Panorama Tips and the San Diego Skyline

On Friday night I headed down to Coronado Island to shoot some images of the downtown San Diego skyline. I wanted to put together a panorama that I could use as art in my house. So I shot a series of photos (more on that in a minute) and stitched them together in Photoshop. I make ANY adjustments to this image whatsoever. All I did was stitch it together with Photoshop from Lightroom and then added the canvas area and some text.

Shooting Tips
If you want to get a pano like this, there are a couple of ways to go about it. First, you can shoot a photo with a wide angle lens and then crop it to simulate a pano. Second, you can shoot a series of vertical shots that overlap by about 20% of each other and then use Photoshop to put them together for you.

If you go the second route and shoot verticals, you will want to use a tripod if at all possible. This will help you keep your horizons level and give you more control over the camera. You can shoot it handheld, but you’ll need to leave a greater margin for error so that you aren’t cutting something important out of the photo when it comes time to crop. If you’re shooting at night, you’re gonna need a tripod, without a doubt.

You will also want to use some time of IR remote or cable release. If you don’t have one, then you can use your camera’s self-timer. This will help prevent camera shake which will keep you from getting blurry images since your shutter will be open for several seconds.

Last, but not least, you’ll want to start out with your camera’s white balance set to ‘Tungsten’ or ‘Incandescent’. You can play around with other WB settings, but your photos will likely look WAY too warm.

So there’s a couple of quick tips to help you shoot better panoramas right from the camera. Try it out next time your shooting. Let me know if you’d like more information on how to post process these images in Photoshop. If there’s enough demand, I’ll post a video for you guys.

Have a great week!


What’s Your “Best Kept” Photographic Secrets?

Yes, it was a trick question. I’m sure a lot of you heard about what happened yesterday over onScott Kelby’s blog and the ringer that a bunch pro sports photogs put Alex, Mike, and Scott through. What’s done is done and there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Read Scott’s update here.

Yes, the image above is a joke… I would never do or have such a thing as “best kept” secrets. In the case of what happened to Alex, it appears that a bunch of insecure photographers who shoot sports got a chip on their shoulder because of the fact that some “amateur” was going to be shooting on the sidelines with them.

Whatever. Those guys need to worry about their own photography skills if they think an amateur might come in and outshoot them. People who are confident in their own abilities will never do what those photogs did to Alex. That’s exactly why guys like Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, David Hobby, and other photographers with the same mindset are willing to share everything they know. They are confident in themselves and know that they can give away all of their “secrets” and still be competitive.

I have nowhere near the experience that those guys do as I got serious about photography much later than they did. But I still won’t hold anything back from someone who has a question. So what if they take everything I taught them and go underbid me. They still won’t have MY style, just as you wouldn’t have Joe McNally’s style after spending a year with him. His images would still be unique.

So think about that when you’re out shooting and someone comes up to you and wants to ask you a question about what settings to use, what lens to buy, how to set up their lights, etc. You’ll feel good knowing you helped someone else out, just as someone helped you out when you were first bitten by the shutterbug.

Zenfolio is Bringin’ It!

I’ve got some cool news today about some of the happenings at Zenfolio! If you’re an Mpix customer, they have offered 20% off a new subscription to their awesome service! That’s right, if you sign up for a new subscription with Zenfolio, you’ll receive 20% off your service fee! Just enter the code MPIX20 when you sign up. This offer is good until September 21st, so hurry and sign up!

On another note, Zenfolio has just added some more exciting features to their service as well! Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Drag N’ Drop Sorting of Photos
  • Export to Flickr and Facebook
  • Batch downloading of Original Files
  • Added the Category: Sports > Watersports > Surfing
  • Thumbnails now indicate whether or not the photo is watermarked

So if you aren’t using their service already, now is a GREAT time to sign up and save yourself some of that hard-earned money. What are you waiting for? Sign up! Image above courtesy of Mpix.

A Little NAPP News

Monday’s here and I thought I would pass on a little info. about what’s going on with the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP).

  • This week is the last week to save $100.00 off of your Photoshop World registration. If you plan on heading to Vegas for Photoshop World, then I highly recommend you sign up this week if at all possible.
  • Also, I noticed in my latest issue of Photoshop User magazine that the prices for new subscriptions to Kelby Training Online are going up soon. I don’t know when yet, but this issue is the September issue so that would be my bet. Monthly subscriptions will be $24.99 ($19.99 for NAPP members) per month. Yearly subscriptions are going up too, but I don’t have the details handy. If you already have a subscription, then your prices will stay the same.

Just thought I would pass that info. along to you guys. Have a great week!

Suicide Poster Contest News and a Big Thank You!

Happy Friday out there to the 3 people who read this blog. 🙂 I wanted to pass along my sincere thanks and appreciation for all who voted for my team’s poster in the Navy’s Suicide Prevention Poster Contest. We were voted #1, thanks to your votes and support!

As the selected winners, our poster will be featured in the November issue of All Hands magazine. All Hands is a very popular Navy publication that is circulated to all Navy commands. As a Sailor who isn’t a Mass Communication Specialist, it’s a big honor to have our work published there.

Our CO gave us the day off because of a couple of recent certifications our ship has passed, so I’m spending the day working photography stuff, drinking coffee, and hanging out with my kids. We’re having a big birthday party for my youngest and his friend tomorrow and expect around 60 people between parents and kids… nuts.

Have a great weekend, get out and shoot, and don’t forget to back up your photos! I’ll see you back here on Monday!

CyberSync “Sledgehammer” High Speed Sync vs. Nikon CLS Auto FP

In my post from Saturday, I explained how you can trigger remote flashes at shutter speeds that are above what your camera’s max. flash sync speed is. I thought what I was getting was High Speed Sync, but according to my buddy David Hobby it’s not quite the case. Here’s what David had to say about it:

What you are getting is not HSS, but rather a single pulse that is timed to last throughout the time the slip travels across your frame on a <250th speed. That is why you are only getting f4 at that ISO in that close.

It does work (no frame blackout) but you lose so much of the power of the flash (wasted on the blocked out part of the shutter) that it is pretty much a wash vs the CLS way. In fact, dollars to donuts I would bet you get less light via the “sledgehammer HSS” technique used here.

That said, it does apparently work, if not very efficiently. Kind like frying one of those geese with one of your radars does technically make it a microwave oven …

So what I set out to do next was compare the CyberSync method to traditional Nikon CLS and see how the two stacked up against each other with regards to power. Both methods prove to be very inefficient, but will work in a pinch if you get caught in a situation where your ambient is just too bright to knock down with shutter speed alone.

The Results
I shot these outside in early evening when the sky was still nice and bright. I metered the background at f5.6 @ 1/800th ISO200. I put an SB800 with only a diffusion dome on a lightstand, another on my D90, and connected the CyberSyncs. I set my shutter speed to 1/1000th to underexpose the background a bit. The light was 36″ away from my subjects (my daughter and her friend) whom I was able to convince to stand still for a couple minutes. The SB800 on the stand was set to full power and here’s what I got:

Obviously, it was a little too hot so I stopped down 1/3 of a stop to f6.3 and recomposed. This is what I got:

Much better. So now it was time to try out CLS. I disconnected the CyberSyncs and then put the SB800 on the lightstand in Remote and put the SB800 on my D90 in Master. I set the remote flash to Manual mode at full power. This was the result:

If you notice where the kids are in relation to the trees compared to the shots above, you will see that I actually had them standing CLOSER to the SB800 when using CLS and the shot was a little underexposed.

What’s the Take-Away?
Although the “Sledgehammer” method (as David called it) is very inefficient, it’s actually a little better than the CLS method. However, so much power is being wasted here that my NiMH batteries for my Speedlights hurt just thinking about me putting them through this kind of abuse.

To be very effective at all, you’d need to have two or three speedlights (at least, more if you wanted faster recycle times) and your shooting pace would be rather slow. It would work if you had no other options, but it isn’t really a “go-to” solution.

My Hard Drive Is Back!

I received my new power supply today that I purchased from Unity Electronics up in the L.A. area and now my hard drive is back up and running. Photos stored on my MacBook Pro were backed up by Time Machine, but I’m glad to be back to normal as far as my photo workflow goes.

I ran across Unity Electronics on eBay while I was searching for the model number of the power supply for my Iomega drive. Apparently, Iomega had a bad run with power supplies and the one I bought has LaCie’s name on it. Hopefully this one lasts longer than the 9 months the old one did.

I had duty yesterday so I’m busy playing “catch-up” this afternoon. Lots to do!