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City Lights - The Spectacle | by PatrickSmithPhotography
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City Lights - The Spectacle

I'm continuing the cityscape theme with a small portion of a bigger 64-shot panorama created with the Canon 500L F4 lens. I'll be back at doing the landscape in a few weeks. No HDR.


Free wallpaper for over 100 of my images in 6 different screen sizes is now available!


See the tourists in this super big 1800 pixel version!!

(Ignore the compression blobs, they are not there in the real version!)



Settings etc.:



Canon 5D Mark II - 6 portrait photos (64 total in the Panorama) stitched with Autopano version 2

Canon 500L F4 (with live preview magnified to 10x to get it perfectly sharp with the background soft.)

Be careful, as a lens cools down after being in a hot car, you have to refocus every minute or so!

6-second exposures @F6 (to speed it up but too narrow DOF now, F13 better.)

No grad filters

No polarizer.

ISO 300 (to speed it up a bit for the big pano to follow)

RAW files processed with Capture One by Phase One

TIFF files processed with Photoshop

Tripod - 1 home depot bucket with a circular 1-inch thick plywood board rotated on top to create panoramas. (this setup far more stable than the most sturdy tripod and only US $15!) I'm not kidding!!! Make sure it is perfectly level so that the entire panorama is level.



The Story



As I mentioned last time, I've been commissioned to do some extremely large 2-gigapixel-sized panoramas with a Canon 800mm lens. But it is difficult to get the entire thing with the perfect light shown here. So this is a small portion of an alternate panorama with the 500mm that is 16,000 pixels tall x 80,000 wide = 1.6 gigapixels. Maybe that is enough?


In addition to the problems below, I discovered that even at F8, the foreground people and hill (> 1 mile, 1.6km) away are out of focus when the city is in focus. So I have to go to F13. Still, at f13 it is all sharp and I notice no degradation of the image. The atmosphere has been warm and unstable so I only noticed this after a week of shooting!


Eventually I'll post more from these panoramas. They take forever to process since they are not just a giant gigapixel shot that you see often now, but rather more like a single shot with that good light that lasts for just a few minutes... but blown up big!


Problems reposted from last time:


Since each photo is a 5-10 second exposure and the eventual gigapixel photo will be 3 portrait shots high by 30 shots wide, and you only get 5 minutes of good light like above, I had to come up with a way to do each photo quickly. However, moving a big lens on a tripod requires quite a while to settle down to stability for each shot. So, I went to the local Home Depot (hardware store) and bought a large plastic bucket, some door shims (small angled wood slices to go under the camera to adjust the lens up or down), and a round piece of 1 inch thick sanded plywood to rotate on top of the bucket. It worked perfecty for a super sharp 30,000 pixel pano I did last night. Even in the wind, the lens does not move at all even when viewed in live preview at 10x.


The road up here on the Marin Headlands was just rebuilt and just reopened. You used to be able to drive right to this spot (amazingly) and shoot this photo right out of your car door! (Though a 500mm lens would shake too much.) It is an amazing cooincidence considering that this spot is over 1 mile to the Golden Gate Bridge and 7 miles to the Transamerica Pyramid Building seen through the opening in the tower. However, there is no place to stop now because of a guardrail and some earth moving work so you have to park below and hike up to this location. I'll include the exact spot on the map.


Once I was there, I set up my bucket and wiggled it around in the dirt to get it flat and stable. Then I placed the round plywood board on top and moved it around to make sure it was perfectly flat.


Then I put the camera with the huge lens on the wood and used wood shims to get the lens pointed up to the top row and shot a small panorama of a few shots on each row to practise my speed and accuracy. Just add shims under the camera to move to a lower row. I'll explain the rest of the procedure when I show the a portion of the bigger panorama. It would not fit into the Flickr scheme of things but the detail is incredible. I really could hardly believe it!


The map shows the exact location.



Other stuff



My pictures are featured on the front page of the newly redesigned

The state Gov. of California website. Have a look! It is Flash with my pics cut into layers for a 3-d slideshow. If you are into building apps, the State has opened up lots of data to the public, so check it out!






Google Earth


Simply the best way to scout out locations that there is. You can see sun angles and pre-visualize light under lots of different conditions. Sometimes you can actually pre-compose your shots! This has saved me many thousands of vertical feet of climbing by avoiding spots with blocked views etc.


Satellite imagery (choose 'National' for a local US region or use your fave website)


Tide charting and preditions: (chose your area in US, other countries have similar websites)


Wave Heights (I choose 'North Pacific from Global')

Or Here:


Photos of every inch of the California coastline from a small plane. Excellent for close in detailed views.


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Taken on November 14, 2010