Sky Panos

While we were in Moab we took hundreds of pictures of beautiful, powerful rock formations against plain, boring skies. A lot of blaa blue and slate grey – with the occasional cloud.  Sunday night we had a pretty good storm blow through, leaving a cold day on Monday and a new weather pattern – this one with clouds.

Just outside of Moab I stopped and shot a pano cloud shot. I stopped two more times between Burley and Boise and shot more clouds. Outside of town where the horizon was flat and there wasn’t a lot of clutter and there were wonderful cloud formations.

I didn’t do very well on the Moab set and it was still a bit grey. But the Idaho sets were clean and I kept the sequence simple.  I shot 3 1 stop brackets all the way around.

I wasn’t sure how well Photoshop would do stitching them together. Was there enough information in the images for it to hook them up? I included the ground as I shot, but not much. So I wasn’t sure how it would do. I was pleasantly surprised.

The first one I tried I processed via HDR. I did the HDR processing on each shot, before I merged them. I used CS5 and did a soft merge – enough to build a full exposure range. I saved the settings and processed all of the images with the same settings.  Then I ran it through the pano merge – using the auto method:

This is a 7 image merge, almost the entire way around. It merged beautifully. I didn’t do anything to help this – it was all Photoshop. It did a great job.

Then I processed the base images to see how it looked as a non-HDR:

I actually like this one better. The overall exposure range is less and it is less contrasty, but I like the look better.

The second one is a non-HDR from 13 images. On this one I followed a cloud formation up in the middle. I had 12 images even with the horizon and one shot up a level right in the middle. Again, I wasn’t sure if Photoshop would pull it in clean:

Again, it joined it without a problem.

I’m not into skies for the sake of skies. But they will be good resources for other shots that need something in the sky, like some of my Arches pictures. I dropped the last sky pano into the following Arches shot and it helped a lot. It was nice having such a big image – it let me drag the sky around until I found a good match.

The first one as I shot it:

The same image, with the clouds added:

Because the lines along the rock were well defined the selection was pretty simple using the quick select tool. But I had a halo around the inside of the arch, on the left side. I tried to feather that, a bunch of times at different settings, but that didn’t help. I was about to do the unspeakable and actually ask our Photoshop person at work for help when I found the solution in one of my Photoshop books. Just read it, didn’t even realize it was the solution until I tried it a few days later.

It was pretty simple – brush in white in overlay mode on the mask. Cleaned it right up.

Overall, I like the result.

I’m still going through my Moab images. I pulled out about 40 shots that might work. I’m through the first 12 or 13. When I get though them all I’ll put them together as a slide show and post it. Some pictures I’ve already posted and some new ones.

I’ll try to make it worth the wait.

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