What a lovely afternoon in the San Francisco Botanical Garden, one of my favorite venues in the city for family photoshoots – shhh don’t tell the other photogs 🙂 J/K there’s enough beautiful space in urban nature out there for all of us to explore! We started out as many of my ventures out there do, just kinda wandering and seeing where the little ones take us. One of the first things mom says is “you’re just photographing them.” Of course I love following young ones around as they explore new and exciting things in the wild, but of course we had to pull mom and dad in for a few group photos. We explored together and saw everything from grassy fields to lakes and redwood forests. All in all a magnificent day in the park!
I’ve been seemingly obsessed with creating Panoramic images over the past year or so. I tried it out a couple of years ago, and to be honest I kinda sucked at it. Exposure was all off, and even the wonders of Photomerge in Photoshop couldn’t properly align and setup my images : ( Practice makes perfect, and though I’m far from that accolade, I have taken mentorship from a few pro photographers I admire as well as multiple attempts at it to heart, and I typically don’t make an image of a landscape these days without trying my hand at a pano during the shoot. The one thing that’s still a big pita, is that sometimes they take a lot more time on the computer than I’d like to complete a ‘single’ image. I didn’t quite get into photography to be a computer technician, and for an average shoot, most of my digital images take 1 minute or less to post process in Lightroom or Photoshop (sometimes none), but for some reason, I’m happy to spend an hour or more, often at midnight once I’ve gotten the rest of my work done, to finesse a group of images into a spread I can be proud of.
Sunrise view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA. 4 image panorama.
Not a week goes by where I don’t sit at the desk in our home office, peer out the windows of the sunroom at sunset, run to the other room, grab my camera and snap one, two, or a hundred images of our vista during the fleeting hours of daylight. Not traditionally a morning person, but once in a while I’m awakened in the early am. It’s a habit of mine that whenever I get up, no matter what time it is, I go over to the window, pull down the blinds with my fingers and peer out into the Bay. It’s something I’ve come to know and love, and I know it’s part of the reason I stay sane living in the hecticness of city life. On this particular day, I was blessed to see this display of clouds and golden sunrise over the city. I’d be lying if I said my first instinct was to grab the camera. With an hour or two left before the alarm was set to go off, I was halfway back to bed when my mind finally kicked my body into shape with my conscious saying “grab the camera and make a few images of this dude!” 5 panned images and a photomerge later we have the image of the sunrise above. A few days later I went up on our roof to capture the sunset in the 9 image pano below.
Sunset view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA. 9 image panorama.
Of course, like the rest of us I’m enamored by the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Partly because it’s one of the most beautiful bays in America, and partly because over the past two years, I’ve been blessed with a ridiculous view of it while living in the city by the Bay. For two years I’ve studied the weather (including the fog, the clouds, the wind! and the occasional lightning storm), the sun patterns, the shadows, the container ships, the sailboats, the buildings, the homes, the city, the Marin Headlands, the bridge traffic, and the neighborhood around us. All of these things have become as near and dear to me as the places where I grew up. I’ve never been so in love with living in a place in my life, not since moving away from New York and trying out all the places I’ve been over the last 15 years. My not so April fool, was capturing the image of the Golden Gate at sunset on April 1 below.
View of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands of California. 5 image panorama.
If you’re interested in learning how to shoot panoramas, you can start with the ever present and often helpful Google search for something like “how to photograph panoramic images” or something of the like. Of course, once you have a basic understanding, I suggest getting out there with your camera and giving it a try! A few words of wisdom I can offer from my experience:
Use a digital camera. Though this can be done with film, it’s well outside the scope of my skillz and this brief commentary. There’s another one for the photography bucket list…
Shoot vertical, portrait oriented images. This allows you to capture a larger spread top to bottom for your panorama. You’ll undoubtedly have to crop a bit on the top or bottom once you merge the images, and shooting vertical allows a lot more leeway once you get ’em all together.
Shoot in manual everything. Choose an exposure by locking in the ISO, aperture and shutter speed that works for most of your scene. This means some of it may be darker or brighter than you like. That’s OK because if you shoot it in RAW format, you can typically recover up to 2 stops of light in either direction in post processing before the quality of your image breaks down. Often, I prefer to underexpose instead of blowing things in highlights out. Once you lose it on the top end, it’s gone. I often find it easier to recover dark parts and shadows of the image (assuming the minimum amount of light necessary to bring back detail in post was captured). Sunsets and sunrises are notoriously difficult as one side of the sky is significantly brighter than the other as you pan, and sometimes I shoot for highlight detail and lower the exposure in post… Experimentation.
Example settings, if you’re going for daytime long distance grand vista panos like the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset photograph from this post: ISO 100-200, f/11, 1/125th sec. I went against my own advice (rules are made to be broken) and lived with the lack of detail in the highlights on the right side of the image as the low angle sunset light on the bridge was most important for me to protect in this capture.
When shooting, overlap each consecutive image by 1/3 to 1/2 of each frame. This is really important and one of the top 3 keys to any panoramic image. In order for Photoshop to merge your images in Photomerge, it has to be able to reference enough data across the images to figure out the scene and line everything up. In practice, I have greater success with overlapping more during capture, and then combining more images in Photoshop. 3 is the minimum, and have used up to 11. Some big ballers use 100 or more images, HDR techniques, etc. If you’re heading to be a baller, start by Googling “how to photograph hdr panoramic images.”
Use Adobe Photoshop (along with Adobe Bridge) or equivalent program(s). My method is usually quite simple: 1) Select the images I want to merge in Bridge. 2) Go to Tools –> Photoshop –> Photomerge –> Choose the ‘Auto’ option. Viola, most of the time if you shot it well, PShop does a great job of putting it all together.
Crop and publish. Orrrrr (more likely), develop using camera RAW settings (exposure, highlights, recovery, fill light, brightness, contrast, vibrance, saturation, etc.) as necessary, tweak, tweak, tweak, dodge, burn, crop, publish.
As you develop your panorama aptitude you’ll find what works best for you as you define and refine your style. Give it a try!
This is me. This is me on top of a melting piece of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier at the mouth of the Jökulsárlónglacial lagoon in Iceland. It’s probably one of the most incredible, jaw-dropping places I have ever been in my entire life. On a whirlwind trip around Iceland a few summer’s ago, I only got to spend only a few hours here, but it was an experience I will never forget. Right before I headed back to the car, I hopped up on what for all I knew was a piece of compressed glacial ice 5000 years my elder on it’s way to the ocean never to be seen again, and I snapped this image.
To this day, it still stands as my favorite self-portrait. I reached up and filled the frame with a photograph that tells the entire story of my Iceland trip in one image. In fact, I think it tells the entire story of my spirit in one image. I chose it months ago to serve as one of the last days of this blog, to celebrate finishing a year of daily images by putting myself out there.
All of the images on this blog mean something to me, and all of them represent pieces of me. Some are of loved ones. Some are from my travels. Some are of incredible rock shows I was center stage for. Some are completely random. And some are part of experimental work I never knew would even see the light of day, let along become part of what I now consider integral to my photographic style.
It has been an incredible year for me, and for my photography. I made 1000’s of photographs each month (sometimes 1000’s in a single day), started the foundation of a photo business, built a new website from the ground up, took educational classes (in person and online) with some of the most well-known experts today in photography, and all in all feel I have expanded my technical knowledge of this art more in this one year, than ever in all my born days.
As I put the finishing touches on the 365 project, I reflect on an amazing year of life behind the lens. Even though I’ve been shooting since I could hold a toy camera, I really feel like this past year was the year of getting super serious. It was the year of hours a day, every day, of focusing on getting better at the craft. I finally started making more images of people while continuing to learn more about landscapes, music photography, abstracts and long exposures at night – all of which have become the genres I focus my work on.
Today closes the year-long journey on this blog. I already decided a while back that I wouldn’t be continuing on past day 365 into another year. It’s seems simple, but posting one image a day is actually a lot of work and takes a decent time commitment I’m not sure I can afford right now. At this point I would like to take extra time to focus on shooting more, learning different techniques, studying lighting both natural and in studio, better methods of digital post processing, and other areas of photography critical to my growth as a photographer. I hope to build one of these projects again some year…
For now, you can keep up to date with my work and the occasional blog post on my website: http://nialldavid.com,
This is the view from my office/apt/sunroom/living room/whatever you like to call it. You’re going to see a lot of it on this site. Different days, different nights, different weather patterns; pretty much anything different I can capture. Lucky for me this is the San Francisco Bay, and there’s hardly a day alike out there. Ansel had Yosemite and the Sierra’s, right now I have my SF Bay view…
It’s a joy to road trip. Reminds me of college days, when things were carefree, and you could just take off for a weekend, or a week for that matter, and just explore. We were driving down the 5 when overhead there was a formation of birds… then there was another, and another. “Man that’s a lot of birds!” we exclaimed… And they just kept coming and coming and coming.
Lucky for me we had a sunroof, and I wasn’t driving at the time. And with 1000’s of migrating birds taking to the skies above us, I had just enough time to fire off a few shots of them and the hot air balloons floating in the sky. It was a halcyon day for sure.