Panorama Workshop, October 14-21, 2018 - Aaron Priest Photography
Panorama Workshop

Fall Color Panoramas, 4 Day Workshop

1 week of accommodation included at a private townhouse overlooking Northeast Harbor
5 participants max, spouses welcome--only 2 spots remaining!
Instructors: Aaron Priest & Vincent Lawrence
Accommodation: October 14-21, 2018
Workshop: October 16-20, 2018

Aaron Priest Photography and Acadia Images are excited to offer a 4-day panorama-focused workshop with a week's worth of accommodation at a private house located in the photographic hub of Acadia, overlooking Northeast Harbor. There will be two instructors: Vincent Lawrence, owner of Acadia Images and year-round resident of the area, and Aaron Priest, a world-renowned panoramic and high-resolution photographer from Maine. Aaron has been collaborating with Acadia Images for several years on Night Sky, Milky Way Panoramas, Night Sky Timelapse, and Fall Panorama workshops.

By including a full week of accommodation you are able to arrive early and stay an extra day, making the most of the fall foliage season in Acadia National Park. Take some time to explore on your own.

NOTE: If you are registered and unable to attend, the accommodation portion of tuition ($800) is non-refundable. The remaining tuition can be used towards a future workshop.

Workshop Topics:

Learn everything from the basics to the complex of panorama photography in this post-processing intense 4-day workshop. If you have never tried a pano, have tried but had problematic results, or want to learn how to perfect this technique this is the workshop for you. Please bring whatever pano gear you have and if you want to try out panos for the first time there are a Nodal Ninja 6 and two Really Right Stuff multi-row panning heads to experiment with (we recommend an ArcaSwiss style lens foot or L bracket for your specific lens/camera as generic/universal plates aren't as sturdy). Post-processing will be a major focus of this workshop and you will need to bring a laptop with Photoshop (CS6 or newer) or Lightroom (version 6.0 or newer--now labeled Lightroom CC Classic). We recommend Creative Cloud to have the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom for improved panorama features. If you want to get into multi-row panoramas you’ll want to have either PTGui (recommended), AutoPano, or Hugin (free).

This workshop with start at 1pm on October 16th with an overview of panoramic technique and pitfalls. We’ll then delve into the issue of parallax and diagnosing the no-parallax-point of your lens. We’ll head out into beautiful Acadia National Park in the late afternoon to start shooting panorama material.

This workshop covers:

• Camera settings for panoramas
• No-parallax-point identification
• Use of panning heads
• Single-row panos
• Multi-row panos
• Spherical panos
• Little planets
• Bokehramas
• Dynamic range issues and HDR
• Image post-processing for panoramas
• Stitching and blending
• Projections and distortion
• File formats and size limitations
• Resources for sharing/exploring gigapixel and spherical panoramas

Cadillac Mountain at Sunset, click to zoom in and pan around

At a minimum you will need a camera, lens, tripod, tripod head with an independent panning lock (preferably above your ball head or leveling base), and a laptop with the above recommended software. A nodal slide rail is also recommended to eliminate parallax and make stitching easier. If multi-row or spherical panos are your endgame then you’ll want to have a multi-row panning head such as the ones from Really Right Stuff or Nodal Ninja.

Panoramas get big fast, especially with 24 to 50 megapixel cameras. Batch editing the RAW files can be very CPU intensive and take a while to render. An SSD dramatically speeds this up if you have a large enough one in your laptop, and big panoramas in Photoshop require a lot of RAM. You’ll need plenty of available storage, both in camera and on your computer. Bring an external drive to backup your images on.

While out in the field it’s best to take notes about the sequence you shoot, either on paper or on your phone, to refresh your memory when stitching later. Smartphones (Android or iOS) have a number of apps that are useful for planning in the field (tides, moonrise/set, sunrise/set, weather, panorama calculations, etc.), and we will cover some of this as well.

Seal Harbor at Sunset, click to zoom in and pan around

The Accommodations:

We are including a full week of accommodations by hosting this workshop at a private townhouse overlooking Northeast Harbor. Check in as early as 3:00 PM on October 14th and checkout is 10:00 AM on the 21st.

What’s not included:

Meals and transportation are participants’ responsibility. There is a kitchen available for use at the estate. Usually breakfast and dinner are taken as a group in town. We carpool as much as possible to reduce traffic into the park. Vehicles entering the Park are required to have a entrance pass, available to purchase at numerous locations around the park.

Payment to Acadia Images, LLC

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Seal Harbor at Sunset

Mount Desert Island, Maine, July 31, 2016, 20:05

A lot of effort goes into a gigapan, especially at sunset with rapidly changing light and in a harbor with moving boats and waves. There are several stages of work to any good photo: planning, shooting, post-processing, printing / display, and with panoramas you have to add stitching and blending of course. The planning phase is probably the most critical for a successful stitch later though. Location and time of day are obviously two important steps of planning, as is choosing your subject and field of view to know what focal length and aperture would best isolate your subject or place your subject in its environment. You may even have several subjects in a wide landscape. In this scene, the color of the sky, the reflection on the water, and the people getting off the boat on the pier were what I chose to be my focus. I let the railing and edge of shoreline be the natural border of the scene. I don’t always center my horizon line, but for a reflection it emphasizes the mirrored effect and it juxtaposed the dipping arch of the boats in the foreground lined up left to center below the horizon and the rising arch of the hill in the background from center to right above the horizon. The swooping S through the scene helps break up the centered horizon line.

Next was choosing my focal length, once I knew how much of the scene I was going to shoot. The horizontal angle of view was 160° wide, and it would take a non-existent 3.2mm lens to cover such an extreme angle, so it goes without saying that stitching multiple photos was obviously going to be the answer. But what focal length? 40mm would have covered the vertical field of view with a single row in portrait orientation and taken 6 images to reach 158° wide with a 25% overlap, but the resolution would only be 167 megapixels and I wanted much more detail, especially of the people on the distant dock. On the other hand, at 200mm it would have taken 31 columns of 6 rows for a total of 186 images and the stitched panorama would be 4.3 gigapixels, but I didn’t feel I had enough time with the people leaving the dock and setting sun to capture that many images. I also had moving boats and waves to contend with. In the end, I settled on 110mm and here’s the critical reason why: it captured the full mast and reflection of the tallest boat in the harbor in a single image, which would make masking and deghosting MUCH easier in post-production later when stitching and blending. It also meant I could capture the entire scene in 51 images (17 columns of 3 rows) before the light disappeared. I turned every 10° horizontally and 15° vertically for about a 39% horizontal overlap and 38% vertical overlap so I would have plenty of material for blending and deghosting moving boats and waves. It took about 6 minutes to capture all the images so the light was fairly consistent and the clouds didn’t move far. I started in the lower left hand corner and zigzagged so I would be shooting the darkest area first and the brightest area last for more even lighting, since the light was fading and the scene was getting darker. I would do the opposite for a sunrise panorama. The final, cropped image wound up being 65899 x 19926 or 1.3 gigapixels, so it was a good compromise and I still hit my goal of a gigapan.

The hyperfocal distance of a 110mm lens at f/8 is 50m where everything from 25m to infinity should be acceptably sharp. This assumes a much smaller print size than zooming into 100% in a gigapan though. I probably should have chosen at least f/11 or f/13 for more depth of field, but I was also down to 1/20 shutter speed and up to ISO 200 for an exposure and I didn’t want to raise my ISO to 2500. I couldn’t go with a longer shutter speed either without blurred boats from the waves. So I chose f/8, focused on a boat in the middle of the harbor (30m away), took a couple near and far test shots, and confirmed it was an acceptable compromise. Everything in photography is a compromise, as Joe DiMaggio is fond of saying!

Camera settings: 110mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/20

Stitching data: 3 rows of 17 images. 65899 x 19926

Equipment used: Nikon D810, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II, Promote Control, and Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod w/ leveling base & pano/gimbal head. RAW conversion in Lightroom, aligned with PTGui, and manually blended via masks in Photoshop. Planned with PhotoPills.

From Acadia National Park