By Lee Varis, www.varis.com
I’ve been quite busy lately—the first part of the Month I was in Death Valley, then immediately after returning, I jumped into a photo shoot for the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, part of the Santa Monica College arts campus. Again, without a break, I did a little retouching job. I only mention this to explain why the blog has been so quite. I usually get a chance to work with my creative photography right after a trip but the Death Valley images will have to wait. For now, I am catching up by sharing the architectural shoot I did recently.
I did an exterior shoot for the Broad Stage last year and now the assignment was to document the interior for use on their website and in printed promotional materials. Besides its use in school programs the swank 500 seat theater is available for rent and is often used for major public performances. My job was to produce wide-angle panoramas to show the space with and without crowds. I did quite a bit of other shooting as well, details, musicians and instruments but the main focus was to generate some interactive HDR-VR panos that could play on a website to give 360° views of the interior space. I’ve done this in the past using expensive proprietary software but today all the essential work can be done with Photoshop and an inexpensive program to generate the various web files.
The Broad Stage Auditorium from the rear
This 180° pano is stitched from 5 vertical wide-angle shots. I used an old Kaidan tripod rig to shoot single-row VR panos, orienting the Canon 5D vertically and shooting so that at least 20% of the frame overlapped the next shot. The pano rig allows for precise positioning of the camera so that the rotation occurs around the nodal point of the lens. This creates less displacement distortion from shot to shot and makes for more seamless blending into a single panorama image. The pano-rig has adjustable click stops for consistent rotational positioning shot to shot, a real advantage for quicker shooting. In addition to the multiple frames, each frame was captured in 3 different exposures—bracketing in 1-stop intervals—this provided enough extra detail, in shadows and highlights, to make it look as though extra lighting was used and really gives a sense of being there!
My old Kaidan rig - a first generation pano rig— Kaidan is no longer selling products but similar "pano-heads" are sold by Really Right Stuff and others.
Some scenes were captured as 360° panoramas spinning the camera rig in a complete circle to capture the full interior. The panorama rig makes the chore of aligning the shots much easier and having the shots revolve around the nodal point of the lens makes for easier stitching of the multiple shots. The actual pano stitching was done in Photoshop using the Photomerge function with spherical distortion.
Merge to panorama in Photoshop
After selecting multiple shots in Lightroom or Bridge, you can send them to Photoshop for merging into a panorama.
The Photomerge dialog allows you to select the type of distortion to apply - vr panoramas will require "spherical" distortion to play correctly.
Broad Stage Lobby Entrance
This 360° scene was captured from 10 different shots, each composed from 3 different exposures to create an interactive HDR, VR scene—I think this stretched wide angle is beautiful as is...
I also shot a fair number of regular wide angle and HDR shots. HDR was only appropriate when there were no people present because any movement between bracketed shots would cause problems. I don’t like to completely compress the dynamic range for interior shots that include a view of the outside through a window. I prefer to have some detail show but allow the outside to be very pale to preserve a sense of light in the interior like the following shot of the lobby bar.