a red-gelled flash. If the camera position is low or high, sometimes a flash can be placed directly on the back window of the car. This only works if you can hide the light source from the camera. Stick your face where the flash is going to go and check to see if your camera can see the light. In this shot, the camera position dictated another technique -- Mike simply opened the passenger side door, did a few flash pops inside the car to bounce the light around evenly, and then closed the door. The car may move slightly during this process, but it's such a short amount of time in the overall exposure that it doesn't compromise sharpness.

Mike walked to the front grill and lit the headlights using a flashlight and cardboard snoot. The key to this technique is to figure out how far away to stand in order for the circular beam of the snoot to fall in the right place. This ended up being about 4 feet away for a few seconds on each headlight.

Grill experiment - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand
Grill experiment - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand

Step 2 - Grill experiment

The shot looked good on the back of the camera, but the face of the car was still mostly a big black hole. The grill on this Charger is really deep, and I suggested that Mike try lighting just the front of the grill, but leave the inside dark so the headlights will pop. This take was lit from camera left at a shallow angle along the front of the grill with a snooted and gelled flashlight. The amount of light is right, but looking at the results on the back of the camera, we realized that the grill needs light from both sides.

Almost there - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand
Almost there - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand

Step 3 - Almost there

To get even light on the front of the grill, Mike counted his paces from the front of the car to make sure he was the same distance away. Paying attention to the height of the flashlight, and counting the amount of time the light is on are also helpful. The backlight was added by going around the rear of the car and sweeping a flashlight a few inches above the ground to pull out texture. The shot was really coming together now, but there's too much light on the inside of the left front wheel.

Final shot - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand
Final shot - Dodge Charger light painting - by Michael Bertrand

Step 4 - The final shot

Mike really nailed the light painting on this final shot. Instead of sweeping the flashlight on the ground, he held the beam steady for a few seconds to add texture to the ground but maintain the integrity of the curvy shadows. This also solved the problem of not overlighting the inside front wheel. The red interior light has a nice glow, and the natural bleed of the pink/magenta headlights on the areas of the yellow grill looks great. Mike worked quickly and methodically, and was able to nail all of the light painting in the camera. Those of you who've tried these techniques know that this isn't easy!

Technical details and a note about exposure

This image is a 90 second exposure at f/8, ISO 200 using a Nikon D300 and 12-24mm lens at 12mm (18mm equivalent). A technically correct expose-to-the-right shot for the light of the full moon would have been 6 minutes at f/8, ISO 200. An exposure time of 90 seconds underexposes the background by 2 stops, which keeps the sky and the background dark. Using the exposure time to control the tonality of the background really helps the light painting stand out.

I'd like to thank Mike for letting me share his light painting setup. To see more of his work, visit: