Incredible 300 photo stitch from Teddy's Lookout!

Five years ago photographer Matthew Stevenson saw the opportunity for this photo, however it's only been recently with the advancement of technology that he was able create it. It is no ordinary photo, it is made up of over 300 individual exposures and stitched together using computer software. Spanning 180 degrees, he did not use a wide angle lens, instead choosing a focal length of 112mm, allowing him to capture incredible detail. He also wanted to show that you don't need expensive 'professional' gear to achieve great results. This was taken with a Canon 400D digital SLR, kit lens and old heavy film tripod, which is moderately priced entry level equipment.

To successfully stitch photos together, the images need to be taken consistently in horizontal lines across the scene. However, due to the nature of this image, Matt could not simply start and shoot the scene in one go. Due to the time of day and the sun rising, the shadows on the hill were changing. This meant Matthew had to start by shooting the shadow line from the bottom to the top.

Following this he shot from the top of the line, shooting to the right filling in the shadow of the hill all the way down to the valley.

This image shows the first major part of the image. This first section was made from 7 horizontal rows, approximately 26 photos wide.

The software process of stitching photos is very fast compared to doing it by hand, but it is not perfect. Many areas where photos join together have small errors and overlaps which need to be fixed by hand. Below is one example, you can see the lines on the road not matching up correctly.

Once each horizontal row is made, they need to be then aligned correctly to the ones above them. This was another task which had to be done by hand to make sure the results were perfect. Sometimes areas where rows had been stitched didn't align perfectly with those above, so Matthew had to stretch, contract and tilt the rows to align them before they could be blended. With this in mind each row must not only be aligned in the correct spot but it had to not distort the overall perspective of the image. Here is an example of one of the individual rows.

The next section of the image to be shot was the sunny hill in the middle of the scene. As this section of the scene was well lit by sunlight, he had to change the exposure settings on the camera. For the shaded areas, Matthew slightly overexposed them to bring out their detail, however if he kept these same settings the sun lit areas would be too overexposed. These exposure changes had to be made manually for each area of the scene.

You can see here the two parts which are now combined.

To capture the sky, Matthew had to wait for the right conditions. He wanted the scene to have a nice sunny day with puffy clouds. Unfortunately these conditions are not all the common in winter time around Lorne, so he waited for a couple of weeks for the ideal weather.

It was a similar story for the ocean. Matthew knew through experience he needed to wait for a clear morning and the right time, which was between 9.30 and 10am for the sun to be high enough to light up the ocean floor and reef.

With all of these sections combined he had the following result.

You can see there are areas missing on the right and left hand sides. Matthew returned to the lookout and leaned his camera over the rail to shoot the hidden bushes on both sides, and added them to the scene.

After all the images were stitched and checked close-up for any missed errors, Matt made a few slight colour corrections, giving him the final image. The image was so large that it had to be downsized for his computer to handle it. It measures 3.5 meters x 1.5 meters, and a file size on the computer of over 1GB.

Click on the image above for an interactive version of the finished image!

Landscape Photographer Matthew Stevenson Masters New Digital Techniques

Fine art photography has always been a techniqually advanced artistic pursuit. Expensive cameras, film processing and scanning cost in the past have put it out of reach of many aspiring photographers. Surf coast professional photographer Matthew Stevenson has used film for most of his working life. “When using film I was often frustrated at not been able to capture the full beauty of what lie around me. I was only recording portions of a larger event.” “This radically changed after I bought my first digital camera.”

The coming together of digital cameras and the processing power of modern computers has revolutionist the way he now records his landscape in the arena of fine art photography. The digital photography has allowed Matthew to reduce the financial restraint of film. Taking multiple shots and stitching the photos together on the computer, Matthew has managed to build up the file size that increases the print quality and print size. The result is beautiful, large panoramic photographs with incredible high resolution detail. Many of the prints Matthew produces consist of anything up to 100 photographs.

He employs a sophisticated layering system which manager’s extreme lighting contrast, when complete, produces an image of startling detail that closely mimics the human eye.

“This process enable me to produce panoramic photographs, panning 180 degrees or greater, which allows the viewer to see far more than is humanly possible by the naked eye, in a flat two dimension format.

Matthew technique of multiple exposure levels creates beautifully balanced exposures, while maintaining high detail in the shadows and highlights with perfect contrast throughout the print.

Whilst Matthew still recognizes the excellent detail that film provides, this new digital technology presents the photographer with new opportunities to explore.