Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Making of a 7 Frame Aerial Panorama

Lately, the Sacramento Delta has been in the news as a revival of variations the Peripheral Canal project are in the news.

I took the opportunity to do an aerial shoot of the Delta region. I'm still working on the hundreds of images I took that day, but wanted to share one particularly neat shot.

Sacramento River Delta (click to view larger)
This image is a 7 image stitched panorama, taken while flying 120 miles per hour (according to my GPS readings recorded on my phone). 

How did I do it? It started by having the pilot make a tight right turn. Then I fired off a frame about every seven seconds as we made the turn. The entire turn took (again, according to my GPS) about 50 seconds.

That was the easy part. Stitching the images in Photoshop was much more time consuming.

Since each of the images was taken from a slightly different location, the built in Panorama tools in Photoshop can't successful stitch together seven aerial images. So, I had to do it by hand. This didn't turn out to be terribly difficult; just time consuming.

A bit of careful and creative image blending created a seamless image measuring 17,441 x 3,583 pixels, or 58 x 15 inches at 300 dpi. And that's the advantage of a stitched panorama: the size of the image is limited only by your ability to successfully stitch images together. As a result, this image provides an unprecedented level of detail, as the image below demonstrates.

I'll have more images from that aerial shoot in the coming weeks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

House Under the Stars

After my last post about the creation of a nighttime exterior shot, I decided that I wanted to an entire series of exterior images of our house.

This shot is a composite of about ten images, exposed variously for the sky, trees, house exterior, deck and patio furniture, and then combined in Photoshop.

As with the previous shot, the camera was mounted about 3 feet off the deck on the 24' Manfrotto stand, and controlled via laptop.

I also did a similar shot from the front of the house, but in this case I didn't need the 24' stand. Since our driveway slopes down to the house, I was able to get an elevated view simply by using a tripod.

This image is composed of five different exposures, each set to capture a certain part of the image.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Behind the Scenes: The Making of an Architectural Exterior

Last weekend our air conditioning mysteriously gave out, and I was hanging out on our deck (which was a good 10 degrees cooler than the interior of the house) when I had an inspiration for an image of the house taken from beyond the edge of the deck.

Now, our deck is about 20 feet above the ground and the spot where I wanted to place the camera was about three feet off the end of the deck; not a particularly convenient location. However, I happened to have the right tool for the job: a 24 foot tall telescoping Manfrotto stand.

Fully extended, it just reached over the top of the deck. With proper safety lines attached, it was perfectly safe... as I managed to prove when one of the sections of the stand came loose and the camera fell about six feet before the safeties kicked in. No damage was done other than the near heart attack that it gave me.

I hooked the camera to my laptop via USB cable. This allowed me to do two critical things:
  1. See what I was taking a picture of - since the viewfinder was 24 feet in the air and pointing the other way
  2. Trigger the camera without having to hang my body over the edge of the deck

How the image was made

I wanted to make a composite image, balancing the natural outside lighting with the interior house lighting. Luckily I had the moon to help with the outside lighting, but I knew I would need several exposures.

I ended up using only six of the dozens of exposures that I took. The following exposures were used:
  1. Exterior walls - This was actually the last frame taken and was exposed for the moonlight. I turned off all the interior lights that I could.
  2. Exterior touch up - I was attempting some light painting with a flashlight in the previous image and used this image to cover up some of the spillage.
  3. Deck - The image exposed for the interior lighting (4.) barely lit the deck, so I overexposed by two stops to get the level of brightness I wanted.
  4. Interior - Exposed and white balanced for the interior lighting. 
  5. Deck chairs - I wanted to highlight the chairs at the end of the deck, so I set up a flash on a stand and triggered it using a PocketWizard. The flash was white balanced for daylight, so I had to adjust the white balance to get enough warmth to match the interior lighting.
  6. Forest - I combined this late afternoon exposure with image 1 to achieve a day/night effect with the forest.

I combined all the exposures in Photoshop and corrected for the camera tilt to generate the final image.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hot dog!

July 4th is upon us and what better why to celebrate than with that most comforting of comfort foods: the hot dog!
Hot dogs
For this shot, I decided to go for a simple, basic presentation: hot dogs and chips on a paper plate.

I bought the table cloth, ketchup and mustard containers and napkin at the Dollar Store for a grand total of $3. Who says food photography props have to be expensive!

Hot dogs
Hot dogs

I was going to set this shot up outside to take advantage of the natural light, but it was 100 degrees out there! I would have shot it in my garage studio, but it was even hotter in there. So I ended up commandeering the dining room table for the shoot. I still got a relatively natural look by shooting my key light through a reflector placed very close to the dish. I used a couple of fill lights to soften the shadows.

And as a bonus, we had hot dogs and chips for dinner!