Gigapixel Photography with the Olympus OMD EM-5
September 08, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Back in the early days of digital photography (1998 for me). I was given my first digital camera as a gift. It was a Fuji MX-700 with a whopping (at the time) 1.5 mega pixels. I promptly bought the largest SmartMedia card I could find for it (128mb) and started photographing anything and everything.
Now that I no longer had to worry about film or developing costs, I was able to freely experiment and capture all the images time would allow. Not to mention, I could get immediate feedback from the LCD screen on the back and figure out what I had done right and what I could improve on. This was the point where my photography really started to take off.
I found I could print off a decent 8x10 on my little Lexmark printer but anything much larger then that was pushing the limits of those 1.5 mps. I wanted to create epic images and epic images aren't nearly as epic printed as an 8x10. I wanted to print posters and even wall murals.
Then one day as I was editing some images, it hit me. I could resize, rotate and move these digital images. I bet I could combine them as well. The following image was the result.
The White Mountains, NH. Six images hand stitched. 3620x1428
The results were less than ideal but once I learned about the magical software that could stitch images together I could make those wide panoramas that I had imagined.
Portland Headlight, Maine. 18 images 16,413x1150
Spring of 2013 I bought my Olympus OMD EM-5. I absolutely love this little camera. I carry it with me everywhere and as a result I'm photographing more. This means more practice and my skill is growing much like when I first received that little Fuji.
The Olympus was the camera I took to the Utah Color Festival that March. At one point I wanted to get a view from above the crowd. I set the camera to high-speed sequential exposures. I held the camera as high above my head as I could, pressed the button and quickly panned the camera. I didn't get anything too exciting from it but when I got home and started editing I looked at those fourteen photos I took in a little over a second and thought, "I bet I could stitch these". So I gave it a shot.
Salt Lake Color Festival 14 images 12,433x6,390
I ended up with a handheld panoramic of a moving crowd. How cool is that?
Up to this point I'd only stitched images when the scene I wanted to capture was too big for my widest lens. I hadn't considered zooming in for more detail or taking multiple rows of images. So on a recent trip to Yosemite I decided to see what I could do. All of the images were taken hand held because the sheer number of tourists made using a tripod awkward. I was very pleased with the overall result of the images. I learned from my experiments and I'll get better results next time. A gigapan system is definitely on my wishlist.
Graffiti Tree Trunk from Yosemite National Park, 11 images, 6,301x17,642 pixels
Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, 53 images, 21,767x6,2904 pixels
Roots of the Fallen Monarch, 50 images, 20,069x12,593 pixels
This was one of the more difficult images from the trip due to all the tourists taking photos in front of it. Finally I set the camera to high speed sequential and panned it across the top row waited for a clear shot and panned the second row and then again for the bottom row.
Here is what I have learned from my experiences...
- It is possible to shoot smaller panoramas hand held. But you have to be remember to pay attention to the edges and corners and to rotate around the camera rather then the camera around you.
- Shoot higher and wider than you think you need to. You will almost certainly have to crop.
- The low speed sequential setting is better for fast panning. High speed is too fast for the pan and takes unnecessary pictures. Panning too quickly can also cause motion blur. Plus the buffer fills up after a second and a half or so and you have to wait for images to process anyway.
- The best tripod head (not counting a purpose built pano head) is one with separate vertical and horizontal locks. This keeps your rows and columns lined up better and you are less likely to miss a section.
- The size of the of the panoramas you can make depends more on the size of your memory card and the processing power of your computer then it does the camera you use.
- When stitching large panoramas in PhotoShop you can stitch individual sections and then combine the smaller sections into larger ones. It will also go faster if you flatten the layers of individual sections before stitching them together.
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