“Elmslie Memorial United Church, Grand Cayman Islands”, Written and Photographed by Johan Deysel.
The photograph is an HDR (high dynamic range), 360 degree stitched panorama. The basic process is to create a number of HDR photographs covering the entire 360 degrees of the scene, and then stitching them together with specialised stitching software. A Nikon D7000 was used with a Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. The reason for using a fisheye lens is because of the very wide angle of view and the very large depth of field. The wide angle of view meant that fewer base images were needed to create the 360 degree stitch, saving time in the post processing and the fact that it was created for website use made the need for higher resolution (more base images) unnecessary. The large depth of field of the fisheye lens ensured the entire image was sharp from front to back.
To create a good stitched panorama the use of a proper panoramic head is imperative for multiple technical reasons, but mainly to avoid ghosting and misaligned foreground and background objects. For this image the Nodal Ninja NN4 panoramic head was used on a Benro A-2682TB1 tripod. To ensure that the panorama was shot 100% level, the Nodal Ninja EZ-Leveller was used to set the camera absolutely level before starting the series of shots. The Lenscoat 3-axis bubble level, attached to the camera hotshoe, was used as a tool to see if the camera is actually level or not.
In order to get enough tonal information to merge a proper HDR, every shot had to be bracketed to get the details in both the highlights and shadows. This scene was very high contrast with very bright areas in the stained glass and very dark areas in the wooden roof. So to cover the entire range, I bracketed 7 shots with 1 ½ stops EV difference between them, for every base image needed for the stitch – bracketing is the technique of taking multiple shots of the same viewpoint at different exposure settings to get a range of darker and brighter photos. Because very long exposures were needed for the dark areas, it was necessary to use a Nikon MC-DC2 remote shutter release to ensure I was not causing camera shake by touching the camera during a bracketing sequence. Seven base images are required for a 360 degree stitch and seven bracketed shots needed for every base images, so the entire scene required 49 images to start with. Every bracketed sequence of 7 images were first merged to HDR using Photomatix to produce the final 7 HDR Tiff files. Then, those 7 Tiff files were stitched using PTGUI Pro to produce the final stitched panorama. This file was then worked in Adobe Photoshop to correct any stitching errors and do final colour adjustments and sharpening.
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