Megapixels to Gigapixels is the name of our 3-day Panoramic Photography workshop. The resolution the one is capable of creating by capturing a single and especially multi-row pano image is unreal. You can literally print billboard size and retain amazing resolution. There is a 3 dimensional feel, when printing large. The perfect example of this is Stephen’s multi-row pano of Bryce Canyon.
Stephen and I met up with our excited and eager photographers on Friday afternoon. After getting to know everyone, we began our classroom session on the particulars of how to go about capturing these Gigapixel images. Stephen’s presentation covered both single and multi row images. As well as how to capture the images and the importance of our classroom time before heading into the field on Saturday. The most important aspect of today’s session was the nodel point. What is a nodel point, and why is it so important? Stephen does a great job of demystifying, after which we assisted the students with finding the nodel point on each lens they would be using to capture images on Saturday in San Francisco. Once all nodels were dialed in and noted, we sent the students home to prepare for the next days session.
On Saturday morning we met everyone at our state of the art studio in San Jose. Loading everyone up in our beloved Aperture Academy Sprinter Van, otherwise known as ApCab1, we made our way up to the City by the Bay, San Francisco.
Location one of four was the popular and icon, Twin Peaks. From this vantage point the city skyline in impressive, but more impressive is the Golden Gate, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz, are also visible. Because the skyline and accompanying bridges are so far away, this is the perfect spot for our students to get warmed up. The sun was shining and the skyline was clear, it was indeed a beautiful day in the City. Stephen and I walked around and assisted with settings, such as exposure, white balance, and the very important frame overlap. If the overlap is not enough, or even too much, that can be problematic in the stitching process. After the students felt like they were just starting to get the hang of things, we were ready to throw them a serious curve ball.
Our second location was a lot different. We made our way through the City to Historic Fort Point. The Fort is located on the southern side of San Francisco Bay, and was constructed just before the American Civil War, to defend the bay against hostile warships. Our focus at this location is architecture. In the Pano world, we literally just went from one extreme to the other. Our first location can be very forgiving, because the subjects are in the distance. Now all of our subjects are in close proximity and having the nodel point correct is crucial. The old brickwork, which is now covered in moss, makes for some awesome shots, in both black and white and color. We worked some of the hallways, as the repeating arches make for a stellar composition. Everyone is really starting to feel more comfortable and hit their stride but some bellies are starting to rumble, so we made our way to grab some lunch in Sausalito.
After a yummy bite to eat at our favorite spot, Taste of Rome, it was time for location number 3. This third location was Hawk Hill, which is in the Marin Headlands. Hawk Hill offers some of the best panoramic views of San Francisco. The Cityscape lies just beyond the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. We had some nice thin, high clouds, dotting the crystal blue sky. Now was the time to try some longer lenses, in order to achieve some nice telephoto compression. Boats moving in and out of the frames can be a little problematic, but patience pays off, as one simply waits for the boat to clear the frame before clicking that shutter. Stephen and I assisted with that important overlap and ensuring that exposures were on the money. By now everyone was really feeling comfortable, but oftentimes being to comfortable can lead to forgetfulness. We are always on hand to offer those gentle reminders; did you change your nodel point, after changing lenses? Is your tripod level? After some little corrections, all felt as though they had enough shots at this location and were ready for the grand finale.
We have all heard that saying, “We’ve saved the best for last”. Well in this case we certainly had. Our last location was the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace is in the Marina district and was originally constructed in 1915 to house works of art for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Directly in front of the Palace is a lovely reflection pond. As the sky darkens and lights illuminate the architecture, the balance of cool sky and warm lights is breathtaking. The best light does not last long, so we were sure to get everyone in place and set up well beforehand. Multi row was a great option here, so you have to move fast to make your way through all three rows. It was a little like pano boot camp. Because they had lots of practice all day, the students handled the pressure well, and gathered some fantastic images. Time definitely flew by and the sky quickly became to dark, which was our queue to load up and head back to home base in Silicon Valley.
Our third day together was spent post-processing. It’s a bit like processing film, you don’t know what you have until all those images come together. Today, Jan Silverman joined us. Jan is our print and post-processing master. Everyone receives a print of his or her favorite image, and Jan is our printing man.
Stephen went over the particulars of gathering and stitching the image files in Adobe Photoshop CC. If the nodel point was dialed in correctly, the images would stich with ease. However, if the nodel was not set right, more in depth measures would need to be taken. Stephen had some great examples and talked about how to adjust for errors. Jan, Stephen, and I assisted everyone individually with post processing and choosing the best image for print. The panoramic image files are extremely large, therefore the stitching process is lengthy. We take this time to talk shop and swap stories. In the end, everyone came away with an image and print to be proud of. We said our fond farewells, with hopes to see everyone on a future workshop.
Until next time, a huge thank you from Ellie, Stephen, Jan, and the entire Aperture Academy Team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.