I am usually content to create simple pano images using a series of 5 or so overlapping shots all in a straight line. I have always had confidence that the Photomerge function in Photoshop would do a pretty good job of pulling everything together into one seamless image (at least since CS3). But as I was standing at the Cerro de la Cruz above the city of La Antigua, I just didn’t think that I could capture all the detail I wanted by simply shooting a straight pan of images. The problem is that I would have to use a focal length that was pretty wide to capture everything I wanted, from the top of the volcano to the front edge of the city sprawled out below. This meant that I might get some distortion from the lens as well as lesser detail in the final image.
What I decided to do instead was to shoot two series of images panning across the scene; one across the upper portion of the scene to capture the sky, mountains, and volcano, and the other series across the bottom for the city. I also used my 50mm f/1.4 lens on a Nikon D80 so I was getting less coverage (it’s about the equivalent of an 80mm on the DX camera), which meant more shots. In fact I ended up shooting 18 images in total. I was a little fearful that Photoshop would not be able to assemble everything into one seamless image but I threw caution to the wind and made my corrections to the original images in Lightroom 3 and then selected them all and sent them to Photoshop using the Merge to Panorama command.
After Lightroom had processed all of the images, the standard Pano dialog box opened in CS5 and I selected the Auto layout and let it go to town. It took a little while to assemble and merge the 18 RAW image files and then blend them together but when it was done, I was simply amazed with the results. With the exception of some ragged edges, it had pulled all of the images together into one beautiful pano. I simply cropped out most of the uneven edges and then used the Content Aware Fill to fix some of the spots in the sky that were missed by me during shooting and cropping. The result is the image you see below. You can click on it to see a larger version but the actual file is about 440MB, which works out to be about 20×70 inches at 240dpi.
Also, the detail in the final image is fantastic. Here is a small section of the image at 100%.
So the next time you are presented with a wide vista and are thinking of trying your hand at a panorama, don’t necessarily just twist your lens to the wide angle option to get 3 or 4 overlapping shots. Try and push things a little by adding a bunch of narrower angle images and then let Photoshop do it’s thing to really get the detail and size out of your final image.