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Photo of the Week #113

January 9, 2012

To view a full-screen version of this photo, visit AviGerver.com.

Nearly 47,000 hockey fans pack Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, a 3-2 New York Rangers win over the Flyers

January 2, 2012: Nearly 47,000 hockey fans pack Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, a 3-2 New York Rangers win over the Flyers. Photo by Avi Gerver, ©MSG

This week’s photo was created using Photoshop to combine several images from the NHL Winter Classic, North America’s annual New Year’s weekend outdoor hockey game. The event was quite a spectacle, almost Super Bowl-like despite the fact that it was a regular season game. You can see more of the photos I took that day here.

How did I construct this panorama? It wasn’t too difficult, as Photoshop CS5 did most of the heavy lifting. Here’s the play by play:

  1. I set my camera to manual exposure to ensure that the scene would look natural when the individual images were combined later. If I had used an automatic exposure mode, the camera would have changed its exposure from frame to frame, resulting in a mix of light and dark frames that don’t match each other. Slight changes in focus can cause blending issues too, so I auto-focused before taking the first frame and then set the focus to manual. The Canon 1Ds Mark II camera settings I used were: 24mm (on a 16-35mm lens), f4.0, 1/100th, and ISO 100. It’s important to choose a low ISO setting and expose for the brightest part of the scene, allowing the other areas to go dark (you’ll see why later). My white balance was set to “auto” because I was shooting RAW and could set my exact white balance later. RAW is pretty much a requirement for this kind of image, so if you’re still shooting JPEG, consider this panorama a good example of why you should give RAW a try.
  2. I took 7 vertical photos, starting at the right and moving left, leaving about a 1/3 to 1/2 overlap from frame to frame. The overlap is necessary to give Photoshop enough information to create seamless transitions between images. When I shot the 2 frames that had parts of the hockey rink in them, I did so quickly to ensure that I wouldn’t end up with strange artifacts caused by major differences in skater positions. If the first of those 2 photos had most of the players at one end of the ice and the next photo had most of them at the other end, Photoshop might duplicate players when merging the images, or erase them completely! NHL Winter Classic panorama source images
  3. In Adobe Bridge (Photoshop’s image browsing tool), I selected the 7 images, opened them in the RAW converter, selected them all again, and made some global adjustments. The two critical ones were increasing the Fill Light from 0 to 50 and lowering the Blacks from 5 to 2. In most panoramic scenes there is a wide range of highlights and shadows. Increasing Fill Light and lowering Blacks in the RAW converter brings out detail in the shadows that would otherwise be lost. By shooting at ISO 100 and exposing for the highlights, the final image will display the scene’s full range of tones without much digital noise in the shadows. It’s an easy way to get an HDR (high dynamic range) effect without all the effort that laborious process entails. At this time I also set the white balance on all images to 5300k, the most natural-looking white balance for this scene.
  4. I was now ready to use Photoshop’s Photomerge tool to combine the images. Rather than fading one image into the next, Photomerge rotates, warps and cuts the images into jigsaw-like pieces that fit perfectly into one another, creating the seamless panorama you see above. This is what the individual pieces look like when separated:Pieces of NHL Winter Classic panorama
  5. Now a little cropping, and voilà, a 43-megapixel image that would make a very nice 5-foot wide print! And the best part? You don’t need any kind of special credential to create a panorama image like this. Just find a spot up high in the stands at your local sports venue and give it a try!

Have any interesting panoramas to share? Post links in the comments section below!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shira permalink
    January 9, 2012 1:11 pm

    I love seeing the different jigsaw pieces of the panorama – so cool how you can stitch them together! Thanks for the in-depth look at how this photo came to be.

  2. Sasha permalink
    January 9, 2012 1:53 pm

    BRILLIANT!!!!!

  3. January 9, 2012 2:54 pm

    Love it – and thanks for the tips!

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