HDR Pole panorama

I haven’t spoken much about my panoramic photography on this blog, but, well, panoramic photography is basically the reason why it has been so quiet around here. Well, apart from parenthood.

Anyway, I hope to show off a few of my panos here, and maybe write a word or two about them. I worked out a way of conveniently embedding the panoramas from pano.ie in here.

The one below was shot a couple of months back in Tasmania. It was my first handheld HDR pole panorama, so a panorama created with my high dynamic range workflow (based off ±2 EV brackets), and shot from a Nodal Ninja Travel Pole.

More details about the panorama here.

preview
LensSigma 10mm Fisheye
Pictures24

Viewpoint

Sophie climbing some rocks, Tasmania, Australia, 2013

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to look for different perspectives. We’re more or less always looking straight ahead, or at least at eye level. So photos like that won’t show any crazy new ideas.

It’s often when you look straight up, or down in this case, that your images will become more interesting.

In the image here I wanted to grab Sophie’s determination when it comes to climbing something. This steep down perspective here one the one hand gives context (in fact, it gives the illusion of her being meters above the ground), and on the other shows her face and expression much better (when you climb, you typically look up…).

Anyway, I hope this gives you some incentive to check for “different” angles next time you grab your camera.

Focal length150 mm
Apertureƒ/8.0
Exposure1/200 s
ISO100
LensCarl Zeiss 24-70/2.8
LocationSt. Helens, TAS, Australia

Star Trails

Star trails over Shortland, Australia, 2013

Here’s a shot I took, erm, a year ago, playing around with ultra long exposures. Or, to be more precisely, simulating an ultra-long exposure by stacking many individual exposures.

On the shooting side, I simply set my camera to manual mode, 30s exposures in continuous drive mode and used a lockable remote release to fire off one shot after another (having disabled the dark-frame subtraction function as missing out 30s between each exposures produces ugly dotted lines rather than smooth trails).

Then, to “merge” the images, there are a fair few programs available. A well working, free and cross-platform one would be StarStaX.

As you can see in the little EXIF table below, this slightly confusing and anything but pretty photo was taken over the course of 11 h, out the back from our bedroom balcony. A bit of math tells you that’s more than 1300 exposures, all in the spirit of experimentation…

Focal length16 mm
Apertureƒ/4.0
Exposure11 h
ISO800
LensSony 16mm Fisheye
LocationShortland, Australia

Fix for Photron Fastcam Jumbo Frames problem

Apologies regular readers, it is most unlikely this is going to be of any interest or even use to you, but I just wanted to jot this down for posteriority.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a Photron Fastcam and have run into performance issues, make sure you enable Jumbo Frames on your network interface and in the Fastcam Viewer software (see e.g. here).

However, this recently stopped working for me, and it turned out that although I was setting the Jumbo Frames / Jumbo Packet settings in the Windows control panel as instructed, this was not actually set in the network adapter itself. Only after resorting to some command line action I managed the setting to be actual used, and things worked again with the usual performance.

Here’s what I used (thanks to this blog post for spelling it out):

To see what interfaces you have on your computer, type

netsh interface ipv4 show subinterfaces

To change the MTU, type

netsh interface ipv4 set subinterface "Local Area Connection" mtu=nnnn store=persistent

where

Local Area Connection is the name of the network connection on your computer, from the list obtained above, and nnnn is the desired value for MTU.

Reboot after making the change.

An MTU size of 9014 did it for me, and it worked straight away without rebooting.

Brenizer “panoramas”

Brenizer Panorama Test, Shortland, Australia, 2012

I meant to write a post about the “Brenizer method” for a fair while now, but never got around doing it. Anyway, what are “Brenizer panoramas” or “bokeh panoramas” as some people like to call it?

The idea is to create an image that would be pretty much impossible to achieve with a real lens. Like the one above, which has the look (according to this calculator) of a 30mm ƒ/0.4 lens. Some say, ƒ/0.5 is the limit of what’s physically possible, so that’s something, hey? Also, since you combine the images, you will get a very high resolution result, which, downscaled, will just be super sharp.

Anyway, such images are produced by shooting with a long focal length and wide open aperture to achieve a super shallow depth of field, but then stitching many such images together to get a wider angle coverage of the subject. You can use a panoramic tripod head if you want to be precise, but for speed you probably have to work handheld. The above shot is the composition of about 60 shots taken with a 135mm lens at ƒ/1.8.

It can be tricky to put the images together, and neither Photoshop CS6’s Photomerge nor PTGui did a good job with this one here (half the shots could not be linked automatically, in particular those with mostly blurry parts). Thankfully, Kolor’s Autopano Pro did a better job, and even if 10 or so images were not automatically linked, I could manually add control points fairly quickly to eventually tie all the images together sufficiently. Then, I exported it as a Panotools file, which I could then load and finish off in PTGui (which I am much more familiar with and have a license of). Here’s what the project looked like before exporting and cropping.

Since bokeh (the out of focus bits) will be very prominent with this technique, you really want to use a lens that is known for good quality bokeh. Also, choose a nicer background than I did for this test (night shots with distant background lights work particularly great).

Focal length30
Apertureƒ/0.4
Exposure1/2000
ISO200
LensCarl Zeiss 135/1.8
LocationShortland, NSW, Australia

Night Sky

Almost pure night sky, Mangelsdorf, Germany, 2012

Here’s one of my last photos from Germany, a bit of night sky. Steffi‘s family home is out in the country side in Germany (me being a city boy), so whenever I go there I just love the silence and clarity of the sky at night.

On our farewell trip back in Winter, when it was about -10°C, I decided to take one last picture of the night sky, since where we were going would show completely different constellations (not than I know much about it) and there’s no harm in risking a cold just before embarking on a big trip…

Lacking any special photo gear, I shot this with my camera and wide angle lens laying on the ground, with a kitchen towel as support. I then used my cellphone to light paint the fence and bushes a little bit for reference, and to get some extra colour into the image beyond the faint orange background glow from Jerichow. By light painting I mean running around like mad man, continuously waving the phone screen in front of my body, at the same time trying to block the camera from seeing the phone light directly (there was a “light leak” though as you can see by the horizontal line in the corner of the fence).

Hoping you like the dense night sky, best wishes from Australia again! This blog is coming a bit full circle now, since I started it right here in Newcastle over six years ago!

Focal length12 mm (≈18 mm)
Apertureƒ/4.5
Exposure30s
ISO1600
LensSigma 12-24
LocationMangelsdorf, Germany

Filter Galore

Vista over the Hunter Valley, Pokolbin Mountains, Australia, 2012

We recently drove up to the Hunter Valley, a fairly renown wine growing region less than an hour’s drive away. That’s a great thing to have :-) Countless little wine estates and cellar doors to try wine at a decent enough prices. Good fun!

The tour also took us by this little lookout that offered some lovely views over the valley. Unfortunately, it was a semi-overcast day, and the first version of this shot pretty much just had a grey blob of sky at the top. The small little bits of blue sky didn’t come out at all. Thankfully I packed my polarising filter, which was the first thing I tried out. And wunderbar, it did indeed darken down the blue bits somewhat so they they could actually be identified as such.

But there still was a fairly large difference in brightness between sky and ground. So I put on the second filter I own (and that’s the only two I have): a graduated neutral density filter. It’s designed to be used with the Cokin filter system, but I pretty much only used it free-hand (so just hold the square filter by hand rather than with the filter holder). Much faster that way, and pretty much same result, if you manage to coordinate holding the camera, adjusting the filter and operating the shutter at the same time ;-)

What that filter did was bring down the brightness of the sky a fair bit, but leave the ground untouched. As the name suggests, it’s a filter which is neutral density on one side (so just makes things darker), and clear on the other, with the smooth transition (graduation) in-between so you don’t notice it that much (it’s the first filter in this list). A very handy tool to have in your photo bag!

Sprinkle a ton of “Clarity” during raw development on top and and that’s how I got these fairly dramatic skies from the fairly bland looking light grey blob the sky was at the time.

Focal length24 mm
Apertureƒ/5.6
Exposure1/60 s
ISO200
LensCarl Zeiss 24-70/2.8
LocationHunter Valley, Australia

It’s all in the timing

Yep, things really are upside down Down Under, Newcastle, Australia, 2012

Kids are fun. Swings are fun. Swings (tend to) swing in a very regular, predictable way. Especially if the legs of the person on it aren’t long enough to touch the ground ;-)

Anyway, thanks to the regular motion, it’s quite easy to get the timing right to take a shot just at the right moment. In this case here, it was the point where Sophie was at the highest, so very little motion, but great “upside down” effect (as I shot upwards from very close to the ground).

It was also easy to get the focus right by just focussing once and then switching to manual to prevent the camera from re-focussing. This was crucial as I chose a very shallow depth of field in order to get those trees in the background blurred. I wanted to keep them in the frame as a dark background for bright Sophie, but blurred so they don’t distract and she “pops” out a bit more (which is also helped by the sunset light coming in almost horizontally).

But the gist here is not to take pictures of kids on swings, but generally to watch out for any regular type of motion / timing which can make your life a lot easier in finding that one “perfect” moment.

Focal length35 mm
Apertureƒ/2.0
Exposure1/1000 s
ISO200
LensSony 35/1.4 G
LocationNewcastle, Australia

Stay clear of The Basement in Sydney [update]

Maceo Parker at <i>The Basement</i> in Sydney, Australia, 2012

Sorry, just have to get this rant off my chest.

To Whom it May Concern,

My name is Florian, I live in Newcastle and I went to the Maceo Parker gig last night.

While the music itself was massive (as I expected) the running of the event itself was a huge disappointment and source of frustration: As you can imagine, it is a bit of an involvement driving 2 hours (and another 2 hours back after midnight) from Newcastle, paying for petrol, parking and of course the ticket, and then only have the artist play a mere 55 minutes, without any encores, but with some audacious person asking everyone to leave as quickly as possible.

I assume we pretty much just got to see the “first half” of the gig; with another set of fans having paid for the “second half”. Which is of course a very lucrative way of going about things (I don’t believe that Maceo Parker or his band are stuck for money, so I guess it must have been your idea to sell two sets of tickets for the evening).

In any case, this was the first time I went to The Basement (I have just moved to Australia), and I was very much looking forward to it. But please rest assured that it will be my last time too. If this is how you treat your customers I can only warn people of your business ethics.

Regards,

Florian Knorn

Update: To my big surprise, this wasn’t the end of it. Might have to reconsider my opinion. Check out their response:

[...] I’m sorry that you’re still feeling unhappy about the gig, and wanted to reach out to you as well – in the last month, I have taken on answering feedback that comes in from the website. Usually, it’s great, but every so often we find out that something has gone awry, and we do what we can to rectify the issue.

First up, again, let me apologise for the confusion that lead to you missing the second show. We endeavoured to do everything we could to make sure that it was a smooth experience for all involved, and I’m sorry to hear that it wasn’t a flawless process. The night in question, our online ticketing system was down, which meant that the door person was unable to check the sales manually, and had to rely on the paper print outs that were given to her as patrons entered. I imagine this is why you why you were given the information that it was first come, first served – as a disclaimer in case there were not enough tickets remaining, which we were unable to check in advance that night. To the best of my knowledge, everyone who queued made it back in, but that’s little comfort to you now, I know.

The decision to run the late night shows was actually made by neither Maceo directly, nor by The Basement, but by BluesFest, the promotor for Maceo’s tour. It was made when the first two shows sold out so quickly, proposed as a solution that might also allow those with other commitments to catch Maceo, and to give those who wanted a dancefloor experience that opportunity. The intention was truly to give more fans the chance to experience the music.

It’s the first time that we’ve tried running double shows on the same night, and it looks like we still have some fine tuning before we can look at doing it again. While I can’t rectify the experience you had on Saturday, I would truly love the chance to change your perspective of The Basement by offering you a double pass to a gig of your choice, on us. Availability withstanding, take a look at the program, and when you find something you like the look of, let me know.

While it may not have come across this way on Saturday, The Basement cares deeply about giving its patrons a unique and exceptionally high standard of experience. I hope we can show you that on your second visit.[...]

Focal length35 mm
Apertureƒ/2.4
Exposure1/15 s
ISO800
LensiPhone 4S
LocationSydney, Australia