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Shooting Coastal Panoramas Continued

Figure 55
Elements uses layers to construct the whole image. Content of lower layers will be obstructed by upper layers. The original layer in each file is named Background. These layers can be moved and manipulated independently of the other layers (figure 55).
With our first image open (Image 1 is the far right of our panorama series), we need to increase our canvas size to make room for the additional photos.

From the Main Menu, click on Image>Resize> Canvas Size...
The Canvas Size dialog box opens showing the current file size and canvas dimensions. The Anchor box allows you to anchor your image when increasing the canvas size (figure 56).

Figure 56

Figure 57
Enter 16 for the width and click on the right, center box of the Anchor box. Click OK (figure 57).
Click on the Zoom tool to select, then ALT/click (PC) or OPT/click (Mac) within the image to zoom out. See how we now have a larger canvas area to build our image (figure 58).

Notice how the image was anchored to the right as directed in the Canvas Size dialog box.

Figure 58

Figure 59
Find the next image in the series (should already be open) and make active in Elements. The layers palette now shows the Background layer of the active file (figure 59).
Drag the Background layer from the second image into the window of the first image. This will copy the layer into the original file. Holding the Shift key when performing this action will constrain the copied layer to the center of the image (figure 60). Notice that the imported layer is above the Background layer in the original image.

Figure 60

Figure 61
We can make this layer semi-transparent by changing its opacity using the opacity slider in the Layers palette.

With the higher layer selected (Layer 1), locate the Opacity slider by clicking on the arrow on the right of the Opacity field. We set our slider to 58% (figure 61).

The semi-transparent layer will be easier to match with the original image when moving into position.
Figure 62 shows the semi-transparent Layer 1 over the Background layer.

Figure 62

Figure 63
Select the Move tool in the Toolbox.

Click and drag with the image until the images match where they overlap. Holding the Shift key while moving will constrain the movement to the nearest angle of 45 degrees (in this case, will constrain horizontally) (figure 63).
You can use the Zoom tool to more closely inspect the overlap areas of the photo (figure 64).

Figure 64
When the two layers are matched in position, use the Layer palette Opacity slider to set the second layer's (Layer 1) opacity back to 100%.

We will increase the canvas size to fit all nine images. Use the Canvas Size dialog box again to do this.

Figure 65
Set the width for the image to 75 inches, anchor the image to the right by clicking the right, center box of the Anchor field, then press OK (figure 65).
The image is now set to 75 inches long. Notice how the thumbnails representing the layers in the Layers palette are now long and thin (figure 66).

Figure 66

Figure 67
Select the third image as the active image. As before, click and drag that layer into the original image file window. Remember that holding the Shift key when doing this will set the new layer to the center

Lower the opacity of the new layer (Layer 2). Select the Move tool and click and drag this layer until it matches the image where it overlaps with Layer 1 (figure 67).
Set the Opacity back to 100% (figure 68).

Figure 68
Before adding the rest of the images to our panorama, let's check the images already loaded for any problems. Use the Zoom tool to get a close look.

Notice that the sky of Layer 2 is a bit darker at the edge than Layer 1. Scrolling lower, we can see uneven matching in the beach portion of these layers (figures 69 and 70).

We can "fix" this by partially erasing some of Layer 2 so that it blends in with Layer 1. It's a good idea to regularly save one or more versions of your file at this stage to make sure you can return to it if you get over-zealous with the eraser and can't step back through the next few phases...

Select the Eraser tool in the Toolbox.

Figure 69

Figure 70

Figure 71
The Eraser tool uses brushes of various sizes and softnesses to erase pixel information from the active layer. The user defines the brush size, softness, and strength (opacity) of the brush.

We selected a large (413 pixels wide), soft brush for this procedure. It is important to use a soft brush here, as we want to feather Layer 2 over Layer 1 (figure 71).

Using a lower opacity (30-40%) for the Eraser brush allows the user to erase over several passes. This can help to increase the feathering effect of the brush.
Figure 72 shows the effect of erasing away a portion at the top of the layer. Notice how some of Layer 2 was erased revealing the part of Layer 1 below.

This also demonstrates the importance of sufficiently overlapping the edges of your photos when shooting the originals.

Figure 72

Figure 73
Figure 73 shows the effect of further erasing away the right edge of Layer 2. The sky now looks much more even.
Here is a comparison showing an enlarged portion of the image before and after using the Eraser tool (figure 74).

Figure 74

Figure 75
Let's add some more photos to our panorama (figure 75).
Using the layer dragging method to copy one image into another, we added the fourth, fifth and sixth images into our panorama shot. We used the Eraser tool to blend the seams together.
The addition of the sixth image (Layer 5) presents a problem that you may come across when trying to shoot panorama shots.

Anytime your panoramic view has anything that changes or moves over time, you may need to take some extra care when shooting and when stitching the images together on the computer.

In this case, the ever-changing waves are part of our shot. Moving clouds or passing traffic are other cases where stitching together seamlessly will be difficult or, sometimes, nearly impossible (figure 76).

Figure 76
If you find yourself shooting in a situation as this, the best thing to do is to greatly overlap your exposures. Making multiple exposures will also increase your chances of matching the photos.

Figure 77
Select the Eraser tool. Make sure the layer you wish to edit is selected in the Layers Palette (figure 77).
Here we zoomed in on our image to get a better look at any changes we make (figure 78).

Figure 78

Figure 79
After erasing some of the surf from the top layer (Layer 5), we have a better match for the water (figure 79). Figure 80 shows a comparison of before and after this "fix".

Figure 80
We added the three remaining images to our panorama, matching the images and using the Eraser tool to blend seamlessly.
Once all the images have been added and stitched together, we can zoom out to see the whole panoramic image.

Select the Zoom tool, then ALT/click (PC) or OPT/click (Mac) to zoom out until entire panorama shot is visible in the image window.

Notice the extra white space at the left of image. This needs to be cropped out (figure 81).

Figure 81

Figure 82
Select the Crop tool in the toolbox.

Cropping is accomplished by putting the cursor over one corner of your intended crop, then click-dragging to the opposite corner of the intended crop (figure 82).
A cropping marquee will surround your crop. Adjustments can be made by click-dragging any of the eight "squares" on the cropping marquee (figure 83).

Press the Enter key on your keyboard to finalize the crop

Figure 83

Figure 84
Figure 84 shows our cropped image in the Photoshop Elements image window.

Notice how the Layers palette still has all of the images that were copied into the file on separate layers.

Make sure you save your file at this point. It is a good practice to save your layered image files in an archive folder. This allows you to more easily edit or manipulate the image in the future.
After saving the layered image file, you can flatten the image. Flattening is the merging of all layers into one layer. A flattened file will greatly reduce the file size of your image. Our layered panoramic image file was reduced from 153 megabytes to 104 megabytes when flattened.

To access the Flatten Image command, click on the More button at the top, right of the Layers palette (figure 85).

Figure 85

Figure 86
Select the Flatten Image command from the menu window (figure 86).
All the layers will merge into one single layer called Background (figure 87). Save this image in another folder or as a different name from the layered version. Saving as a TIFF image is best for making large prints.

The image can be saved as a JPEG file, greatly reducing the file size even further. Saving as a JPEG will result in some lost image data, which may effect the quality of the image.

Figure 87

Figure 88
Figure 88 shows the flattened image appearing in the Elements image window. Notice that now there is only one layer called Background in the Layers palette.
Our finished panorama is shown below (figure 89).

Keep in mind this image is reduced, the 300 dpi original version is an impressive 5 ft. or so wide and 10 in. tall.

Figure 89
Figure 90 shows the areas where each of our 9 images overlapped to create our panorama scene.

Figure 90
The shots for our panorama photo were taken with a wide angle zoom lens (11-22mm) set at 22mm. This actually is close to a normal size lens for a traditional film 35mm camera.

Figure 91 below shows another version of our stitched panorama scene shot from the same point with the lens set to 11mm for an extreme wide angle. This image was stitched together using three images.

Figure 91
Figure 92 shows another panoramic image shot from the same location with a 14-54 zoom telephoto lens. The lens was set to 54mm.

Figure 92
Figure 93 shows the final results of all panoramas; one shot with a 11mm lens, one shot a 22mm lens, and one shot with a 54mm lens.

Figure 93

Manfrotto Equipment Used:

  • Manfrotto 756MF3 MagFiber MDeVe tripod
  • Manfrotto 303 Panoramic/QTVR Head


Other Equipment Used:

  • Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 Digital Zuiko Zoom Lens
  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus Zuiko 11-22mm Zoom
  • Lexar 2 Gig 80x CompactFlash memory card
  • Lexar Multi-Card Reader
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0