About a year ago or so I started reading about this incredible technique developed by a NYC based wedding photographer named Ryan Brenizer. He was on vacation in Ireland and wanted to get a particular shot of a cemetery (I think) but didn't have a lens fast enough or wide enough to shoot it. He wanted a wide angle shot with an insanely narrow depth of field--something that no lens at the moment is capable of. His solution? Take a bunch of shots with a fast lens opened up all the way and stitch them together in Photoshop. Thus the Brenizer Method (as everyone who'd heard about it called it much to the dismay of it's inventor) was born. But in his approach you merely stand and take enough shots from rows from left to right so you have enough to stitch the rows together for a composite. The thing is, all too often you end up with a ton of shots and one very unhappy computer as it slogs through shot after shot trying to align them.
So I wondered if using a Nodal Ninja I'd read about in the DP2 Merrill threads among the passionate panorama crowd there might work better. After all, it is precise, has click stops for overlaps and you don't have to take nearly as many shots because you're not always guessing whether you covered a sector of the scene. If you're not familiar with this device basically it's a contraption that lets you swivel the camera around any lens' optical node (typically the apex of the front element) for near perfect distortion free images when you're shooting a panorama. You'll mount the ninja onto a tripod then mount your camera. There are lockable sliders that allow you to position the front element over a target that you align by your eye. [Essentially I sight the edge of the barrel so both near and far points along the circumference are flush and then slide the camera so the edge is either directly over a target on the device or slightly ahead of it (to match the center apex of the front lens element) It's easier to see than to explain!]
The technique works best with fast short telephoto lenses (50mm or better) but I wondered whether my nifty Sigma 35mm Art would be up to the task. It's incredibly sharp and wide open has an extremely shallow depth of field.
So I ordered an NN from B&H in NYC and last night did an experiment.
The key here is to fill the frame about three quarters with your primary subject and then spread out from there. This is not an absolute but it's a good place to start for a portrait, say. In the examples I saw I noticed that either the main subject was shot from a distance that would fill the frame about 75% whether it's head and shoulders for a closer in portrait, top torso for a somewhat wider shot or a full sized subject with some headroom for a larger scene. While jpgs are fine I shot in RAW and processed the files in Lightroom.
Couple of things you must know:
1. Set the aperture to the widest opening. (If you're outdoors, USE AN ND filter. I use .9 fairly satisfactorily.)
2. You use MANUAL MODE. This way the camera won't be constantly changing exposure ratios and creating images that would look REALLY weird when aligned and blended.
3. Stay with ONE ISO. Don't set it on auto. Also, use the lowest ISO for best results. Although with my 6D I probably l had some flexibility here.
4. You LOCK focus (or go into manual focus). What I did was AF my main subject (aperture at f1.4 by the way) and switched the AF off. I then proceeded to take all my subsequent shots.
Now once I got the shots. (About 9 but you'll hear stories of upwards of 30 - 50 which is totally insane!) I then loaded the images into Lightroom. Now here's where things get interesting. The ONLY thing I did in lightroom at this time was to (1) create a pre-set for the vignetting and distortion control for my Sigma lens and applied it across the board to all the files I just imported. Then (2) with just the center or MAIN FOCUS image, I set the color balance, copied it and applied THAT across all the files so that would be consistent. Finally, I EXPORTED the files to a folder reducing them from whatever size the 6D output is to no more than 2-3 MB per file. (Trust me, the resultant composite image will be HUGE. So huge, in fact, that you'll easily be able to print an enormous image at 300 dpi! Of course, if you want bigger, you can always export the files so they're larger.) Needless to say, you won't be wanting for more pixels. You'll have plenty.
NOTE: At this time you do NOT SHARPEN or apply any NOISE reduction. Or tonal settings (black, contrast, exposure etc.) If you do apply anything it could be the tonal stuff to the 'CENTRAL' image (or main focus) and then apply those settings across the board to the other files. DO NOT APPLY ANYTHING TO ANY FILE INDIVIDUALLY.
Now...you open up either photoshop, photoshop elements or, if you really want an exceptional result, a dedicated stitching program like PTGui or Autopano. Import these smaller files and let the software work its magic. In some instances you may need to help manually align things but because the Nodal Ninja is so rectilinear the software will handle everything without breaking into a sweat.
Once the panorama is made, THEN import THAT into LR (or PS) and apply your sharpening and NR if you'd like.
Crop, save, and you're done.
But enough describing. Here's an example. I shot some flowers my wife got at a farmer's market yesterday on our dining room table. This was made from 9 overlapping images. The final image was square but I pulled a 3:2 crop out of it.
Remember, normally folks use focal lengths of 50 - 85mm and upwards up to 200mm. The Nodal Ninja made it possible to create the look with the Sigma 35mm Art---something you wouldn't typically use but I think the results speak for themselves.
Here's a fellow I've found on Flickr who's done some really nice work with the Brenizer method (the non-NN way) He uses the 35mm Sigma Art and the 85mm Samyang a lot with an (ahem...) Nikon D600. Check out his work, it's quite good!: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_o_donate/sets/