Sunday, May 5, 2013

I-35 Upper Deck in the Morning Panorama

Morning traffic in Austin is a nightmare, or better yet, a "morningmare"!  It's the worst.  The quicker you can get a jump on it, the better.  For that reason, I get on the road pretty early so I can beat most of it.  However, the rate that the city is growing, the traffic seems to get busier earlier and earlier.  Many years ago, Austin thought one way to combat the traffic woes was to put in an upper-deck on the expressway going through downtown that would have not off-ramps so drivers could take that option to help speed through.  It doesn't seem to really help anymore.  But, just off the decks on the southbound side of I-35 near 38 1/2 street lies a new office building which went up and has an 8-level parking garage.  It's free to go into and it has a great view of the decks.  That's where I took this 7-shot panorama.

If you know what you are doing and have the right gear, panoramas can be pretty easy and fun.  For me, not so much.  But, I did learn a lot about panoramas after taking and processing this photo.  It still needs a little work, but for me, I think it works.  The things I learned are as follows:

1. To take a proper panorama, one must know the "nodal point" of the lens of choice.  The nodal point is basically the area "inside the lens where the light paths cross before being focused onto a film plane."  That point is where you want the actual camera to pivot from while you take your shots for a panorama. That way, when it's time to stitch your shots together, the stitching software can blend the shots together as accurately as possible.  Otherwise, you will get some wild and unfortunate problems from stitching to distortion (other than normal pano distortion, that is).  Also, to figure out the nodal point, you will need a proper head and/or bracket for your tripod.

2. If you can't use a tripod or even if you have a tripod and not the right head or bracket, you can still take a decent panorama, but be prepared to fix a lot of stitching issues and perspective/distortion problems.  I ran into a lot of those with this shot, but a photographer out there named Klaus Herrmann, aka Farbspiel, who takes some great vertical panoramas (or vertoramas), has some great processing techniques that were invaluable.  His distortion correction video was a big help!  I learned a lot from that video and I also learned a lot from his "making of" videos.  However, if you watch those, be prepared to pause and play quite often because his techniques are quite extensive and he speeds up the vids about 10 times as fast as normal!  However, you can still get a lot out of them!  Those "making of" videos really helped me fix stitching problems.

3.  To take a good panorama, put your camera in portrait orientation, meter the main subject in the pano with your camera, note the camera's aperture and shutter settings, switch to manual mode and input those setting accordingly.   Then take all the shots to compose the pano with those settings.  That way, you won't have any blending problems in post-processing.

I guess those are the main things I've learned.  I hope you enjoy the shot and thanks for visiting!



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