Six into one NYC panorama

By Mike Pobega

Creating this panorama was both challenging and rewarding. Here's a step-by-step guide of how I photographed and merged the six photographs into one using Adobe Photoshop 6.0.

Getting the shot
My camera was equipped with a 40mm lens and a roll of Kodak TMAX 100 ASA film. I chose my spot and shot from left to right, trying to keep the horizon on the same level. I opted to pivot on my heels rather than using a tripod as it gave me a little bit more flexibility. All the while making sure the horizon was as even as possible. In retrospect I wish I had planned better and brought along my tripod.

Three things to note:
1. It is important to significantly overlap the shots, i.e. take the next shot from the middle third of the previous shot don't worry about using a lot of film.

2. To help you get an even tonal range, meter the middle tonal range area; here I metered the cityscape. I used my cameras manual mode to do this. (good metering skills wouldn't hurt here).

3. Take the successive shots from left to right for an even workflow and easy visualization.

Both negatives and prints may be scanned but - if using prints ensure they match in contrast/exposure. Scanning negatives is the easier option (if possible) - once the primary setting is selected, you can scan the balance of the negatives and achieve continuous tonal range throughout.

Once the scans are complete, take the first scan, (#1) and stretch the canvas roughly 5-6 times to the left. Then take scan #2; overlap 20% to 33% into the #1 shot. Try to find a landmark to help you match up - in the example below, I used the vertical lines of buildings to assist me. Repeat this process for the remaining scans.

Scan #6              Scan #5              Scan #4          Scan #3          Scan #2                 Scan #1

Where the image won't match exactly, I use the clone tool. I also used a high magnification, 400-800% to do the fine detailed work and mostly used soft spheres. Knowledge of the TRANSFORM command is helpful here, if two areas don't laterally line up you can CHOOSE that area, TRANSFORM, and SKEW accordingly. Many users are afraid of this command, but it is a wonderful and powerful tool nonetheless.

Another invaluable technique in this process is painting with hi-lites. Hi-lites paint dark areas lighter and light areas darker. In this panorama, this was mostly used around the Statue of Liberty, the roofs of the buildings on the left and the promenade on the right where the people are walking

Step by Step Guide for Hi-Lites
From the HISTORY PALETTE, choose NEW SNAPSHOT and then select FROM MERGED LAYERS. Next click on LAYER/NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER/CURVES (I pulled the curve to lighten the image). Select NEW SNAPSHOT/FROM MERGED LAYERS, then click onto the first "New Snapshot" and then choose LAYER/NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER/CURVES,  then pull the curve to darken the image a little. Click on NEW SNAPSHOT/FROM MERGED LAYERS and click onto the original "Snapshot". Select the HISTORY TOOL button, place the HISTORY TOOL ICON in the snapshot you wish to paint be it light or dark et voila! Paint away to your heart's content.

Note: this procedure is not saved in PSD or any format so once you finish the job/save/open, you will have to start from scratch if you choose to paint some more. You should make an ACTION for this procedure, as you will use it over and over again. (Feel free to email me for more info on this procedure).

Since the final image was a 1:7 ratio, (Height to width) screen viewing and printing were difficult as the image measured 3.1" x 22" (printsize). I needed to do a FREE TRANSFORM to bring it to a 1:5 or 1:6 ratio. I had opted for a 3.1" x 17.5" image. I was able to do this with no noticeable distortion of buildings because I had used a wide-angle lens to capture the originals. I finished the picture by adding some clouds on the left, a high magnification clean-up, a slight toning and an unsharp mask.

All in all I worked on this for approximately 8 hours. Since its completion, this image has seen many transformations. Luckily I did not delete it from my hard drive even after I made a back-up CD… within days I tried to read the CD only to find an error…. backup? me?