Royal Academy exhibition shot on D1X
What's new at Nikon
D1X does the rounds
If you've ever yearned to see the wider picture, a new exhibition of 360º panoramic images at the Royal Academy of Arts in London is a must.
In The Round is a stunning series of 18 four-and-a-half-foot-long images taken by panorama expert Hugh Gilbert on a Nikon D1X with a 14mm Nikkor lens, and it depicts the studios of artists who teach at the world-famous academy.
Hugh uses the D1X for several reasons, not least because it saves him time - instead of having to develop the film then scan in the images, he can download them straight onto his computer and then stitch them together. It also allows him to expose the image as he likes, then make any corrections to the colour and brightness levels in Photoshop.
To find out where he needed to light each scene, Hugh checked the preview function on the D1X, then used a handheld video lamp, which he could point at the darker areas. 'Monitoring the light levels on the D1X's preview screen, I could lift the subject out from its background or simply fill in some light where it was needed,' he explained. 'The D1X coped really well with very difficult light situations and different-coloured sources of light. I was really pleased with it - it's a very good camera,' he added.
Hugh started work on this huge project last September, and finished at the beginning of March. For each image he would select 12 shots from around 24, then stitch them together using VR Worx specialist software, and the whole process took around one day per picture. 'Although the stitching takes about 40 minutes, the post-production can take several hours,' he explained.
All Hugh's images are on display at the Royal Academy café until June 4. The Royal Academy of Arts, at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, is open seven days a week, 10am-6pm (10pm Fridays), and the café is open daily from 10am-5.30pm (7.30pm Fridays). For more details and to see some of Hugh's superb shots, click here or tel: 020 7300 8000.
Top tips for taking panoramic pictures
- The easiest way to create a panorama is to hold the camera as level as possible and turn on the spot through 360º, taking a series of pictures. Each one should overlap its predecessor by up to 50 per cent, and the final shot must overlap the first. Then download your images onto your computer (or scan them in, if you're using a film camera) and use one of the many panoramic software packages available to automatically stitch them together. You can get free trial downloads from several sites off the internet.
- For more professional results, use a tripod with a panoramic head, which allows the camera to rotate around the exact centre of the lens to avoid changes in perspective. Otherwise, when the images are stitched together, blurs or shadows can result.
- A spirit level will ensure the camera stays level as it is rotated on the tripod. Most panoramic heads and many tripods have them built in, and you can also buy a tiny one to slot into the flash hotshoe.
- Exposure can be tricky, as most 360º views have different lighting conditions. Ideally, keep exposures fairly consistent and within two stops across the entire panorama to avoid banding - lighter or darker columns appearing across the final image. Banding can be prevented by shooting with plenty of overlap - 30 to 50 per cent is advisable. You can also correct brightness levels on the computer when stitching the image together.
- Specialised stitching software is available, but check it will support your lens and computer before buying.
- Check out Hugh Gilbert's website at 360.eu.com
- For the lowdown on panoramic photography, and a comprehensive review of software for stitching panoramas together, go to panoguide.com
- Tripod manufacturer Manfrotto makes special panoramic heads: for more details visit manfrotto.com
Leonard McColm is a former Keeper, (Principal) of the RA Schools (with an 's')
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