The Pano

I often take Panorama’s, but seldom actually stitch them together.

alstrom pano_PEi.jpg

So let me step back a minute.  Panorama’s are a wide span photo, either vertical or horizontal.  These days you can do them with your camera or point & shoot, where in some ways they are easier.  Just press the button to go… and again to stop.  Wa-la.

To do them with DSLR is a little more complicated.  In Photoshop, you do a Photomerge, which is hidden under the obscure tree File – Automate – Photomerge.  Select the photos you want to merge and it will whir and wiz until it comes up with a compilation of your photos stitched together.  You’ll have to do some cropping or Content Aware patching to fill in any holes… but wa-la… the Pano.

Alstrom Sunrise Pano PEPSi.jpg

A good tip when you do the Pano in camera is to stick up one finger to designate that you are beginning a pano… then take your series, trying to remain level to the horizon and constant focus & exposure as you sweep your photos across, then stick up 2 fingers to designate that you are done.

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This way when you are going through you digital negatives you know you have done a pano and can stitch it together using Photomerge in Photoshop.

Admittedly, I will take them, but rarely get around to or bother to stitch them together.  Maybe it’s because they just don’t inspire me as great photos, they are difficult to print, and hard to email.  Some subject matters do lend themselves to the pano format however.  So don’t necessarily blow them off.  Give them a try to enhance the story telling of your trip.

Mesa Arch Pano_PEi.jpg

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Focus Stack

Have you heard of Focus Stack.  My guess this isn’t the first time… or the last you’ll hear of it.  I have heard a lot about it… and have a lot to learn, but it is all the rage in photography.  It’s a method employed by professionals and amateurs alike.  It’s what wins contests today.  Forget about setting your camera on a small aperture, f22 and getting everything from foreground to background in focus.  Today, that method is passé, and yields softness or blurry portions in the photograph, dependent on where you focus.

There are a number of free Focus Stack softwares out there that will automatically analyze a series of photos and merge them together such that everything is tack sharp.  You take several photos, one focussing on foreground, one focussing on middle ground, and one on background… select them all and the software does the rest.  It’s magic… truly!

So I thought I’d give it a go using just Photoshop (without the Focus Stack software…. no doubt that will be a later experiment).   Matt Kloskowski demo’s this method in his terrific new Mt. Rainer landscape class            (http://www.mattk.com/my-new-mt-rainier-landscape-photography-class-is-live/).

So I pulled out a couple Barlett lake pix out of my archives.

The first has the cactus in focus, but the foreground flowers are out of focus.. (and mostly absent).

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The second photo has the cactus blurred, but the flowers are more prevalent and in focus:

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Using Photoshop I open both pix in one file creating 2 layers.  I then select both and Edit-Auto Align Layers to make sure both layers are directly on top of on another.  I then add a mask to the second photo (with blurred cactus and sharp flowers) and Command-I (inverse) to blacken out the whole photo.  Then using white, and the brush tool, I paint the sharp flowers (second photo – mask selected).  What happens is I paint the sharp plentiful flowers through to the 1st layer, painting over the blurred flowers of the first photo.

flowers cactus mergedii

I must admit, I’ve not done a lot of this sort of composite work in Photoshop… but seeing how powerful it is, I know why it is so popular.  Amazing!