Alert! This is a longer, geekier post - you've been warned!
So to continue from my last post, I was standing at my vantage point, ready to take what I was hoping to be an epic picture, but I just wasn't feeling it. The visual roar emanating from the Matterhorn and the Alps was more like pathetic whimper when seen through my camera's viewfinder. I remember just staring at the Alps, wondering if there was anything I could do to get a better shot.
Being the geek that I was/am, I had come across panoramic "stitches" in my previous readings. I was kicking myself for not having practiced the technique beforehand, but I figured now was as good a time as ever, and I really had nothing to lose.
In essence, creating a panoramic image is actually quite simple. You start at the beginning part of your scene, take a picture, then angle your camera a bit differently to get the next part of the scene, take the picture, and so forth, until you've captured the entire vista. The trick is to make sure there is some overlap between each picture - the reason for this is that when you bring all the pictures into Photoshop, it uses this overlap to "stitch" all the images together, thereby creating your final panorama.
So that's basically what I did to create the panorama - it looks like I left about 1/3 overlap in each picture. As a quick aside, I've had many people ask if it took a long time to photoshop the flare (light ray) coming from the sun - I actually got lucky, and as you can see in the third picture, captured it in camera. As of March 2016, I've never used Photoshop to add anything to a picture that wasn't already present (actually I'm lying - I did do it for one photo, but I'll leave that a mystery for now =P)
That's what Photoshop spat out based on the 9 photos above. Pretty neat, eh? But as I was taking the pictures, I already knew that there would be areas where detail was missing. The sun was overly bright, and the mountains themselves were a bit dark. Luckily, I knew I could compensate for this by stacking multiple exposures to create an HDR picture - if you want to know more about this technique, you can read about it here.
But but but, this is a panorama! How can you do an HDR of a panorama when each panorama itself is X images (in this example, 9)? Unfortunately, there's no easy way to do this - you have to take multiple exposures of each section. In this case, the panorama itself is 9 images, and I took 7 exposures (ranging from extremely dark to extremely bright) for each section. Thus, this example has 9x7=63 pictures. There's a bit of a debate as to how to do the HDR - do you do an HDR of each section, then combine each HDRed section to make an HDR panorama, or do you create a panorama for each exposure, then HDR each panorama exposure to create your final HDR panorama? I'm not going to get into the details, but I chose to create the panoramas first, then HDR them, and the main reason was to ensure that the final exposure would be consistent.
Talk about foolishness/unfounded ambition though! I had never attempted a panorama before, and now I was attempting an HDR panorama. Through some minor miracle (I think it's because I accidentally left gear behind to appease the Matterhorn deities), it somehow all worked out for me, and after some finessing in software, I was able to get what, as of today, is considered by many to be my signature piece.
Alas, it was getting late, and I didn't want to miss the train back down to Zermatt. I quickly packed up my gear and started my mini-hike back to the station. I'll talk about that in the conclusion to the series of blog posts about the Matterhorn.
*PS - for those that are familiar with panoramas, you'll have noticed I didn't mention anything about parallax or nodal points. At the time, I didn't have the necessary equipment to compensate for this, but I'll talk about it in more detail in a future post.