Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Colorado 14er peak questions, condition requests and other info.
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby CG_old » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:13 pm

prone2jodl wrote:


Do you have any experience with the stitching software? Better/Worse than Adobe Photoshop Elements (5.0)? I have recently decided I am quite unsatisfied with its autostitching function.

I've only used Autostitch a few times... and it seems to work well for my meager needs. I'm by no means a professional or anything though. Here's a stitch of 3 or 4 images from a recent run in Zion:

The file is huge. You can see where the exposure on two images was different... there's a diff in the darkness of the sky about 1/3 the way over from the left. Somebody with skills could probably fix that... I have no idea how :-)
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby MIT » Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:53 am

Thanks for all of the replies! I'm glad people are enjoying this. Makes humping 20 pounds of camera gear up the mountain almost worth it :D

I started taking these sorts of photos a few years ago when I was working at National Geographic. I headed up a small imaging technology lab there, but really was more interested in photography. The problem was that the staff photographers are SO good at NatGeo that anything I could do with a camera was pretty much laughable. So, I decided to seek out some more "high-tech" sorts of photography that would at least let me capture different sorts of images. One of the outcomes of this is the high resolution spherical imagery.

Jon Frohlich wrote:I assume there must some sort of custom pano head involved in order to do that many shots precisely.

I actually use an off-the-shelf pano head from Manfrotto, the 303SPH head ( It allows you to set the pan increment to most of the common angles and also tilts to any angle to allow for full spherical pan/tilt. I built a fully computerized pano head, but the manual one has big advantages since most of the panos I shoot are in pretty harsh conditions. The manual head is built like a tank and doesn't care about blowing sand, driven, or snow salt water spray. (other panos I have shot include inside Tuts Tomb in Egypt, the Farallon Islands ( click on 360 in uper corner), and the ruins of Petra in Jordan ( click on view in HD to see full spherical image....PC only)

A rock solid tripod is also well as a wife willing to hold the legs to the ground in the winds on the summit!

slaggbottom wrote:What camera / lens did you use, and how many shots did it take to create that?

I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a fixed 50mm lens. It was shot on manual exposure mode (otherwsie the exposure would change radically when pointed at sky or ground and resultant pic would look very odd) at f13 and 1/125s. In total I took about 100 pics. The 5D Mark II is 21.1 megapixels. You can do this with any good SLR camera... the 5D Mark II is a bit overkill, all of my other panos were done with a 10MP Canon 40D. I decided to bring the 5D Mark II on the moutain panos becuase more megapixels=less shots per gigapixel pano=less time feeling light a lightening rod on the summit :D

Jon Frohlich wrote:How is it stitched together?

I take all of the images (usually in RAW format) and tweak them a bit (as a batch) in Adobe Lightroom to get the color balance and exposure looking good. Then I save them as JPGs. These are then imported into the stitching software. I use (and love) PTGUI ( for the stitching. It allows you to either specifcy the pan/tilt of each photo or specify features in the photos that match (each photo overlaps somewhat with the one to the left/right/above/below). It can also do much of this automatically. After this, the computer crunches away (overnight or even several days depending on final pic size) warping and blending the images. The blending bit smooths out any weird exposure differences (say the sun came out a bit more between shots). I save the final output as a PSB (photoshop large file format) and tehn open in Photoshop CS3 (which takes an hour or more just to open the file wich is now around 4GB!). I do any final tweaks in Photoshop including sharpenning and eliminating any wierd bits. In the Bierstatd pic I actually photoshoped out some guys foot and a hiking pole. Then, I use a software paackage called Krpano ( to turn this huge image into a bunch of tiles at various zoom levels (e.g. top level is just one low res full image, level 9 may be 6000 tiles at the highest zoom level). This structure is then put into a Flash farmework (automatically by Krpano) for viewing on the web. The tiles make it so your computer only downloads the bit you are looking at, not the full 4GB. I host all of theis on Amazon S3 because even with 10 or so of these live and lots of people looking at them, it only costs me like $2 a month.

MountainHiker wrote:Will you be doing others?

I have been considering doing them all. But we'll start with all of them I climb this season and see where it goes. A few of the 14ers still scare me a bit, even without hauling all the extra gear :shock:

prone2jodl wrote:zoom all the way in and you can see a bulldozer on the summit of evans

Didn't see that one before! Thanks! At some point, I can hotlink all of the cool stuff peple point out in the photo so that one can take an automatic tour or jump between highlights.
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby mattpayne11 » Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:33 pm

Great work, makes my photography skills feel very weak haha.
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:42 pm

Way cool...there goes an hour of my "work" time today. :D
Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall — it's great when you stop. -- Chris Darwin
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby Steve Climber » Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:07 pm

Very impressive...Didn't realize the google maps "street view" car went to the top of 14ers. :lol:

Can't wait to see more of these from other summits :!: :!: :!:
Dave B wrote:And/or line thy helmet with tin foil and realize this is a freaking mountaineering website.

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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby Jon Frohlich » Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:20 pm

MIT - Thanks for the technical info. Always nice to know how these things are actually done. Sometimes it's like magic tricks and photographers refuse to reveal their secrets... :D Look forward to more if you decide to haul the gear up there.
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby seeitallbeforeidie » Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:25 pm

MIT wrote:Here is a link to a 2 gigapixel spherical panorama I shot on Bierstadt on Friday June 12, 2009. It was windy as heck, so my wife had to hold the tripod down while I shot. You can zoom in an see the Sawtooth and surrounding peaks in quite a bit of detail. Let me know what you think!

What a gift. Thank you.
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Re: Bierstadt gigapixel pano

Postby CG_old » Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:40 pm

Thanks for the technical info, very cool!

That PTGUI stitching software looks pretty sweet. And I wondered how the different layers of zoom where incorporated into the final product...and how you got the exposuring so spot on from one image to the next.

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