I wrote a while ago, how to make mini planets also known as Stereographic Projections. At the time I wrote the post as a fun tutorial on the different ways you can make a mini planet.
The post also challenged me as well. Yes i can make panoramas, and I can make 360 degree versions. Cool Ben and so can everybody with a smartphone now. I started thinking could this be done as a 360 degree panorama HDR and a HDR Mini planet.
The HDR mini planet was now my photographic mountain There were several things i would need to think about before I could go out and complete my task.
First was subject; It needed the subject of the image to be somewhere that i could shoot without the problems of cropping buildings or trees. It would need to be somewhere interesting, but also somewhere people had not really photographed like this before.
I came up with Two locations in my city and both were quite close together. One location was Park Moniuszki. It is an interesting small park in the middle of the city that is used more as a short cut from one of the train stations to a main tram line. The park has a Russian Orthodox Church on its boundary as well as a tenement block which is in the process of being demolished.
The second location was Plac Generała Henryka Dąbrowskiego. This is quite an interesting place as the architecture like most of my city is eclectic. There is a recently renavated theatre, a building that is part of the medical university, city courts and a collection of shops and boutiques. At present but not at the time i took the picture, this is the temporary terminus for many bus routes as the bus terminus is being demolished as part of the train station and bus station redesign. In front of the theater is also a fountain that at night has a colorful light display.
Both pictures would need to be taken before the sun has reached its noon position and also on a day with few clouds. I know I was limiting myself, but these conditions I knew would help me when taking the panorama. It was also coming into autumn so I wanted to capture the picture with the nice autumn leaves
The next thing i needed to think about was how. This was not just how was I going to take the picture but how was i going to edit it. A panorama, I know how to take there are some basic principles that i wrote about in a previous post. The editing i would need to think about. A HDR image needs a minimum of three images each group of shots needs to be edited to HDR using the same settings. For my HDR work I use both Photomatix and HDR Efex pro, both are good programs though i prefer the latter. I found out that Photomatix has the ability to batch process images. This formed the beginning of my work flow.
- I would photograph my images as i would with a standard 360 panoramic leaving enough room above and below for the 360 merge.I would take all pictures with a +2/-2 bracketing for the HDR.
- I would then process one group of images to see what the best settings would be then batch process the rest.
- In Photoshop I would merge to panorama most likely through Adobe bridge like i normally do.
Now i wanted to think about the mini planet part. I was not overly happy with the polar coordinates process so I went and had a look around the net and found an excellent plugin from flaming pear. I have used their plugins before when i was first starting out with digital imaging and they are quite good. The plugin is called Flexify 2. It does a lot more than make mini planets, in reading the PDF that came with it I was quite surprised of the possibilities.
The next steps in my work flow would be;
- Give the panorama general toning.
- Clean the panorama and fix any stitching issues
- Apply Flexify 2 filter.
- Check and fix any issues caused by the filter
- Final toning, noise reduction and sharpening.
With my work flow in place I went out and took my pictures.
The first location i went to was Park Moniuszki. This was an absolute failure. My tripod was set up, but it appears it was not level or the park is not flat (do i blame myself, the landscape or my tools). I cropped the top of trees even with my 18mm wide angle lens. I took the images as portraits to reduce the number of files and the final file size when complied the image. I just completely screwed it up.
I spent a few hours trying to straighten and make things match up but they didn’t. The image was not a complete waste of time as I have the basis for a good panorama that will look nice.
I moved on to Plac Generała Henryka Dąbrowskiego. I also took the pictures here as a portrait to reduce the number of files and the final file size.
If you can imagine my normal HDR file is around 20-40mb and once i have taken my 12 images to create the panorama the future file is already 500mb big before I start editing. If I was to take these pictures like i take a normal panorama I would be at 1.5gb due to having 36 images.
With the Plac Generała Henryka Dąbrowskiego I was more successful but didn’t think I would be. The sun was quite high in the sky and there was a lot of traffic.
As you can see from the screen shot there was a good area that could be cropped. It was only here that i saw another problem which i had not thought about with this location. The central square is quite intricate and i was thinking that this is going to be interesting to blend together.
There were a few areas of stitching problems i had to work on for example; in the sky to get a nice gradual tone and some details on buildings. I worked on these areas and once complete, I was really happy if this was as far as i could go.
There is such nice details and tones in the square itself with the contrasting pink and gray stone paving and even more the uneven wearing of these slabs. The sun is high but the richness of the blue that is saturated is not lessened by the few graying clouds.The mixture of buildings together with the sandstone of the courts house on the left going through to the modernish facade of old buildings right down to the older turn of the century Germanic style architecture, finally coming back around to the pink of the medical university building and finally to the sandstone of the theater and its cyan colored fountain.
Next I applied the Plugin Flexify 2 from the filters menu. This is a filter that has quite a steep learning curve and I spent quite a while through trial and error to get the final outcome I wanted. When I applied the filter and every thing was joined I had an issue with the stones in the square as they did not blend well. After a few different tries I came to the conclusion that i would need to mix up my work flow and apply two different techniques. I would duplicate my panoramic layer into a new document. First I would process the image in Flexify 2 but leave the center of the image hollow.
In my new document I would process the image using the polar coordinate technique. I would then import my polar coordinate image back into the original file and fill in the hollow center. I did this quite carefully, first by rotating my polar coordinates layer and then slowly masking it in.
Once I had blended the central part of my image I checked again for any problems caused by the filter I found a few with cars that looked a bit strange and corrected them using a mixture of the patch, heal and clone tool.
Finally I toned the finally image adding some warmth to it. I then reduced the noise e and sharpened the image.
I am really pleased with the image and its final result. It took quite some time to get to the final product from conception in my mind, then researching and thinking about different techniques to finally taking the image. The biggest amount of time was on the edit. The final image is quite large so checking and correcting small errors took some time especially when zoomed in at 100%.
The image is what I wanted, you can see the whole square and the differences between all the buildings. The warmth I added works nicely as it gives it that pleasant welcoming feel. I would do this technique again and it was great to learn about batch HDR options in Photomatix as i had never explored that before. Also I can now play about with the filter flexify 2 and see what other things this can add to my work flow. I prefer Flexify 2 technique to polar coordinates as you have the mini planet filling the whole document size not just creating an orb but the polar coordinates work flow is much better as joining the center. I will need to work on this part of my work flow for future images.
There we are. It has been a long time in the making but i have finally been able to share it.
What do you think? Do you like it, is there anything you would have done differently? Let me know your opinion be it positive or negative using the comment box below.