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The HDR Panorama Thread


carstenw
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I thought it would be interesting to share what I have been toying with for the last short while, and get a discussion going. I am fully aware that the HDR look is not for everyone, and in fact, I have no intention of continuing in this stylized direction, but it is kinda fun to play with. I expect that I will eventually end up settling down to using HDR to get a realistic look, rather than fantastic, super-saturated panoramas such as some of the ones I am about to post. Note that typical photography yields much darker shadows than we perceive, so in a sense, our brain HDRs what we see, and HDR tools can be used to approach this.

 

My equipment is as follows:

 

 

The L-Plate fits quite well, but does snag my camera strap a little. It is no problem, but something to be aware of. Other than that, the equipment does the job admirably, and the price was well worth it. There are other options, such as Gitzo tripods, Nodal Ninja panorama heads, and so on, but I like what I have chosen. The WATE at 16mm needs a 9,8cm offset to yield flawless panoramas.

 

This all looks like this:

 

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The software is as follows:. I use a Mac, but I believe all three are also available for Windows. Other software works too, but I like these.

 

  • Adobe Lightroom 2. Just for exporting unedited full-size JPGs.
  • Photomatix Pro, for HDRing three images at a time.
  • Autopano Pro, for making the panorama of the HDR images.

 

The shooting workflow is as follows:

 

  1. Level Acratech base, set panorama rail at 9,8cm, and clamp camera in portrait position. Turn central tripod tube until I get 0 degrees on the BH-55 where I want it.
  2. Take 3 shots, at -2,0,+2 or -3,0,+3, depending on scene contrast. This is enough of a hassle that I don't at this time consider doing 5-shot HDRs.
  3. Rotate by 40 degrees.
  4. Go to step 2, as often as needed to get the panorama, typically 4 or 5 shots.

 

The software workflow is as follows, starting with Lightroom:

 

  1. Copy all images to harddrive.
  2. Import images to Lightroom.
  3. Export as full-size JPGs to folder (the other software deals best with this).

 

PhotoMatix Pro:

 

  1. Use "Generate HDR" to open the 3-set of the most saturated angle in Photomatix.
  2. Use "Tone Mapping" to find preferred settings for HDR.
  3. Save settings as preset.
  4. Close "Tone Mapping" and "Generate HDR", and open "Batch Processing".
  5. Point Photomatix at the folder of JPGs, and set to process 3 at a time.
  6. Use preset saved above in the "Tone Map with Details Enhancer" part.
  7. Export as JPG, delete HDR temporary images (they can always be regenerated).

 

Autopano Pro:

 

  1. Make new panorama in Autopano Pro, and load HDR output images.
  2. Got into "Image Properties" and make sure that the Leica M8 is set. This currently isn't automatic, but I have opened a bug for it. Also check that focal length is correct.
  3. "Detect" panorama.
  4. "Edit" the panorama and make sure that all parts are vertical with the tool.
  5. Auto crop.
  6. Render panorama.

 

=====

 

IF ADDING IMAGES TO THIS THREAD, PLEASE RESIZE WIDTH TO 800.

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Edited by carstenw
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Hauptbahnhof Berlin:

 

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Helmholz Platz:

 

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My Hof:

 

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An Italian restaurant in the neighbourhood:

 

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Schleusenkrug in Tiergarten, with friends/colleagues:

 

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Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus:

 

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I dunno - the HDR images look like what I get when my printer runs out of black ink. Hollowed-out shadows that almost look solarized.

 

No. 3 in the Bahnhof (red train) and the shot from from your window, especially.

 

OTOH the Italian restaurant looks fairly natural.

 

It may have to do with how much contrast the original scene had to begin with - or just my 35 years of looking at Kodachromes and Velvia and "expecting" a certain amount of inky black in any color image.

Edited by adan
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I had almost as many "looks" as panoramas here, some wilder than others. I know that some are way over-saturated, and it isn't really the look I want in the end, but I wanted to know how to do it in any case.

 

As a validation for the technique in general, I have redone the panorama for Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus number 1, but this time in LDR (low dynamic range), i.e. a single shot, or how it would look if you just did a normal panorama. In this case, I have used fairly conservative settings in Photomatix, and the HDR is a *lot* closer to how it looked to the naked eye than the LDR version. The kind over over-contrasty result with dark shadows and blown-out highlights the LDR photo represents is just what we have come to expect from cameras, and so we implicitly accept it without questioning, but this isn't what the eye sees.

 

Here are both versions, for direct comparison:

 

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Edited by carstenw
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Carsten,

 

Thats pretty cool, but it looks more like you are brushing / masking the different layers as compared to actually blending the layers for actual HDR.?

 

The images can be blended much more seamless using most HDR softwares. the blow images is direct sun and deep deep shade.

 

p1048368773-4.jpg

 

And this one is the same thing

p956544588-4.jpg

.

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I don't know what Photomatix does under the hood, but I am using the "Generate HDR/Tone Mapping" procedure, rather than something like CS4's "Exposure Blending", which Photomatix also has. In the latter you typically have almost no control, whereas in the former, you get plenty of rope to, er, hang your self in the foot :) Or to do something similar to what you get when exposure blending, but with more control.

 

As an example, although your second image looks great, I would have boosted saturation just a tad in the first one. The very harsh sun has stripped most colour from the image, except the red roof in the shadow (stone and sky).

Edited by carstenw
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Ehhh. BTW... this is pretty embarrassing...

 

Carsten, what I really meant to say was, this is pretty cool, like you, I love panoramas. unlike you I have not tried this with the Leica yet, and you are clearly mastering a pretty robust set of skills here, shooting HDR or bracket panoramas with a non-bracketing camera is already a logistic task, and you have mastered this and stitching multiple layers.

 

AWESOME shots.! and you have the nerve to go out in public with a bracket pano shoot and including actual moving people.! My respect sir.! I am looking forward to seeing more of these cool images.!

 

- see that is what I meant to say. :D

 

.

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I know, Steve, I also find the colours pretty funky :) But it is fun. Eventually I will settle down with more realistic results. It does show that you don't need a million-function-DSLR to do stuff like this, just basic manual control. I am sure you could do it with a P&S, although you might need to bracket more, due to the noise and lack of DR. The great lenses on the m8 makes it pretty easy.

 

The perspectives... well, that is what you have to deal with to get such extreme angles of coverage. The Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus shot from the bridge is a full 180 degrees.

Edited by carstenw
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Ehhh. BTW... this is pretty embarrassing...

 

Carsten, what I really meant to say was, this is pretty cool, like you, I love panoramas. unlike you I have not tried this with the Leica yet, and you are clearly mastering a pretty robust set of skills here, shooting HDR or bracket panoramas with a non-bracketing camera is already a logistic task, and you have mastered this and stitching multiple layers.

 

AWESOME shots.! and you have the nerve to go out in public with a bracket pano shoot and including actual moving people.! My respect sir.! I am looking forward to seeing more of these cool images.!

 

- see that is what I meant to say. :D

 

.

 

:) No problem, keep the criticism coming. I can take it.

 

Anyway, yeah, the M8 is not that great a camera for doing exposure bracketing, but I typically just pick it up, set it to A, and point it around the scene to see what kind of latitude I am dealing with. then I figure out if I need a +/-2 or +/-3 bracket, and choose the range. Then I just shoot -X, 0, +X for each position, and keep moving. Pretty easy, if somewhat tedious.

 

I haven't yet figured out how to deal with walking people, but I suppose something with layers and Photoshop should work. I have an idea for software to make this easy, but I am too lazy to write it so far :)

Edited by carstenw
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Carsten - Thanks for posting these 'warts and all', it's very helpful to see the relative failures of the technique as well as successes. The RRS panorama rail looks excellently compact and portable, and I presume the 'L' plate is constructed to swing the M8 around the lens centre? It's a much better design than the wieldy Manfrotto rig I have.

 

It's no surprise that having the sun, and a black in the same image is going to give a strangely flat tonality in the majority of tones, but why is there a strange 'halation' line where the sky and land meet in those flatter HDR images? I'm a little confused about how that has happened [as with the first HDR set of the last two images you posted in post 5], I would welcome your comments. I'm sure your future HDR panoramas will greatly benefit from lessons learned from these and I look forward to seeing them.

 

.................. Chris

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Thanks, Chris.

 

The L-Plate just gives an Arca-Swiss-compatible quick-release adapter on both the bottom and the side of the camera, allowing portrait-mode shots for a taller single-row panorama. I line it up by eye, which is not that hard.

 

The strange halo is something that Photomatix does, but I have also seen it in my various experiments with CS4. It seems to be an artifact of the current generation of HDR software algorithms, and is minimized by staying close to reality, something which will please many :) I am sure that a little work in PS could fix it though.

 

In fact, although Photomatix does a good job, I am not that crazy about it. The tuning parameters are not terribly intuitive. I have played a little with a piece of software called Dynamic Photo HDR, and it is much easier to tune with. It is a WINE-based software for the Mac though, and looks like a Windows program, so I decided not to go in that direction. If they ever make a proper port, I will re-evaluate.

 

I am not that crazy about Autopano Pro either, for that matter. The interface is non-standard, and there are all sorts of missing standard keystrokes and scroll behaviour is odd. It does generate really good panoramas though, and is affordable, which is why I bought it.

 

By the way, although I didn't mention this, I did various experiments with CS4, including trying its HDR and panorama functionality, but in the end, they were good, but not flexible enough. I also tried HDRing complete panoramas, rather than stitching HDRs, but it didn't work that well. The blown out +3 images would always stitch differently than the underexposed -3 images. and so to get the panoramas to HDR properly would have required distorting the LDR panoramas. In the end, the workflow I have listed was the only one I could get to work reliably.

Edited by carstenw
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Carsten,

 

You know I had to get into this. :)

 

I have been using ImageStacker from TabaWare with great success for commercial work.

Max Lyons Digital Image Gallery

There is really nothing much to it, just stack the images and then add contrast as required in photoshop. typically I shoot about 2-3 stop each way

 

stitching in PTgui, there is a bit of learning curve, but its rock solid. also if you want you can save the project and use it on the next set of images, this lets you stich each exposure before blending. (though I tend to blend before stitching)

 

My newer commerical panoramas have been shot with either my D-lux4 and a FC-E9 or my Olympus with the 8mm fisheye. all of them spherical. Actually the D-lux4 works absolutely seamlessly with the FC-E9 fisheye lens. I always shoot vertically and zoom in so that the image is cropped on the sides and have the max vertical resolution of the camera as diameter.

 

Adding people in HDR panoramas, I shoot the panorama and then come back and grap individual shots of each person or group and then drop them into the panorama.. BTW that was shot with the Digilux 3 and olympus 8mm

 

2009-04-13-thembisa-800px.jpg

 

 

.

Edited by Bo_Lorentzen
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Great images and detailed info guys.

 

The Photomatix HDR output is very scary looking to my eyes. The LDR option seems has a more normal and less digital altered look (again to my eyes.)

 

Is there a better HDR somewhat automated software out there?

 

Thanks!

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Yes, Albert, it is often called "exposure blending", and both Photoshop and Photomatix have it, as does other software. This aims at just combining the different exposures without modification, to increase detail in the dynamic range of the final image.

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