As I mentioned in the introductory post of How is it Made series, great photography sometimes does not require too much post-processing. However, as you will see today, some seemingly ordinary scenes require considerable processing time. This time depends on several factors. The weather, the equipment, the presence of other people or unwanted objects can make you miserable … and enrich your vocabulary with some juicy curses.
I had a few wishes when I was planning the Hallstatt Panorama. In the first place, I wanted the whole village to be visible on the shot. And above the village, I wanted the whole mountain to be seen. Last but not least, I wanted the feeling of a small place at the foot of the big mountain to be the leitmotif of photography.
The test shots I made with 12mm-24mm focal length lenses were good, but Hallstatt and the mountain itself were lost in the lake panorama. A common problem with wide-angle lenses is that everything looks tiny. Details are lost, and especially the grandiosity I wanted to provoke. So I used one trick. I moved away from the scene and used my faithful (and recently retired) 28-70 zoom to take the photo. Shooted with 70mm from the other side of the lake the scene became compressed. The compression effect is often used by photographers to allow distant and not so distant portions of the scene to seams closer.
But, the scene could not fit in the frame. The other side of the lake is far but not far enough. Because of this, I decided to create a panorama made up of multiple independent photos. I use this technique very often. The results can be stunning. Another consequence of this technique is that the resulting photo has enormous resolution and a level of detail.
The initial panorama set is 10 full-resolution portrait photos. There are two different approaches to editing panorama in Adobe Lightroom. In the first, all photos are independently processed and then combined into a panorama. The second approach is to first merge the photos and edit the resulting panorama afterward. I almost always use the latter approach. Lightroom allows me to treat the resulting photo the same as the original files. The result is also in RAW format and any adjustments that can be made to the original photos can also be made on the resulting panorama.
Lightroom offers three algorithms for merging photos into a panorama.
Spherical projection tries to align and transform the photos as if they were all plastered onto the inside of a sphere. This projection mode tends to work best for very wide or multi-row panoramas and 360 panoramas.
Cylindrical projection projects the panorama as if it were placed on the inside of a cylinder. As such this model works very well with very wide panoramas. Important to note here that it tries to keep vertical lines straight.
Perspective projection projects the panorama as though it were mapped on a flat surface. In this fashion straight lines are kept straight so this fashion works well for architectural photography. You will find that if your panorama is super wide this may not work well with this mode as excessive distortion at the edges of the resulting panorama will occur.
My most common choice is the cylindrical projection as it preserves vertical lines such as building walls and glare on the water in this case.
For some reason (probably laziness), I took panorama shots handheld. The subject was far enough and there was no foreground to worry about parallax. Although sometimes I make the catastrophic mistake of photographing panoramas without a tripod, most often there is no big difference. But the time savings can be significant. In this case, the result is completely acceptable, except … the resulting panorama has a crooked horizon and is missing some of the skies. So, let’s fix it.
At the very beginning, especially when working with panorama, I adjust the horizon line and make the crop.
In this situation, I decided to keep some of the “missing” sky as well as part of the missing water. If I had narrowed the crop further, the photo would have lost the feeling I want to achieve.
As you will see, this is not that big of a problem. The sky and water are usually easily cloned in Photoshop.
I always leave this step for the end, since color and lighting adjustments can significantly affect the cloning process.
Play of light and shadow
In the next step, I set the basic light parameters: camera profile, highlight, and shadow, as well as the white and black points. Lately, I do not set clarity, texture, saturation, and vibrancy sliders with the general sliders. I leave these global settings for the very end. I tend to adjust these details locally. Also, I almost never adjust the global contrast. Instead, I set the contrast by adjusting the tone curve.
One of the first steps, as I noted in the previous How is it Made, is to remove stains, unwanted objects and items. I do this step as early as possible since working with the clone tool in the later stages of editing can be more demanding and significantly slow down the process. In this photo, I was bothered by just one detail that I easily removed with the heal tool of the lightroom itself.
Noise reduction was performed at a lower value than usual. The panorama has a stunning resolution of 12000×6000 pixels (72 Mpix) and will most likely be reduced to a real 30-ish Mpix before final use. Downsize further reduces noise and enhances the sense of sharpness and detail. Due to its high resolution, sharpening was done at a higher value than usual. In doing so, I kept in mind that the photo would end up in Photoshop, whose smart sharpening tool produces amazing results. The photo is masked for a sharpening tool, just enough to remove the sharpening effect from the sky.
I applied a detail-smoothing effect on the water with a similar method to obtain a uniform surface without excess detail to distract. I used the Soften Skin Lite preset, as it almost perfectly fits this need. I applied the texture and clarity effect on the city itself. Since the city extends in a nearly straight line, I used a radial filter that I expanded and flattened extremely and turned it into a line covering the city. I could also use a brush for this, but the radial tool is much faster to work with.
With this correction, I finished the editing of the photography. I was pretty pleased with the result. That’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed another sequel to the How is it Made series …
In the Photoshop, I roughly selected the missing section in the sky using the Laso selection tool. With the Fill tool, instructed fill of the selection with Content-Aware algorithm. The content-aware tool sometimes works perfectly and sometimes it is completely useless. In this case, it did a great job. I repeated the procedure on the water with an equally satisfactory result and this made the photo practically complete.
However, as I mentioned earlier, when I’m already in Photoshop it would be a shame not to use some of its phenomenal tools. One of them is Smart Sharpen which gives great results when used properly.
The resulting photo after applying this filter is stunningly sharp and detailed by all standards. Just the way I wanted it.
When I left the photo to rest for a couple of days, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the sky at all. It was too blue and somehow gave the whole photo a dull and dark tone. With a local correction, I brightened the sky and shifted its tonality to white. By doing so, the whole photo gained in dynamics and depth and lost its grunge feel.