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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

••◊ Panoramas Fresh from the Big Apple

Spent last week in New York City walking around Manhattan and taking a few photos. I thought I would be inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square, but surprisingly not so. Times Square is like Vegas in my opinion; you see it and go "wow." Then every time you go back you notice how much more crowded and noisy it is until you start to take 8th or 6th to avoid the mad house of gawking tourists and street hustlers.

A bird's eye view

What little photography I did ended up being mostly panoramas. The city is huge, but you would be challenged to see or feel wide open spaces. Buildings surround and ultimately envelope you. Panoramas are sort of the antithesis of the feeling you get walking around the being intimidated by large monoliths. Now I know why high rise offices are so prized in the city. Even the bird shown above was defending his perch from all the tourists on the Empire State Building. In post at first I tried the Canon PhotoStitch application, which was wholly inadequate. Let's just be rationally fair...it sucks. I have Photoshop so I did a search on how to generate panoramas in Photoshop and found this tutorial. Just do a search for "Photoshop CS4 panorama" and there will be dozens of tutorials. Rather than just regurgitate the tutorials I'm going to let you do your own research.

What I will say is that there are a couple suggestions I might make from my "oh crud" line of mistakes.

  1. Use a non-distorting focal length if possible (i.e. 50mm-ish)
  2. Use raw
  3. Use manual mode to make sure all photos have the same exposure
  4. Make sure your shutter speed is sufficiently fast
  5. Make sure you keep you camera level
  6. When converting from raw, obviously use the same picture profile, white balance color temperature, and other tweak-able parameters
  7. Rotate your pictures upright before stitching them
  8. Fix any subtle exposure differences after stitching and before merging
  9. Watch for stitching seams and tweak them after stitching

But what about the pictures, you ask? Well...here's the spiel.

This panorama is a view of Mid- and Upper Manhattan from the Empire State building observatory deck. Obviously, you'll want to click on the pictures to see them full size (down-rezed for the web). Just north is Bryant Park and to the right of that is the New York City Library. Further north is Central Park with the upper west and upper east side of Manhattan. Over to the left is New Jersey and over to the right is Queens with the Queensboro Bridge. If you look nearest the green building you might be able to see Times Square. The Hershey's store sign is just barely visible.

Same observation deck, but looking south off the observation deck. Off in the distance is the financial district, where the World Trade Towers used to be. The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges (south-to-north) are at the left of the photo along the East River. New Jersey is to the right along the Hudson River. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is in the center top of the picture off in the distance.

Grand Central Station was also quite photogenic in my opinion. It's too bad they don't build in this style anymore. Really beautiful architecture and color on the inside. As you can tell this is a busy environment.

This panorama is of the man made lake just on the north side of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. We actually stopped at this oasis for a while just to relax and escape the buzz of the city for a while. Plus our feet were tired; Central Park is huge. You can rent a boat from the restaurant shown at the right of the photo and paddle around the lake for a bit, which lots of couples, friends, and tourists do. A pair of girls are just sitting in the shade chatting away at the left of the photo. All you hear is people walking by, sometimes with a friendly conversation going on. Of note was that no one was glued to their Bluetooth headset while sucking down a cigarette here, unlike midtown Manhattan.

Finally, this is a view from the Liberty and Ellis Island ferry looking toward lower Manhattan. I may post more pictures of lady liberty in a few days, but I thought this photo was just a nice view. Although I admit this isn't a stitched panorama, just a cinemascope aspect ratio (2.35:1)cropped image.

For all these images I used my Gretagmacbeth custom color profile, with success so far. Yesterday Martin Koch from Austria got a hold of me and I sent him the profile. He seems to be happy with it too as shown here. More to come.

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