Winter Sun on Mount Hood

Winter Sun on Mount Hood

Sunny winter day on Mount Hood, Oregon. Image captured as an ultra high resolution GigaPan image.

I had the opportunity to rent and try out a GigaPan a few weeks ago. I’ve been intrigued by the work others have been doing with the systems and anxious to try it myself. I’m proud to present Winter Sun on Mount Hood in both standard and GigaPan versions as this week’s Image of the Week.

A GigaPan unit is a robotic camera platform that mounts on a tripod and in turn has your camera mounted on it. They sell three models for different sizes of cameras ranging from point and shoot all of the way up to full sized SLRs. The unit I rented from Pro Photo Supply is the GigaPan Epic Pro which handles any of my SLRs and controls the camera via it’s remote control port. Bruce Ely has been particularly responsible for my interest in the technique with his GigaPan of the Blazers game and an infrared capture of Mt. Hood. The capture of President Obama’s inauguration by David Bergman is probably the most visible example of what can be done with a GigaPan unit with over 14 million views.

I had the unit for the three day weekend prior to New Years. I had been out shooting both Friday and Saturday and learning a bit more each day about how to get the most out of the system. As it turns out I had an additional challenge; the unit was in need of servicing and was not as stable as it should have been (especially with a heavier lens I had used earlier in the weekend). The folks at Pro Photo Supply and GigaPan both took good care of me and were very helpful in aiding me to get the most out of a less than ideal situation.

For my Mount Hood shoot I waited for the clear skies that were forecast for Sunday. I had scouted out a couple of locations that would provide a good point of view and still allow me to get back into Portland for some shooting I wanted to do there. Unfortunately, the first location I had in mind near Sandy has turned into private property and now has a house sitting on it and the second had low clouds obstructing the view. I decided to head up the mountain and perhaps shoot from a spot I know near Government Camp or off of Highway 35. Once again low clouds interfered with both of those plans and the huge crowds heading for the mountain on such a beautiful day ate up a big chunk of the day with traffic. I ultimately had to punt and shoot from along Highway 26 just west of Government Camp, not the point of view I had in mind but interesting none the less.

Camera Setup

Once the unit is set up on location you determine the zoom level you want to shoot and program that field of view into the GigaPan robot. Longer lenses or zoom settings will produce more detail in the final image, but will also take longer and require more shots to capture. Shorter lenses or zoom settings are captured faster and with less images but will not give the same level of detail when stitched together.

Next you program the GigaPan for the panorama by setting the top left and lower right images you want to capture. This shoot consisted of 180 images (20 columns in 9 rows) from a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 70-300vr at 300mm for maximum resolution. I shot three bracketed images at each grid location which was also automated by the GigaPan for a completely hands free shoot. The idea was to have the raw materials to do an HDR version if I chose to, but the 0ev images proved to be all that was needed. It took about 16 minutes to capture the 540 initial images (including the unused brackets). Because there were some thin clouds that snuck across the scene I then recaptured several of the key grid locations to allow them to be stitched in to the final image in place of the originals.

The GigaPan of the final result is below and can be viewed full screen at it’s home on gigapan.com. Use the controls on the left to zoom and pan. [It’s come to my attention that this may not display properly on the front page of Kroll Images; you can view it on the page for this post.]

Software results.

Once I was able to process it back home the original GigaPan was 1138 Megapixels (62100×18328). (Here is a reprocess of the original which I had deleted in the meantime, the mismatches are because I put the substitute frames in this reprocess). As you can see the blending needed to be expanded to deal with some lighting changes and it needed to be cropped down a bit. The software stats for the final GigaPan are at left, as you can see it gives you quite a bit of information about the stitching and shoot. The system had shifted a bit after the original capture and before the additional shots (due to the service issue) so any replacement grids would need to be done manually. I had also intentionally shot more than I needed so the final result could be a rectangular crop. I took it into Photoshop and cropped to it’s current 919.2 MP size (54299×16929) before I did the final edits.

In Photoshop I blended in portions of two substitute frames (subbing in Hood Giga 0ev Row 4 Col 06 (2) and Hood Giga 0ev Row 5 Col 09 (2)) to deal with clouds that snuck accross the scene on the original shoot. I did shoot brackets but did not use them for this stitch. Images were 0.002 second exposures at ƒ/11 with a 300mm zoom on a 1.5 crop sensor equating to 450mm 35mm equivalent. I used the larger blending region in Stitch.

Those with sharp eyes will see skiers on the Magic Mile and Palmer Runs at Timberline along with the more obvious structures and snow cat. There is also a hawk or eagle that ended up in a frame just about dead center on the mountain (in one of the substitute frames).

16mm Standard image

Overall I am pleased with the final result and even more intrigued by the possibilities of what can be done with the GigaPan. The amount of detail that can be extracted is phenomenal in comparison to a standard shot from a similar perspective like the one at right. I look forward to renting it again, learning even more, and sharing the images here.

Technical Specs:

  • 180 RAW images with Nikon D7000 @ 100 ISO
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens @ 300mm
  • 1/500th of a Second @ ƒ/11
  • Sunday, December 30, 2012 @ 13:11 – 13:27
  • US Highway 26, near Government Camp, Oregon, USA

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