Stitched Panoramas

A love Story.

Teleport yourself into a small room with a single window and it is certain that you will tilt your head around once you start peeking out. The deliberately slow process of looking through the viewfinder, and subconsciously thinking about the grand scene I could construct by stitching a number of individual images is a meditative experience. The resulting “stitched” panoramic image offers loads of resolution along with control over the perspective.

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Peeking through the viewfinder at 500mm. One of the many stunning views of Alaska. Stitched with just 2 individual images.

Cool Aspect Ratios !

With displays growing wider, taller and thinner, content generation is directly related to how well it fits on the screen. Most full frame DSLR cameras have a native 3:2 aspect and stitched panoramas is one of the ways, to ditch the norm and chase more beautiful looking aspect ratios.

Clearly – the aspect ratio is key. Here are few inspiring aspect ratios !

  1. The amazing fight scene from the Korean Movie – Oldboy  – 2.2 : 1 ( Debated )
  2. Tense scenes from – The Hateful Eight – 2.76 : 1
  3. Introducing the Joker from – The Dark Knight – 2.35 : 1
  4. IMAX movie format – 1.9 : 1 ( Fun Fact : Instagram prefers its images to be in 1.9 : 1 aspect )

Panoramic images constructed between 2.76 : 1 and 3 : 1  look pleasing and often have resolution enough to crop it to 21:9 aspect. With ever increasing sensor size it may be attractive to just crop the image from 3:2 aspect to any of the above panoramic looking aspect ratios – but, ultimately – limits the ability to look beyond what one can see through the viewfinder.

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Four individual images with enough overlap.
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Crisp sunrise at the Flatiron formation , Boulder Colorado. Stitched Panorama. 4 x 36 Megapixels big, set at 2.76 : 1 aspect

Quest to go wider – and deeper.

Yes, you could buy an ultra-wide rectilinear lens and attempt to recreate the same result, but one may not get optimal results as wide angle lenses tend to increase the relative distance, if the subject is too far. If the subject is too close, the resulting image could suffer from distortion.

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If you were at Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon – 5 Image Stitched Panorama. Zoomed in at 70mm

At the time of me writing this blog there are a couple of very strong contenders that advertise zero distortion wide-angle lenses, but often times I like to zoom in – for a much tighter composition.

Philadelphia City Skyline as seen from Race street
Philadelphia City Skyline – Stitched Panoramic “Love”. 6 Individual frames photographed at 70 mm.

No love for long panoramas.

Wide panoramas (4:1 aspect and above) meet instant death – when shared on social media platforms because most of the electronic devices they are viewed on are optimized to display 16:9 aspect content. Some radical (and very successful) websites, use a square format. Yikes.

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I am sure there are a lot more panoramas out there. Hiding behind a 1:1 aspect vail.

The race to push more giga-pixels into a single image by stitching multiple images was on the rise in 2010. Kolor stated pushing out their efficient panorama stitching software called autopano-giga and the only free way to display them gigantic images was through Gigapan. I constructed my very first gigapan after multiple failed attempts with a 300mm lens and a panoramic head that I had to rotate half a radian at a time manually.

Please note : If you click the image above, a new tab will open for you to view the Gigapan. Most detailed image of Philadelphia city as of 2010.

All of my hardwork was a slight flop – partially because it did not have much artistic value to it and – the thumbnails did not help get any traction online. The “strip” of image above is over 13 Gigapixels deep and was constructed by stitching and stacking over 400 images. Poorly executed, but I will never forget the amount of hardwork that went into the making. I had to learn how to build a Beauwolf cluster to stitch this image ! I actually printed this image on a plotter 63 feet wide, and is currently sitting inside a document box.

More the merrier.

Facebook might be late for the party, but for now – they are the best medium to share panoramas ! They can be full spherical (2:1 aspect) or even partially spherical. I also believe that the projection also does not matter. Even cylindrical panoramas are good to go ! Also, major kudos for the enormous user base.

Badwater Salt Basin, Death Valley National Park.

The above image was photographed at the Badwater basin, Death Valley National park. After a couple of attempts I was able to illuminate the salt flat and stars in a single frame. To ensure enough overlap I took 39 images and stitched them all together to make this flat looking spherical panorama which is 2:1 aspect.I have written more about how this image was constructed this in this blog post here. Please check it out !

Going the Distance

Pursuing the risk of photographing a scene “in-sections” and stitching them later comes with a couple of risks.

  1. Due to rapidly changing light during the golden hour the individual frames that are photographed a couple of seconds apart could lead to them being under-exposed or over-exposed.
  2. Sometimes there is a little bit of shake, in one of the frames eventually ruining the panorama construction.
  3. Moving water is always tricky. Waterfalls, Ocean horizons etc.

 

I personally feel, it is worth the risk to fall in love with constructing panoramas in pleasing aspect ratios. I promise you – it will be your unique snowflake at the end.

 

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