I have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks sorting through the images I recently captured and have learned more about both the camera-digital back combination and techniques for bringing out the best of the images during post-processing. The first thing I noticed about the panoromas I had stitched was how sharp they were, even before any post-processing sharpening. I have yet to see a landscape image that didn’t benefit from some sharpening, but having such clean files to work with meant that a minimum of sharpening created incredible results.
With my tripod level and a safe margin of overlap for each segment, I was able to capture panoramic images that stitched flawlessly using Photoshop CS3’s automated Photomerge. This is found in CS3 under File-Automate-Photomerge. Since my tripod was level and I most frequently used the 80mm Sekor AF f/2.8 D lens, I chose “reposition” and lost very little of the combined captures when cropping. The 80mm lens being the equivalent to a 50mm on an SLR body, there is no perspective change which results in the most natural image possible. The image titled “Lake Powell Marina Morning” was captured at f5.6 at 1/250th of a second at an ISO of 100. Even though this is plenty of shutter speed, I like to be extra cautious and used the mirror lock function of the AFDIII for each panel. This function on the camera is very easy to use – simply choose the Mirror Up function on the shutter release dial and press the shutter once to lock the mirror, then once more to make the exposure. This minimizes any movement caused by the motion of the mirror and allows perfect alignment when stitching panoramic images and sharp captures when using lower shutter speeds.
After stitching the frames in Photoshop (there were three in this image) I made some tonal adjustment using my new favorite plug-in – Nik Software’s Viveza. One of the issues when shooting landscapes, particularly panoramics, is that the color temperature can vary widely over the breadth of the scene. Viveza is the most organic, intuitive and easy to use way to correct for this. There is a free, fully functional demo download at www.niksoftware.com. I’m well versed in performing selective corrections in Photoshop, but this software saved me lots of time and produced outstanding results.
The last step I take for most every landscape is some amount of sharpening. My favorite settings for landscapes I took with my DSLR was to use the Smart Sharpen filter with the amount between 75 and 180 and the radius set to 0.8 pixels to remove Gaussian Blur. With the Mamiya AFDIII coupled with the 80mm lens and Aptus 65 Back I only use an amount between 25 and 50 because the images are already so sharp. Take a look at the detail section taken out of the image to see the clarity. Also note that this image is 20×48” at 240 dpi – the text on the prow of the “Canyon Explorer” is only ½ across at this print size – pretty amazing clarity that simply can’t be matched on a DSLR.