Tutorial: Landscape Photography Workshops 2020 - Subject 05

PTGui Panoramic Photography ~ Workshop Subject 05

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PTGui Panorama Photography ~ Workshop Subject 05

Main Panoramic Image: Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic

Panoramic Photography ~ The Psychological Power

Panoramic photography can create photographs with a psychological quality no other format can. Satisfy the logical side of our brain that we are seeing something realistic but overlay an unrealistic artistic layer and we create a mental dilemma about what exactly are we looking at. A natural field of view, corrected perspective, strong three-dimensional qualities and the detail of a photograph all add confidence to the illusion of reality. Confidence then shaken by the final painterly treatment. The result is a photograph that captivates us; one we want to study more. The key is understanding what rules can and cannot be broken, then implementing those rules into the panoramic photograph at the Photoshop retouching stage. I teach the whole process of panoramic photography, PTGui and Photoshop retouching from camera to print on my landscape photography workshops.

What is Panoramic Photography

Panoramic photography is stitching multiple, overlapping digital photographs together to make one large panoramic photograph. The best image stitching software to join the images together, creating seamless, high quality panoramas is PTGui from the Netherlands. Best shooting practice dictates the use of a panoramic head with the camera mounted on a special bracket that can be rotated on the tripod. The panoramic head is designed to rotate the camera around the nodal point of the lens, so the image content stitches correctly. Any focal length of lens can be used, but each focal length of lens requires an initial calibration on the panoramic head. There is no limit to the number of photographs that can be stitched together, and the initial raw images are taken in rows from left to right working top to bottom until you have captured the complete scene. Popular panoramic heads being Novoflex, Germany and Really Right Stuff, USA.

Other alternatives to PTGui for stitching panoramas include Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. In reality PTGui is the only choice to ever consider. PTGui is incredibly fast. What PTGui does in seconds, you may wait over half an hour with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom; if they complete the process at all. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are OK for a small number of images, but not volume. However, there is a major reason to choose PTGui above all else; its ability to correct vertical distortion – all without losing image quality. Photoshop requires stretching the image after creating the final panoramic photograph to correct the verticals; this destroys image sharpness in the stretched areas, brutally. With PTGui you move the complete image to correct the verticals in a preview first – before you create the final panoramic photograph, with no loss in sharpness at all. There are other benefits with PTGui, these are the two that make PTGui essential.

Why Choose Panoramic Photography

Panorama or Panoramic photography gives images with a very natural looking perspective when compared to taking the same image with a wide-angle lens. The wide-angle lens introduces distortions that interrupt our perception of the photograph looking natural. This natural perception increases the psychological connection with the scene, increasing the feeling that we are standing as part of the scene when viewing the photograph. As viewers we connect better with the panoramic photograph because it has less artifacts to remind us it is a photograph. The accepted field of vision for our eyes is 120-degrees including peripheral vision. The average field of vision of my panoramic photographs is also by chance, 120-degrees. PTGui shows the angle as part of the image stitching process. To get the same 120-degree field of view with a single lens, would require about a 10mm fisheye lens on a DSLR camera with terrible, unnatural distortions.

Further enhancing the psychological feeling of being part of the scene, is the fact that panoramic photography creates very large prints with incredible detail if taken with good equipment – I use a Nikon D800E with a Sigma 50mm | ART lens, the quality is incredible – equal to a Phase One digital back and for a great deal less financial investment. A panoramic photograph that has a natural field of view equal to our eyes, matched with a print large enough to fill our field of view – as a viewer, then add to this an incredible clarity and lack of photographic artifacts – all adds up to making a seriously powerful statement when displayed. Theoretically, this is looking at a 60-inch x 90-inch print from about 30 inches away. The scale of old master paintings was always part of their power, yet photographic prints were always small. Panoramic photography allows us to create prints on the scale of old master paintings yet with the detail of photography.

Panoramic Photography ~ Photoshop Retouching

One of the hardest problems of creating panoramic images is editing the sheer volume of raw files created when you consider all the bracketed sets and the different light conditions. An additional issue is being unable to see immediately what each stitched panoramic set looks like as a final panoramic photograph; as you do with normal image previews. For both reasons I stitch and create a small jpeg of each panoramic set so I can edit the panoramic images as normal. PTGui does have a raw converter but I find it does change the image dramatically. I prefer to raw convert the files into .Tiff format, then import these into PTGui. Done this way there is no color or tonal change in PTGui’s panoramic output. Following my normal Photoshop retouching workflow, I use PTGui to create different panoramic images that all align in Photoshop, such as bracketed images. Panoramic images do require a great deal more computer resources though.

Photoshop retouching the panoramic photograph follows my normal Photoshop retouching philosophy of composite the different images together to create a single layered file that represents a perfect raw file taken by the camera. This is followed by creating a technically perfect image with a three-dimensional quality and finally the creative and artistic overlay that makes the panoramic photograph a personal artistic statement. The power of the panoramic photograph is further enhanced by playing some psychological games in the Photoshop retouching. The panoramic photograph is already very natural looking due the field of view, this is further enhanced by giving the panoramic photograph a real sense of the three-dimensional qualities of light, form, texture and spatial distance. The quality an essential foundation layer that allows the final artistic layer to be radical, yet still allow the panoramic image to be perceived as “real”.

Panoramic Photography ~ The Psychological Dilemma

Expanding on the Photoshop retouching of panoramic photographs. There are two categories of Photoshop retouching; logical and artistic. The logical is based on science and you have no choice but to do by the book, the artistic you have freedom and creative license over. The logical category is creating all the elements that create the three-dimensional illusion in the panoramic photograph. Photoshop retouching to enhance the logical story of light and objects that feel solid and round with texture then the feeling of spatial depth. We simply apply all the rules of human visual perception; how we perceive the real world, to the landscape panoramic photograph. There are only a few rules and because they are based on scientific fact, they are all totally logical; we just need the Photoshop retouching skills to implement them. The artistic category are the panoramic photographs emotional qualities like mood, drama, atmosphere and color.

We can play a powerful psychological game in the Photoshop retouching of the panoramic photograph that makes the panoramic very powerful. To explain; imagine the viewer of the panoramic has two halves to their brain. The logical half and an emotional half – two people. The logical half is uncreative, only interested in facts, dull and boring. The emotional half is his total opposite personality; creative, no interest in facts, loves art and color. Problem is the logical side is always boss. When “they” view a panoramic photograph, the logical one looks at the panoramic first to check it contains all the correct facts that make the panoramic feel “real”, only if it does, he allows the creative one to have a look. If it doesn’t the panoramic is rejected as just an “artistic effect”. The mind game is to create a panoramic that creates a mental conflict; “it looks real, but it doesn’t”. We can make radical artistic changes provided we always satisfy the logical criteria first.

PTGui Panoramic Photography Conclusion

Stitched landscape photography using PTGui can create truly amazing panoramic photography but there are “prices to pay”. The file size; requiring a great deal of computer memory and resources during Photoshop retouching. Composition in the camera is very different because you can’t compose the image “in-camera” but “composing after shooting”. This requires looking at the scene with a great deal more care and attention to look and see how objects align; relying more on mental visualization in your mind to compose the panoramic, not the camera. Lastly, it takes practice to get used to how PTGui will render the panoramic using the different projections. However, for the increase in work required, stitched landscape photography using PTGui panorama software creates landscape photography no other process can. A wide natural looking photograph creating a feeling of “really being there” yet disconcerting by its artistic rendering.

David Osborn | Professional Photographer, London, 2020

DAVID OSBORN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS
69 Grange Gardens, Southgate,
London N14 6QN, England, UK

T: UK +44 (0) 771 204 5126
E: David@DavidOsbornPhotography.Com

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