My First Night Sky Panorama
Friday night was another great learning experience for me. I experimented with shooting ultra high iso milky way images and blending them as a way of reducing noise and I tried my hand at photographing panoramas at night.
First of all I want to thank the generous and kind people at nodalninja.com when I was shopping online and looking for a panorama head. When I emailed nodalninja for shopping advice I was informed that what I had in mind was overkill. The rig that I was thinking of buying was more than I needed. It would have been easy to oversell me and make a few extra dollars but I was advised to get a smaller pano head and they were right. It works perfectly for what I intended to do with it.
When doing panoramas a certain amount of overlap is needed by the stitching program in order to better assemble the final image. The percentage of rotation between shot is dependant on the focal length or field of view of the lens being used. A wider lens = greater rotation between frames. A longer focal length means more photos taken to cover the same area and less rotation between frames.
For the photo above I used a 14mm lens on a full frame camera. The reason for such a wide lens was that for my first try at panoramas I didn’t want to shoot two rows high to get the top of the aurora. The 14mm lens in portrait position covered enough sky to only need the one row of images.
Simple is better when learning. It’s a good idea to simplify whatever you are doing while learning. As you acquire more proficiency, add more layers of difficulty.
At six frames the image covered is probably a little over 180 degrees and the final stitched and cropped image is over 13,000 pixels wide. Noise is practically non existent in the sky but apparent on the ground but that could quite easily be taken care of with a good noise reduction program.
The aurora on this night was unlike the auroras that I usually see. Instead of a swirling and twisting light show directly overhead, an arch of green stretched from the north west horizon to the north east. What you see in the photo is how it remained for most of the time that I saw it.
At home I opened and processed the six images in my raw image editor. The resultant files were saved as 16 bit tiffs.
The difficult part for me was figuring out how to use the panorama stitching program for the first time. It seemed that with all the dark areas the program got confused and the result looked more like a kaleidoscope than anything resembling a photograph. It was necessary to manually place the images in the order that they were taken and find control points (or similar points) in adjacent images.
Youtube to the rescue where after a few tries I started getting things aligned the way I wanted.
A quick crop. Some colour corrections and dodging in Photoshop to reveal more details in the road and shadows and voila. My first night time panorama.
Like I wrote in the previous blog post there is a certain joy from learning something new and putting it to use. I look forward to many more night and daytime photos using the pano head and stitching software.