Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt

Aerial Photography and the Stitched Panorama

Early morning in a hot air balloon drifting over the landscape near Luxor,  Egypt,  and of course, the camera went with me.   🙂    The morning flight resulted in several satisfying images (see Balloon over Luxor and  The Lone Cyclist )  as examples,  but this scene was just too wide for a single frame to capture.    So what to do?

Well stitched panoramas are now easy enough with Photoshop,  (and other programs)  so that was the technique used here.    Normally when shooting for panoramic stitching,  it’s recommended to place the camera on a sturdy tripod so as to ensure that the viewpoint doesn’t change,  and so that the camera can be kept in the same orientation for each frame.    Airborne in a balloon obviously means all shots are handheld, but with the low speed of the flight and all the elements of the image being distant, compiling the necessary shots is practical.

Camera settings for Stitched Panoramas

The camera was set with a focal length of 47mm on the zoom lens,  all camera settings,  aperture, ISO, shutter speed,  were set manually so they wouldn’t change between shots and I quickly fired off six frames in vertical format visualizing the horizon line in the viewfinder so as to minimize stepping.    Some overlap was included between successive frames to allow for the stitching in the software.

Digital Image Processing

Prior to taking the images into Photoshop,  I carried out a profiled lens correction, in Lightroom,  on all the frames to eliminate linear distortion.  The six frames were then taken into Photoshop using the command Photo/Edit In/Merge to Panorama in Photoshop/  where the “Auto” setting was used with the “Blend images together” box checked and the “Vignette removal” and “Geometric Distortion Correction” options unchecked.   Vignette removal was unnecessary given the profiled lens corrections earlier in Lightroom.

Aerial pano, Valley of the Queens, Egypt

With the stitching carried out successfully,  the resultant panoramic was cropped,  modest adjustments were made to colour saturation, vibrance and contrast and the image sharpened.    The final image is over 13000 pixels in width so would print nicely to a width of over a metre.    As a further point of interest,  if you look at the left side of the picture you’ll notice the shadow cast by the balloon that I was riding in!    🙂  ~KD

For more, see the Egypt-Jordan image gallery.