Imagine being able to take your DSLR camera and turn it into a pixel-multiplying machine capable of creating life-sized prints that are tack sharp. This is exactly what we do on our 3-Day San Francisco Panoramic Photography Workshop.
This last Friday Stephen Oachs and I took a group of photographers into the Aperture Studio to learn how to create billboard-sized images from their regular old cameras. With the help of some special gear and a little dab of know-how we had these folks diving into the gigantic world of pano.
To start the session off, Stephen and I had a brief introduction to get acquainted with the one another. After learning everyone’s names and photography backgrounds it was time to dig in!
Because this type of photography is rather technical, Stephen began the session with a power point presentation to pave the road for some of the things we would be covering throughout the next three days. We went over some key points on what makes a true panoramic image and what it means to find the nodal point. After watching it on the screen Stephen and I set up the room to test the group’s lenses and find the nodal points of each one. Since this is the most important part of this type of photography Stephen and I carefully walked each student through the process.
Once we had our nodal points dialed we went through one more tutorial. This part of the presentation explains how to shoot a panoramic and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls while doing so. Now that we had instructed everyone on what we would be doing we sent them home to mull over the details and prepare for a full day of shooting.
On Saturday morning we met back up with our group at the studio and headed up to the city of San Francisco for a jam-packed and fun-filled day of photography. After a quick gear check we all piled into our Mercedes sprinter van and hit the highway.
Our first location of the day was twin peaks. Located near the geographic center of San Francisco lies the twin peaks towering above the city at just under 1,000 feet. This wonderful location is a perfect place for our students to put their new tools to the test. Here we started with just a single row pano to warm everyone up. After running through it once, Stephen and I urged the group to go through each panorama two to three times to minimize any chance of a mistake. After trying out the single row some folks got brave and decided to try a two and some even three-row pano’s.
Everyone was feeling pretty good after Twin Peaks so we decided to throw a challenge in. We headed down to a place called Fort Point just under the Golden Gate Bridge where the tight quarters would prove to be a challenge. Fort Point is an historic military defense unit located on the bay and is full of photographic opportunity. The inside of the fort is a labyrinth of arching hallways, brick lined corridors and narrow stairwells. Here we showed the group how shooting in tight quarters can throw in some new challenges. After trying three different compositions it was time for a mid day break. We all hopped back into the van and headed across the bridge to Sausalito for lunch.
After we filled our bellies the students were anxious to go to our last but not least location on Hawk Hill. Hawk Hill is arguably the best place around to view the San Francisco Bridge from above. The height of this 923 ft. hill really gives the panoramic photographer a great advantage allowing one to do several rows of photos with no obstructions. The group did as many as four rows here as they were all stricken with a bad case of pixel greed. After a quick group shot we cruised back down to the studio in San Jose for a well deserved break.
On Sunday morning we met up for the final part of the workshop. This section is where all of the hard work and calculations pay off. Stephen and I first assisted the students with loading up their images. Next Stephen explained how to stitch the photographs together to create a seamless ultra-high resolution photo. After doing a few the students got the hang of it while Stephen and I walked around and helped where needed. Once everyone had saved their gigantic files onto their hard drives we said goodbye for now.
Until next time,
Phil, Stephen, Jan and the entire Aperture Academy Team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.