Gigapixel Challenges: Vignetting

Vignetting is why gigapixel photographers take sunny days off, blue skies make bad pictures because of vignetting. That subtile darkening around the edges of a picture is rarely a problem with single shot pictures, and sometimes it's considered a desirable effect. But when you're stitching pictures together, that subtle darkening can become not so subtle. I have become the master of shooting when the conditions are favorable to avoid the problem, but sometimes you can't wait around for the perfect weather. When the problem does pop up it can be ugly, with 9 out of 10 shot's never reaching print. I have had varying degrees of success with different approaches to correcting the problem and I'm still learning. Recently, I took a beach sunset pano, on a nearly completely cloud free evening and the subtle changes in lighting and hue over the 13 minutes it took to take the picture have combined with what was probably a poor choice in ISO or aperture to make the vignette artifacts worse than usual. I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I've learned so far, and see what happens when I do everything I can to save a picture. Hopefully if you follow this series of blog posts you will gain some additional insight to the challenges of creating these pieces. If you're a fellow gigapixel artist, please feel free to share and comment on lessons you've learned. 

Step1: Shoot Bracketed Exposures

The most effective way to deal with the lighting changes you see across a picture is to shoot exposure brackets. All of these pictures were shot on ISO640, at F13, and exposure was bracketed at 1/1,250, 1/640, 1/320, 1/168 1/80. After initial review, I discarded the 1/1,250 and 1/640 exposures as to dark. Here are the other 3 brackets as individual layers. The vignette artifacts reach right out and slap you in the face on these. In my next post I'll show what the Kolor Autopano Giga software can do with HDR options and these layers.

Experiments in Small Business - The Web Site

Creating a professional web presence requires your own Web Site, and your own Web Domain Name. The domain name is the address of your web site that starts http://www and ends in one of the Top Level Domains (TLD). The original four TLD's (.com .net .org and .gov) have been expanded to include two-letter country codes (.us .ca .tv etc). More recently several industry specific TLD's have been introduced. You want a .com address if at all possible, your customers will remember this by default. The other original TLD's are well know and fairly easy to remember, but most of the newer domains will be less well known to your audience and therefore less memorable. I registered my first domain ( in the late 90's, and I've had several since then (, and the sub-domain all of which I eventually let go. 

Finding a Domain Name

I did a simple search for "Domain Name Search Tool", and found which is a web site that makes it easy to find a non-regersted domain. This site also allows you to offer someone cash for a domain if it's already registered, but I'm cheap so that's not an option. At 46 characters is a bad idea for so many reasons. No one can remember it, it wouldn't fit on a business card, and eMail addresses are going to cause problems for many systems. were all taken (darn). I really wanted a short name, and decided to go with the acronym ssgpp. I was able to get a .com TLD, and hopefully it was short enough to remember. I did not use the domain search service to purchase my domain as most hosting companies incorporate the cost of domain registration into the cost of the service.  

Selecting a Hosting Company

Let's start off with me admitting I'm a geek. I know how to program, and how to create HTML and design commercial web sites. For this reason, I have very high expectations of my hosting provider. I don't want to have to use "developer tools" or build custom code, I'm paying them to handle that part. I know what is possible and I expect my provider to give me with a high degree of functionality, and make it very easy to use, without requiring any technical work. I have hosted with several companies over the years, and am happy to report that it is truly easier than ever to create and run a professional web site. Hosting companies, like consumer electronics seem to span a continuum of "Highly Customizable" to "Specialized Focus" - think of the continuum from Linux to Windows to Mac. If you know me, I'm a Mac guy, I find my apple products make it easy to do 99% of what I need to do without diving into code and provide a consistent user experience across all of my products. I was looking for this same "it just works" level of functionality in my web hosting company. I want to focus on content, and not have to worry about Javascript, PHP, webJS, wordPress or Jumla. I expect my web site to:

  • Work on all popular browsers without any content restrictions
  • Adapt to mobile devices without any special work.
  • Provide easy to use eCommerce features:
    • A solid "Shopping Cart and Checkout" experience
    • Manage an inventory, pricing and presentation
    • Support for product variants (paper/canvas, small/med/large, etc.)
    • Easy integration with a variety of card processing services
  • Easy analytics for user and content

These requirements narrowed my focus to several "Template Based" hosting companies, so the decision came down to the appeal of the templates I would have to conform to. Most of the template based hosting companies let you setup a free page (under their Domain) to see how things work. After a brief look at several services, I found SquareSpace and was blown away by their templates, analytics, eCommerce and ease of use.

Creating Content

When creating content on Square Space the template you choose provides you with the framework you need. After selecting your first template, you will have a basic web site with place holders for common content. It should only take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the Square Space editing tools. It took me about 4 hours to complete my initial web site, by simply filling in content in the sample pages, and uploading pictures. I've spent a lot of time since then customizing the look and feel of my page, and I will share my experience with those efforts in a later post.

Setting up eCommerce

eCommerce was also pretty easy to setup. After selecting a card processing service, and going through their setup process it was very easy to connect that account to my web-site. Once that was done, I setup up the "Shipping" calculators and added a "Shop" page with inventory and product variants. That was all there was to setting up the store. You can find complete guides here.


Skyloft Phase2b

This is the second potential from Skyloft, I'm not very happy with some of the transitions, and I think I like the composition of Phase2A much better, so I'm probably not going to put the effort into fixing these transitions. Will take a look at one more stitch, but I think 2a is going to be the one I print. 

Skyloft Phase2a

This shoot has me in an unusual predicament, I have 3 potentially good pictures. Round 2 of stitching started with a 65 CPU Hour run of set1 and set3. After initial HDR work on the set3 pano, I found a stitching error so stitch #3 was set3 only, and ran 23 CPU Hours, and another stitching flaw was spotted, so stitch #4 and another 23 CPU Hours and some minor exposure/contrast tuning and I have print candidate #1. The printed crop will remove all of the buildings in the foreground-right, and leave only enough of the building in the fore-left to allow me to include the mountains above them. This crop is slightly over 1Gp. If you have some time, look around and let me know what you find, if you see a stitching flaw, or if you find a crop that you think is particularly striking.

Skyloft Phase1

Ok, so I shot 4 pano's from the Skyloft and I've completed an initial stitch. All of them were stitched at 50% without any tuning. The HDR color work for these is a mix of quick manual edits and/or exposure fusion, at this point I'm selecting on composition, potential, and stitching errors. Leave a comment about which picture you think I should take to the next phase.






Skyloft Project

Earlier this fall, I had put out flyers to a few people offering a free poster print, and discounted canvas prints of their view. One of the respondents was the owner of a beautiful loft in the Skyloft building. I made a quick set of shots there one afternoon, and had great plans to return during better lighting. I was shortly distracted by business travel and work on the Sunset View Dr. project. This weekend I finally got around to stitching 4 proof's, 360, 240, 336 and 364 images respectively from that afternoon. I spent most of the weekend finishing up the web site, but found out yesterday that one of the girls that waits on me at the bakery lives there. I had gone up and shot for her father without her knowledge, and she was telling me about this beautiful view she has and how she wants to take a picture of it..... "oh, yea, tell your dad I didn't forget about him" I say sheepishly. Anyway, looks like a new picture is coming, and while I didn't catch the lighting exactly the way I wanted I think something is going to come of this.