series of images I need for the composition I have in mind.
Sometimes I have to move a bit closer or farther out to get
the composition and “the look” that I want. Usually for most
island-wide panoramas, I shoot at an altitude of about 300 to
375 feet high. The distance from land varies depending on the
composition. Once I find the optimal position, I carefully start
shooting the series of shots I need to stitch the final image
together. I usually shoot five to eight panned shots with
about a 30 percent overlap to ensure that my stitching engine
can put everything together with no problem. I have taken
as many as 20 shots or more for a panorama. Each situation
is different. I use PTGui for nearly all my image stitching
needs. I find it does an excellent job of stitching horizontal,
vertical, and 360-degree panoramas. I often work from RAW
image files. I like the option of being able to tweak and adjust
individual image files before the stitching process.
I also do quite a bit of editing after the stitching. I’ve learned
a few tricks over the years that help correct distortion and
bring out subtle details. One of my pet peeves with many
aerial images is “blown-out” clouds. I try hard to keep as
much detail in clouds as possible. I found that the principle
of Ansel Adams’s “Zone System” helps in dealing with the
high dynamic range of island-wide panoramas: I treat sky,
land, and water as three separate “zones” of exposure. It’s
not unusual for me to put in an hour—or more—into editing a
single aerial panorama.
Patience is a Virtue
Even after all the researching, planning, and preparation,
there are many times when I arrive at a chosen site all set
to go only to find that the wind has exceeded safe flying
conditions, clouds have started to block the sun, or children
are playing too close to my takeoff site, and I have to abort
the flight and try another time. Sometimes I sit for hours, just
waiting for conditions to change.
All in all, this type of aerial imaging takes time, practice,
and a great deal of patience. But the final results can be well
worth all the time and effort! You can see more of my image
samples and find more information about my drone aerial
work at joewestphotography.com. K
I treat sky, land, and water as three separate “zones” of exposure. It’s not unusual
for me to put In an hour—or more—Into edItIng a sIngle aerIal panorama.
Lahaina Harbor on Maui
is always busy with boat
tours and fishing charters.
An aerial perspective
reveals the beautiful reef
formations and crystal-clear waters that make
Hawaii so special.