Carriage Road at Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake, Mount Desert Island, Maine

July 14, 2015, 2:06 AM

This spherical panorama was taken on one of the carriage roads that goes around Eagle Lake on Mount Desert Island, July 14, 2015, 2:06 AM during a night photography workshop that I co-instructed with Mike Taylor and Vincent Lawrence. I positioned myself in the middle of the road where I would get a good reflection of trees on both sides. While I was setting up this shot a beaver crossed the road, bumped my tripod leg, and made a horrific splash on the other side. I’m not sure who was more startled at the brief encounter!

The Milky Way arcs straight overhead at this time of year and hour, with alternating green and purple air glow. The Andromeda galaxy is visible to the north east over the light pollution of Bar Harbor.

I shot two spheres of different exposures—one for the sky and one for the ground—and blended them via luminosity masks in Photoshop before stitching with PTGui Pro. The tripod was removed from the nadir afterward in Photoshop. I’ll be teaching how to do all this in an upcoming May workshop in Acadia:

Click here to explore the 360° panorama

Untitled photo

Camera settings: 10.5mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 30 seconds for the sky and 120 seconds for the ground.

Stitching data: 1 row of 7 photos plus a dedicated zenith for each exposure, as well as a dark frame of each exposure. I wanted a lot of overlap to compensate for the softness of the 10.5mm fisheye around the edges. The finished panorama is 65MP, this image is a 3:1 crop out of the middle.

Equipment used: Nikon D810, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye (lens hood shaved off for full frame use), Panoneed robotic head, Promote Control, and Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod w/ leveling base. Dark frame subtraction with Pixel Fixer, RAW conversion in Lightroom, exposure blended with Photoshop, stitched with PTGui Pro, and planned with my favorite app PhotoPills.

Before shooting the entire sphere with a 10.5mm fisheye, I took a test shot at 14mm from underneath the trees around midnight. I really liked this composition of the Milky Way reflecting in Eagle Lake over the Bubbles in the distance with the tree branches overhead. I used f/2.8, ISO 6400, 25 seconds for the Milky Way and f/2.8, ISO 2500, 400 seconds for the ground and trees. 

Blending and masking such a bright ground exposure through trees and leaves against the sky is a challenging task, especially with a slight breeze on the leaves. I've been developing some new masking and blending techniques to teach at upcoming workshops, and this was good testing material! I added a slight Orton glow to the final image.

Here are some examples of the sky, ground, and final blended exposures:

"Little planet" or stereographic projection

"Little planet" or stereographic projection

Sky, ground, and blended exposures

  • Sky exposure
  • Ground exposure
  • Eagle Lake

Pixel Fixer

I have often mentioned using Pixel Fixer to remove hot pixels due to sensor heat on long exposures. This evening was a good example as it was quite warm and humid. The software is for Windows only and works with a limited list of cameras, but the advantage is that it will work on RAW files instead of TIFFs or JPEGs. I use it before editing the RAW files in Lightroom.

To capture my dark frames, I simply shoot the same ISO/shutter combination at f/22 with the lens cap on and viewfinder eyepiece closed (or covered) to avoid any outside light. I apply these dark frames to the rest of the images in Pixel Fixer's batch mode for each shutter/ISO combination that I shot through the night, which is incredibly useful for timelapses and panoramas to avoid the long gap between photos that the in-camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature requires.

Note: this does nothing for the random noise that high ISOs create, it is only for removing the more static hot pixels that long exposures create when the sensor heats up, which can happen at any ISO–even long exposures during the day with a 10-stop ND filter. They seem to build up with use/age on older sensors too. You can force many cameras to re-map hot pixels in their firmware by shooting a several minute exposure to warm the sensor up, then immediately self-cleaning the sensor in the menu twice in rapid succession (before going to any other menu options). There seems to be an undocumented algorithm on when this will work though, likely based on the last time the firmware was updated and how long it has been since the last remapping.

Here is a before/after example of the lower right corner of the above photo. This is the long exposure of the ground taken at ISO 2500 for 400 seconds:


Check out the "little planet" stereographic projection and 220° fisheye view from the same spherical panorama down below, and feel free to leave any comments or re-share this article!

Happy shooting!

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