A client came to me recently with a very special job. It was to turn his eighty-four RAW image files into a stunning High Dynamic Range (HDR) panorama, to place 24 priceless family images around it, and then produce a large, framed, composite print.
Some of the family images were very damaged and needed some serious editing time to rebuild them. Some were faded, or taken under challenging lighting conditions, and again needed a lot of photo restoration to make them look right.
"Before and after" by Derek Gale
This image is an example. The original had been folded in half at some point, and had serious creasing, a partly missing background, and other problems. The new “Content-aware” Fill tool in Photoshop CS5 was very useful here, although it doesn’t work miracles, so I did quite a bit a regular cloning as well.
The HDR panorama side was very interesting as well. One issue with HDR is that the final result can look somewhat unreal. The challenge comes when you want the benefits of HDR without the unreality.
"Rusty Morris 8" by Derek Gale
This image, of a very rusty old Morris 8, shows the classic unreal HDR style, as it looks almost like a cartoon. (The car is not for sale but you can buy a print of the image from me). This treatment, whilst interesting with the right images, was not appropriate for the composite image I was working on. For that image I chose a more photorealistic look which was more natural.
The final HDR panorama needed quite a bit of editing too. As the images for the panorama were taken over a reasonably long period, some of the sheep in the foreground had moved around quite a bit, and had to be de-ghosted/cloned so they were nice and tidy. As well as the moving sheep, the lighting had changed while the separate images were being exposed, so the brightness variation across the image needed to be levelled out.
"Panorama section" by Derek Gale
The HDR panorama, made from so many separate images, was quite a large file in Photoshop at over 350 Megabytes. It was amazing just how much detail could be seen in it. This image is of a section of the final image and is just 0.4% of the total panorama area. There’s good texture on the mountain and plenty of detail in the fields in the foreground.
"Family panorama" by Derek Gale
The final image was printed to the agreed size, mounted on Foamex to give it rigidity, and then framed with a complementary moulding. It was a fascinating exercise to do the work, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Much more importantly, so was my client.
That’s the “wide” part of my post title, so what about the “long” part. It’s about taking a long-term view of the potential uses of the images you are shooting today. A lot of the images surrounding the HDR panorama were old. Some were well over 50 years old. You need to be keeping the images you take now in a form that will enable people in 50 years time to do a similar thing to what I’ve done here. The best form for that is a good print kept in a cool, dry, dark place. We don’t know that we will be able to read a digital file from a CD/DVD in 50 years, but in 50 years we will still be able to see a printed image.
* All non-Gale Photography images are copyright their respective owners, and were used with permission.