About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lightroom Panorama Tool

 One of the advantages of shooting digitally is the ability to blend a series of pictures into a wide panoramic image. As is true for most digital editing tools,  the capability for creating seamless panoramas from multiple images has improved remarkably. Not too many years ago the process of blending images required the use of a panorama head, the manual alignment of images and a sizable amount of luck. In recent versions of photoshop the process has been greatly simplified and the results much improved. It is now possible to routinely get good results from automatically blending hand held images. The creation of panoramas had been a function within Photoshop and a few other programs, but now this capability has moved to Lightroom and I have to say that the process is quicker and easier than in Photoshop and results are as good or better.

Pacific Vista, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, 12 Image Pano

The creation of panoramas had been a function within Photoshop and a few other programs, but now this capability has moved to Lightroom and I have to say that the process is quicker and easier than in Photoshop and results are as good or better.

In recent versions of Lightroom, the images can be brought into the panorama tool as Native RAW or DNG files.  When completed the

Poas Volcano Costa Rica
final panorama is added to the same directory or Collection as a separate RAW DNG file with all of its broad capability for further editing within Lightroom. Lightroom's automatic selection of the best projection is excellent and, as with Photoshop, the program can automatically crop the image. A new feature is the ability to adjust perspective to fill in the white gaps which inevitably appear around the edges of the final blend. This tool isn't perfect but it is amazing how much can be done to salvage the edges without causing significant distortion.

So let's look at an example of this new tool within Lightroom. 

Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
Reworked in Lightroom from the 2006 images

Note: Although I have remade a few old panos, most of my recent Lightroom panoramas come from our recent trip to the wonderfully diverse landscape of Costa Rica.  Check out my growing Costa Rica 2016 Gallery

Shooting Right 

 We start with a series of  hand-held images of from one of my favorite farms in Chesterfield New Hampshire. The goal remains to overlap the images by at least 30% and to attempt to keep the views lined up along the horizontal.  A leveled tripod can help with this process but I find that, with attention, images can be made to line up well when hand-held. The real trick is to take extra care with camera stability. Just one blurry image destroys the whole series, and it is here that a tripod can be especially helpful. Also, given the variable effect of polarizers as the viewpoint is rotated, it is best to remove this filter before shooting.

Into Lightroom
Once I have selected a series of images for a panorama I like to copy them to a Collection within Lightroom. The Collection allows me to work with the images without becoming confused by the surrounding pictures and  it make it easier to find the final pano image. With the images selected, go to the Photo Menu and under "Merge" select "Panorama".  It's not hard, the only other choice is "HDR" - the subject for another blog. 


The Panorama Merge Preview window opens with a quick view of the panorama, and includes very few choices, the effect of each being rapidly visible in the preview. I routinely allow Lightroom to choose the appropriate projection and I almost never
have to over-ride the choice. Panoramas are never perfectly aligned and there is always white area around the sides. Typically these need to be cropped away, although in recent versions of Photoshop there is an option to allow the program to try to fill these gaps. Sometime it works great, but not always.  The Fill option is not available from within Lightroom - remember Lightroom is non-destructive, it doesn't mess with your precious pixels. 

Auto Crop
Lightroom does provide an option to automatically crop the offending gaps, but I typically leave this box un-checked until after the preview shows me where the problems occur. Cropping can be done at that point or with the non-destructive cropping tool after the image is opened back in Lightroom.

Boundary Warp

The latest version of Lightroom CC provides another option for
Boundary Warp
dealing with the gaps. The Boundary Warp slider can adjust the image perspective trying to draw out the edges to fill the gaps. It often works beautifully to avoid the need to crop key parts of the image, but it is not perfect and, if applied too aggressively, can cause obvious distortion.  When I took a fresh pass at my favorite old Roads End panoramas from 2006, the Boundary Warp created a sloping bank on the left where there is actually a flat glade.  Although upon review, I like the way the phony slope draws the eye to the road.

Roads End farm Road, Boundary Warped

The great thing about the Lightroom Panorama Tool is that the preview comes up quickly and adjustments are easy to make before finally pressing the "Merge" Button. The whole process is much quicker and with generally excellent results. After the merge is complete Lightroom places the new panorama file within the

source Directory or Collection, next to the original images. The panorama is saved as a RAW DNG file and remains fully editable from within Lightroom. When doing panos in Photoshop I typically perform a lot of global editing before I run the Panorama Tool but with Lightroom I more often send the images with very little preliminary manipulation.

Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

That's it. I love the ease and quality of the results from within Lightroom. It really is a lot simpler than you might guess from my unnecessarily long description, but your results will still depend on the care you take capturing the images. If there isn't sufficient overlap the program may not be able to produce a pano. In that case,  you will have to go back and do it again, but it doesn't take long to develop good technique.

Fertile Valley, Costa Rica

So get out and have fun and always approach any scene with the question, "would this make a good pano?".

Costa Rica 2016 Gallery

Jeffrey Newcomer

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