Wednesday, February 4, 2009

20,000 pixel pano

In the last few months, I've been interested in learning how to put my SLR to better use. Let's face it, 99% of the pictures I take with it are on auto. What's the point of having a an SLR if you're just using it as a point and shoot? So I read the manual and started to poke around on the net. I first wanted to do some exposure shots or maybe something with a cool blur effect. What I settled on was a night shot with some blurred lights. My Canon makes this pretty easy for beginners by including a mode called shutter priority which allows the photographer to adjust the shutter and the camera will adjust the rest (aperture, white balance, etc..) itself. This is pretty cool, because all I have to worry about is framing the shot and keeping the camera still. As you can see, I got some pretty good results:

I like this one the best

I digress however, as this post is to talk about a shot that took quite a bit longer to get together: a 20k pixel panorama of Denver's front range. Because the picture is so large, you can decide if you want to load it or not:

Panorama of the Front Range

To set this shot up, I found a high point (of which there are many around these parts), set up my tripod, and then started taking picture from left to right overlapping about 10% of each shot. At first I did this on full auto mode, but then I decided to go all manual, because the contrast varied too much between each picture which adds a lot of post processing time. After I was satisfied I had enough pictures, I headed home.

When I got home, I decided to fire up The Gimp and see what I could do. As it turns out, unlike Photoshop, The Gimp doesn't have a quick way to create panos. out of the box. Also, unlike Photoshop, The Gimp has a ton of free plug-ins that do everything you can imagine. So after about one second of Googling, I found a plug-in called Pandora. The site has the download and a easy to follow tutorial on stitching your picture together. Using the tutorial, and about a hour of my time, I figured out how to stitch these bad boys together. I even started getting "advanced" and adjusting the contrast and brightness as well as rotating and cropping.

So I was able to put together a really nice picture with about 4 hours of my time and I got some exercise to boot. Now that I have the technique down, I hope to hone my skills and I expect the next shot to look even better.

- - Rob

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