Recently, I’ve been frustrated trying to shoot panoramic photographs of room interiors. I decided today to take a different tack on the problem. I am pleased with the results.
The problem with interior panoramic photographs is those dang windows to the outside world. They are almost always many stops of light brighter than the ambient room light. At night, they tend to many stops darker. You just can’t shoot all your panoramas at dusk. The building invariably faces the wrong way for that. So you are left to shoot in that 15 minute window of balanced light, resort to software shenanigans or light it yourself.
Here is a photo of my first panoramic attempt at a tight interior. It was shot with ambient light – very warm ambient light. I waited till noon to get the light as even as I could out the window. The windows completely overexposed anyway. I ended up shooting the windows separately and painstakingly cutting and pasting them in via image editing software. Notice those nice barrel-distortion curves. It was no picnic!
Next, I tried the HDR Route of panoramic photography. By bracketing exposures and then combining them, I was able to compensate for widely-varying light conditions inside and out and get and image which (barely) made me happy.
HDR photographs are starting to get very old to me. I was one of the early proponents of the process of using software like Photomatix to combine multiple exposures. After looking at some recent photography shows, the promise of HDR has faded into the annoying obscurity of the latest fad effect. It screams fake instead of the truthful mimicry of the range of human sight which was its original promise.
Discouraged with software solutions of replacement pains (no pun intended) and the gimmickry of combining exposures in a slightly-less-than-realistic manner, I turned to one of the basic tenants of photography. “Get it right in the field.”
As you know I have been experimenting with Strobes in the field, courtesy of the Strobist’s teachings.
Today we attacked the problem with off-camera strobes. Setting the camera to manual and exposing for the windows we find our base exposure. The remaining trick is to get the light balanced for the room. A Canon 580EX flash with a Sto-Fen Omni bounce was used at 1/2 power + 1/3 stop. It was mounted above the tripod and circled on the panorama rig as I moved it around the room. I ended up with a darker shot in some corners than I wanted originally.
Into my old lighting suitcase I went and pulled out an ancient Spiratone screw-in strobe and placed it in the overhead fixture. (You can actually see its reflection in the glass of the lighthouse picture) Now, I had enough light to light the room evenly. Well, evenly enough to determine that I had some really ugly stains on my carpet.
What does anyone do with these stupid-looking panoramas? They make QTVR movies and sell them to real-estate agencies, remodelers and others for their web sites! The Video is Here (4MB Download and you must have Apple QuickTime on your system to view it, move around inside and zoom in and out.
Again, and not to sound like a broken record (‘broken record’? that expression is a little long in the tooth (‘long in the tooth’? Am I that old?)) Let’s see-did I count the parenthesis correctly? Anyway-I digress. To repeat myself. Capture Correctly and Save Work!
Tonight as I sip an nice merlot, I will contemplate my next task. Building a dual flash panorama rig that allows two strobes to be mounted on either side of the camera as the rig spins…
Rikk Flohr © 2008