• I made the focal point literally and figuratively right on Coit Tower.
  • When I focus on Coit Tower at f6, the backrgound in the East Bay in Oakland is fuzzy. That is how narrow the DOF is!
  • Since this is a panorama of many shots, this portion has to be refocused so that it is as sharp as the city behind it!
  • The water behind the Hyde Street Pier is almost like a reflecting pond!
  • When seen at full size, it is surreal to be looking at details in the city and then you see these big cables stretching across the frame!
  • Reflection of the lights on the Bay Bridge in the background.
  • The cables are actually far behind the people!
  • How would you like to have the job of painting these cables?

City Lights - The Spectacle

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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.


©Helminadia Ranford, curiouslee, and 487 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. fiatlux2005 41 months ago | reply

    Your photographs are fantastic! Please consider sharing them at canon.org.


  2. biker.dyna 41 months ago | reply

    Great shot!!!

  3. GlobeTrotter 2000 41 months ago | reply

    Absolutely beautiful !

  4. gicol 41 months ago | reply


    I saw this in the 200+ Faves group and Faved it.

  5. *Saariy* 41 months ago | reply

    Hi friend,
    This is excellent photography, beautiful picture.Nicely taken.

    "Saariy's Quality Pictures Gallery"
    Tag your photo : Saariy'sQualityPictures


  6. ValREllis [deleted] 41 months ago | reply

    Stunning shot of the city with the golden lights .Would be great to see your bucket pod

  7. Nathaniel Photo 41 months ago | reply

    Great shot! Participate in photography contests on Facebook: click on the link below and vote for the picture, then submit your photo for a chance to win a Canon S95!


  8. Gordito1973 [deleted] 41 months ago | reply

    Patrick I enjoy soooo much reading the whole story. It just opens my eyes to all the thought that has to go into a photo shoot like the one you are executing! Thank you for taking the time to write it all down. Can't wait for the final panorama:)

  9. denismartin 40 months ago | reply

    beautiful landscape
    all the best to you and your family and thanx for being a contact and friend![https://www.flickr.com/photos/denmartin/5309330948/]

  10. Fort Photo 40 months ago | reply

    Okay Patrick, this is easily one of the coolest projects any of my contacts have going on now. Awesome!

    Hope the new year is fabulous for you!

    Seen on your photo stream. (?)

  11. AkhtiPhoto 40 months ago | reply

    Великолепная работа!!

  12. valluri_c 38 months ago | reply

    definite feast for eyes

  13. Photo--Graphy [deleted] 38 months ago | reply


  14. Family guy 2012 [deleted] 36 months ago | reply

    Such a beautiful view !

  15. Sebel Creations 25 months ago | reply

    Very nice view on SF!

  16. keysmetalart 20 months ago | reply

    Thank you for the inspiring work, and all the detailed explanations!

  17. moondoggie71 5 months ago | reply

    Wow. The plastic bucket is a great idea but I need the camera to be at least 5' up to shoot over the chaparral covering the hills in Orange County.

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