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.