A quick post about stitched panoramas and difficult exposures

Unless you’re a photographer, skip this. You might skip this even if you are a photographer. You could also just look at the gallery at the bottom.

The P900 has the option to shoot panoramas as does my Note 8. The D7000 doesn’t (that I know of — I’ve not read the manual in a while so even if it’s in there, I’ve forgotten about it).

Regardless, while sailing around Glacier Bay NP, I snapped two sets of photos with the intention of 1) stitching them into panoramas and, 2) merge the resulting panoramas to get an HDR photo. 

The reason for my complicated plan was because of the wide dynamic range of the scene.

Here’s my first panorama metered on the shadow of the gully running down the face of the mountain. 

As shot – metered on shadow areas.

Because I metered the shadows, the various waterfalls (in the shadow of the gully) are clearly visible but the rest of the scene is slightly overexposed.

If I take that merged photo and do an Auto adjustment in Lightroom, I get this.

Metered on the shadow area and Auto-adjusted in Lightroom.

That’s actually not too bad, but I had a plan, you see . . . I also shot a set metered at the top of the mountain, near the bright sky, and merged them to get this panorama . . . 

As shot – metered near the bright sky.

Running Auto adjust on that merged photo got me this version which is also not too bad . . . 

Metered near the bright sky and Auto adjusted in Lightroom.

Note there isn’t a whole lot of change between the as-shot and the Auto-adjusted. You have to look at them side-by-side to notice a difference. 

As a side note, that probably means the scene is close to the “correct” exposure. Since I have the RAW data, I could further play with the adjustments and bring out as much detail as I want. 

HOWEVER! . . . remember my clever plan? I would take the two panoramas and merge then using one of three HDR processes and get me an Ansel-like wide range color photo.

Well, I only made one tiny error. The stitching program is automatic. I don’t choose what the programs use from each of the photos comprising the total shot. The two panoramas ended up as two different size photos and could not be merged into an HDR. 

Crap. I tried trimming them and processing them before merging the photos but I wasn’t all that happy with the results. For instance, the overexposed (lighter) photos processed like this in my two tries. 

Lighter Original – post-process no. 1

I tweaked it a bit with some canned processes I have saved and got this . . . 

Lighter Original – post-process no. 2

They are OK, but I went back to the originals and hand-edited the merged file thus . . . 

Lighter Original panorama – hand-adjusted to taste.

I wasn’t too unhappy with the result and was actually looking forward to repeating the process with the darker panorama. Per my experience, it’s usually easier to “bring out” details from underexposed photos than to walk back from overexposed photos. 

First, here’s my processed dark panorama when I was trying to crop them to match . . . 

Darker original canned processing.

That’s the best I got out of the canned presets I have, and I wasn’t happy. I then repeated the process I had used for the lighter panorama, meaning, making manual tweaks until I was satisfied. 

Darker panorama hand adjusted.

For some reason — and for the first time I can remember, I had a more difficult time adjusting this photo to make it “lighter” than adjusting the lighter panorama to make it “darker”. 

Whenever I tried bringing out the shadows, I got a blue cast in the shadows which I then had a heck of a time removing and in the process blew out some of the detail on the rocks. 

Of the two, I much prefer the end result from the slightly over-exposed panorama than from the darker version. 

By now, everyone is asleep or have already left, but what I learned is that it might be better to overexpose rather than underexpose. Until I played with these two photos, I believed it’s always better to underexpose a bit. Even if this is a unique instance (I can’t imagine why it would be so) I’ll now be more willing to slightly overexpose a difficult scene rather than automatically underexpose it. 

I learned something new. Go figure. 

Of course, I could have just converted to B&W . . . here’s the dark panorama with two different B&W conversions. 

Darker panorama – B&W 1
Darker panorama – B&W 2 (more structure)

Here’s the gallery of the above:

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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