How to create a panoramic photograph using the Nodal Ninja

5 December 2013

Elmslie Memorial United Church Grand Cayman Islands by Johan DeyselElmslie 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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About the Author:
"I met Johan Deysel for the first time just as he had returned from university in 2004 and I immediately knew that I was dealing with a person of impeccable integrity. It was also soon after this meeting that Johan seriously took up photography, starting out as a photographer for the local newspaper in town. Why would a promising engineering student make such a radical change in his life? The answer was quite simple. Johan Deysel discovered his passion in life: photography! He discovered a medium through which best to express his passion for the beauty that always accompanies LOVE… I have carefully followed the development of this young man through the eight years since our first meeting. Johan landed himself a job as international photographer with Carnival Cruise Lines. He had the unforgettable privilege of touring the US, Caribbean, and Europe for the past six years. It was during this period that he developed an uncanny ability to capture rare moments of beauty. I came across the preface of a book he had created and in his own words he expresses his vision clearly: “Each picture tells its own story and has its own meaning for me. However, it is entirely up to you to interpret every image with your own emotions and your own thoughts about life. Allow them to speak to you and allow them to make you feel things. Allow them to provoke emotions, whether they are good or bad, and wake you up to life.” Johan has distinguished himself by winning the ‘Professional Category’ of the Carnival Cruise Lines Seaview Magazine’s annual photography competition in 2009. He also attended a hands-on workshop with the late Monte Zucker, internationally acclaimed US wedding photographer. He loves spending his free time enjoying music, playing tennis, hiking and traveling to unexplored destinations. Johan is best described as a person who is passionate, driven, humble and most of all, caring. He also jealously guards his reputation, as integrity is one of the values on which he places an incredibly high premium."

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