Massive Landscapes (Your View Standing There)

(9 Shots)      Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
     Often times I have been unhappy with my final image and its missing parts.  I compose an incredible image, fire the shutter and look at the LCD.  More times than not I don’t see the same image on the screen, or that I saw when I first got my inspiration to shoot the image in the first place.  That is just a small issue then when I try to enlarge the image it looks grainy.  Well no more..(or not as much)  I have started a series of large format images that give me the best of both worlds.  I had the idea to stitch in this way after looking at a homemade Large Format Digital camera that was made with 20 SLR CMOS sensors.  They were all making an image to create one final image like an array.  So why not just use one sensor and shoot 20 images.  I tried it and it was harder than it looks but like most things the more you do it the easier it gets.
     I use Nikon Cameras for about 80% of my images. I have a bunch of large and medium format cameras that I use as well and just scan the negatives.  This can be very costly, and annoying if you or an assistant make a mistake!  The easy way to do this is to use Photoshop CS2 or better I currently use CS5.  The boys at “Adobe” have given us a “Photomerge” program.  The key is getting the exposures right and even toned. I shoot up to 9 full-sized images I get 9 focal planes 9 different f stops to control focus and I get the Fish-eye coverage without the tube distortion. I hate to give away my secrets but I went into more detail in the book, and the actual doing isn’t as easy as it seems.  My “NightScapes” range from 30 sec to 28 min. If i shoot a large image that is 30 sec to 28 min X 9 images. If you make a mistake you can blow hours of work. I have had excellent results with this because I used to do large Mosaic images when I shot medium format film.. same idea just digital, and cheaper!
     The following are two images of the same location.  They were made about a year apart, but that is not why they are different.  Both were shot with the same 10 mega pixel Nikon.  When I went out I had a specific image in my head.  The limits of the lens and the camera itself kept me from getting what I want.  I have found that even a Fish-eye can’t get you what you see because of the distortion.  So I came up with a solution one day while working on a panoramic project.  The following day I went out and image below titled “Hermosa Beach” was the result.  Just 4 images and at 30 seconds each.  I then compared it to my old shot titled “Hermosa Moonlight” and for my money I love the Larger Shots!  The important thing is to maintain a consistent shutter speed.  Differences in exposure will make the images do not match in tone and that can create issues later.  For night photography this is even harder because an ill-timed cloud can cut the ambient moonlight in half.  So watch the sky before exposing!
La Jolla “Hermosa Beach”
22.3 Megapixels  Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
La Jolla “Hermosa Moonlight”
10.2 Megapixels  Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
This is meant to show you how to compose your shots to make this easier. (Quick tip: SHOOT IN RAW)
Here is the final image it was made with 9 photographs.  I did a 9 image and a 4 image version with my 10mp camera and ended up with a massive image file.
Del-Dios-close-wide.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
The Clarity in even the small areas is impressive!
Del-dios-close.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
You get 9 focal points and 9 f-stops  This makes your image have the ability to be blown up rather large and you still get the details.
Below I have put out a diagram with the overlap represented.  I suggest 25% but the better you get the more you can push it.
BE WARNED THIS PROCESS TAKES MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF RAM
Del-Dios-close-overlap.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
Now that you have shot all 9 images you can upload them with Photoshop.  I use CS5 today but back when I first started putting these together I was using CS2.  I wanted you to see the CS2 interface because I wanted to show that you don’t need to have the most current and up to date software to do this.  Needless to say many things have changed, everything is in the same place but the automatic features and Content aware fill make the process way easier!
You go to the drop down menu to find Automate:
Automate.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
 Images By: Douglas Lee Coon
Then you just click on OPEN:
Photomerge.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
Images By: Douglas Lee Coon
There are multiple options in newer versions of Photoshop with more automatic features.  In older versions this can be tricky, you can move your images around until they line up and then…
click OPEN:
merged.jpg picture by douglasleecoon
Images By: Douglas Lee Coon
The process doesn’t always end here, there is distortion and missing pieces sometimes in the corners.  I try to crop and sometimes select the empty spaces and use Content Aware Fill (CS5).  It is up to you, I have done this with up to 20 images and currently am planning on making one with 40 images.  You can do this with any camera, I have done shots in this way with my old Blackberry cell phone.  The images below reflect a variety of images that were made with this technique.
“WIND AND SEA”
4 images   Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
“GREEN RIDE”
6 images    Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon
“Foggy Dock” 
4 images    Photography By: Douglas Lee Coon

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