Panorama of Chester Cathedral

I have just returned from a weekend in Chester, an old walled town dating from Roman times. The cathedral is a beautiful building, especially the tiles on the floor and the vaulted ceiling.

I took a panorama of the Strathclyde University Chamber Choir rehearsing for Evensong. To obtain the image on the left, I remapped the spherical panorama, which was in equirectangular format, to a stereographic projection.  The tiled patterns form interesting geometric shapes.

Outdoor Model Shoot

A funny thing happened on the way to the shoot. Apparently, you have to get a certificate of permission to do any sort of model shoot in the Necropolis. I was informed by the groundsman and after some discussion, I was eventually let off for this time only and allowed to continue as long as I didn’t have any recognisable writings on headstones or monuments in the shots. I actually wanted to take advantage of the view and backdrop so in the end it wasn’t a big deal but I have had a lot of trouble finding out exactly who to contact should I want to do a future shoot in the Necropolis so any hints appreciated.

Anyway, the afternoon was bright though hazy. The sun was shining down but veiled with a thin layer of cloud. I still needed to bring down the ambient exposure by using an ND4 and used ISO50, 1/250th, and around f/4 to f/5.6 depending on the exact flash output and balance against daylight.

I placed the flash against the sun to allow the ambient light to partially fill in the shadows. I also used a reflector on a stand and arm to bounce the flash onto the back of the model. I used the sunfire surface to add some warmth and to match the sun.

I used a Bowens Gemini 400 flash powered by a Travelpak and the small battery. This gave around 300 shots at about half to three-quarter power on average. I mounted an octobox with both diffusers (probably could have gotten away with just the outer panel). I tried to place the flash as close as I could to the model to get a soft light, though at the cost of less even illumination. A strip light could have been a better choice had I had one.

I shot with the 16-50mm/2.8 and a Cokin P filter holder. This combination does vignette at the wide end so I had to either zoom in a bit or crop in the post-production to get rid of the mechanical vignetting. To be perverse, I added in artificial vignetting to accentuate the tunnel effect.

After the flash had finally run out of juice, it was time to do some available light portraits. The lay of cloud had thickened up a bit and though still partially sunny, the light was soft. I retreated to the shade to get an even more diffuse light.

I didn’t need the ND4 so I could take off the Cokin filter holder. I switched to the Tamron 70-200mm/2.8 so I could back up a bit and zoom in from a farther perspective. I positioned the model a bit away from the background so I could blur it out. In post-production, I added a bit of contrast and highlight adjustment to make the model separate from the background even more.

It was very handy to have a helping hand with the equipment. Even though the Bowens kit is “portable”, it’s not something you want to have to lug with you for very far. Together with all the extra bits and bobs (octobox, reflector, stands etc.), any help is appreciated.

Thanks to Sarah for modelling and to Francis for assisting despite a bad leg.

Story of a Picture

Here’s a pano which I took in France. I was visiting the town of Longny au Perche in Normandy and came across this artist in the grounds of the La chapelle NotreDame de Pitié, supposedly Mary Queen of Scots was responsible for its construction. The interior of the chapel can be seen here.

I was wandering around the ground when I saw the painter capturing the scene. In very broken French I managed to convey that I wanted to take her photo and would she mind. I detected no great objection so I set up  my camera close by and took this pano. Afterwards, I asked for her card and I sent a copy of the finished version.

This is my favourite projection of the pano, Miller cylindrical with a bit cropped off the top and bottom. The shadow of the is camera ominous opposite the sight of a traditional artist at work, the new and old facing off in this picturesque setting. I have to go back to the original source images and redo the pano, get rid of some stitching errors where the wind has blown the parasol around, and deal with flare in the sky. But I have a soft spot for this pano despite its technical flaws.

Panorama Photography Classes

I’m now offering one day classes in panoramic photography. It will cover the basic principles of panoramas, how to take the source imagery, align, assemble, and output the results. By the end of the day, you should be able to produce 360 degree cylindrical panorama or perhaps even a spherical panorama.

For those who already have the basics, I also offer personal tuition covering advanced techniques for overcoming difficult scenes, post-processing/remapping, and constructing VR tours.

Photoworld Talk Addendum

Thanks to all who attended the Edinburgh Photoworld. I hope that people were able to get  something out of my talk. I took a pano at the start of the day (left). The full pano can be seen here. More of my panoramas can be found here.

I have had requests for the links I gave at the end of my talk. Here are some links below, it’s by no means exhaustive, but hopefully they will be able to get you started.

I also run panorama photography courses for medium and advanced photographers. Please contact me if you are interested in attending a session. Small group tuition is also available.

Hardware

  • Nodal Ninja. Recommended manufacturers of panoramic heads.
  • Agnos. Italian manufacturer of panoramic heads.
  • Red-door. UK reseller of panoramic equipment.
  • 360 Tactical VR. Local reseller of panoramic equipment.

Software

  • Hugin. Open source free software for assembling panoramas. (multi-platform)
  • wiki.panotools.org. Information source for panoramic photography.
  • PTGui. Commercial pano software (PC).
  • PTAssembler. Commercial pano software (PC)
  • Calico. Commercial pano software (Mac)

 Viewing

  • Panozona. Open source, free software for constructing VR Tours
  • DevalVR. Free (non-open) local viewer
  • Gigapan. Share gigapixel panos.
  • HD View. Microsoft technology for displaying high resolution panoramas.
  • Zoomify. Software for zoomable display.

General Information

Out and about with the NEX-7

I’ve been getting used to the NEX-7, especially for street photography. The difference to the A77 couldn’t be more marked. The difference in size is the most noticeable difference, it is certainly less intimidating for people to have pointed at them, in stark contrast to the A77+16-50mm. The CDAF of the NEX-7 in good light is still reasonably quick and I can get the grabbed shot. Even in poor light, the peaking function with MF can give quite good results with some practise.

Fake Battery?

The battery on the NEX-7 is quite small, 1080mAh at 7.2V. With the EV, LCD and LiveView, this means that a spare battery or three is essential. I went onto Amazon to look for genuine spare NP-FW50 batteries and one seller was offering them at less than half the price of the typical seller. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When I received the battery, the packaging looked authentic, hologram and all, but the battery itself looked subtly different from the one I got with the camera.

The major differences I can spot are:

  • The battery casing is different, the suspect one does not have the grooves behind the label
  • The printing is different, crisper on the genuine one, e.g. the QR code
  • There is text missing on the suspect battery, “2ICP9/30/39” which appears on the genuine one
  • The engraving on the bottom right is different
  • The shape of the connectors on the top right is different
  • The colour of the top right corner is a different shade of cyan

I’m trying to get confirmation from Sony whether the battery from Amazon is genuine or not. So far, the battery is working. It charges up and displays percentage charge remaining on the camera. I’m not familiar enough with the run time of the genuine battery to tell whether the Amazon battery has the same amount of juice. The issue however is that I could have just bought for even less money a non-fake third-party spare battery which would have performed just as well.

Landscape and Panoramic Specialist in Glasgow