Re-Submission for the How I Took It 2012 Contest
It's a 'Brenizer method' image. The short version is that it's a panorama composite shot with a medium to long lens and a short Depth of Field (DoF) or wide open aperture. This gives a wide angle view with a difficult to impossible DoF. To reproduce these images with one shot would require an insanely wide aperture on a very wide lens.
*Shooting*: To make this I used a rented lens that was a short telephoto and a very fast aperture (85mm f/1.4). I sat on the ground maybe 10-20 yards in front of the fountain and took around 140+ photos in a zig-zag overlapping pattern from one corner of where I wanted the image to go to the other. In order for the images to match I put the camera on Manual mode and set the shutter speed and aperture. I wanted the aperture to be wide open so I set it to f/1.4. To get the shutter speed I took a few test shots of the bright sky and dark shade to find a happy medium exposure that didn't over-expose the sky (didn't want the sky to be completely white) but still gave some detail in the shadows. To save on processing, I set the camera to take small, fine jpgs. 140+ Raw files would have been ideal, but also kinda insane with my current camera/computer setup. When you add up 140+ small jpgs you still get a pretty large final resolution.
*Post-Processing*: There are a number of routes one can take to stitch these type of things together. Photoshop's merge feature is pretty good, but costly for those on a budget. I usually get pretty good results with Microsoft's free program ICE. Mileage may vary. Generally you just grab all of your photos and dump them in ICE. It chugs through all the heavy lifting. Sometimes it works on the first try, sometimes you have to fiddle with the warping. Sometimes it doesn't work period. I fiddled with the horizon warping a bit on this one. A lot of this can be fixed with a tripod and a panoramic head. I have a tripod, but not a panoramic head. I free handed this one, and it came out pretty good.