Creating Panoramas: 180 Degrees of Monaco

| October 8, 2011
prince's palace monaco

The Prince's Palace of Monaco

The last leg of our trip to France took us to the French Riviera. Although we stayed in Nice, we took took a local bus to Monaco for a day. Getting to Monaco, and all the other towns on the French Riviera for that mater, is really easy. From Nice, we walked early to the bus station to catch a 9am bus, paid one Euro each, and took a 45-minute ride to Monaco. The bus stops at the other towns along the way and can be quite full. Just plan ahead, go early, and most of all, enjoy!

Each town along the Riviera has its own flair and Monaco is worth the stop. From the impressive Prince’s Palace to the stunning ocean views from atop the city, you will be astonished by the density and beauty all wrapped up in one place. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of Hong Kong. A The buildings are stacked like legos all the way up the hill and cars buzz up and down the streets with great intention.

To capture the essence of what I saw, I felt a high resolution panorama was in order. The photo below was taken as Donna and I walked up to the Prince’s Palace. As you can see the area is filled with buildings, hilltop vistas, a Palace, and a place to park your multimillion dollar yacht.

Click on the photo below to see a mere fraction of the total resolution of the panorama. The full image is about 25 feet wide, over 650 megabytes, and contains more than 109 million pixels! How did I do that? Well, I flipped the camera into a portrait position (tall orientation) and rotated with a 50% viewfinder overlap as I took a total of 11 images from left to right. The goal is to stay as level as possible as I rotate and snap the pictures. A reasonably fast shutter speed is important to eliminate camera shake as the images are taken. The shots for this panorama were taken at zoom level of 50mm (minimizes distortion), 1/320th of a second (eliminates camera shake), and an aperture of f/9.0 (keeps things near and far in focus).

monaco on the french riviera

View of Monaco while walking up to the Prince's Palace

(If viewing in browser, be sure to click image again to see full size)

The trick to pulling off a nice handheld pano is to plan ahead. Using my Canon 5D Mark II, which is a 21.1 million pixel camera, I first set the white balance to daylight. If left on auto white balance, the camera may shift the color temperature of the individual images as I pan across the sky, making it very difficult to get a consistent color temperature from left to right once the full image is stitched together.

Another thing that is critical is picking an exposure that will work across all the images. This is where the camera’s manual settings come in handy. Basically, I had to meter the entire scene with the camera’s built-in light meter and pick an aperture and shutter setting that would give a good exposure for the entire scene. As you can see in the photo, the sky is darker on the left and the landscape is darker on the right. I needed an exposure that would expose the buildings properly on the left without blowing out the sky on the right. A little tricky but once you get the hang of it you will have no problem dialing in acceptable settings. Be sure to check your histograms to make sure you have good exposures after you shoot. If not, adjust your aperture up or down and try again!

lady moura yacht monaco

The $200M Lady Moura next to a cruise ship

This is where it gets fun. The photos above and below demonstrate how much resolution there is in the panorama. They are clips from the full resolution panorama showing the private superyacht, Lady Moura. In the full pano, the yacht is next to the cruise ship toward the right side of the panorama. As of 2011, Lady Moura is the 24th largest yacht in to world and is owned by by Saudi Arabian businessman, Nasser Al-Rashid. The yacht, which was the 9th largest when it was launched in 1990, cost a reported $200 million to build. The escutcheon seen on the rear of the yacht is carved in 24-carat gold and the yacht is tendered by an on-board helicopter. You can see the landing pad in the photo below with a yellow circle on it. He must be out grabbing a gallon of milk at the local convenience store.

lady moura yacht monaco

Lady Moura at full resolution from large pano

The photo below shows the building density in Monaco as well as how the buildings look at full resolution. It is quite fun to explore these high resolution images after I get back from trips!

monaco on the french riviera

Monaco: Densely populated but beautiful

So, how do I stitch them together? Well, I use the photo merge feature in Photoshop. There are other tools you can use to accomplish quality photo stitching results but I use Photoshop because I own it. A word of warning. You need a pretty high powered computer to stitch images this large. I use a Mac Pro Quad-Core with 20 gigabytes of RAM. That may be overkill but the system has no problem putting the images together in a reasonable amount of time. Nice!

monaco panorama

Another Monaco pano showing the Prince's Palace of Monaco

(If viewing in browser, be sure to click image again to see full size)

The panorama directly above was taken from the Jardin Exotique de Monaco. It is a botanical garden located on a cliff side in Monaco. Donna and I walked all the way to the top of the city to get there, which was exhausting. We could have taken the bus but we were sure it was “just around the corner” for about an hour. The views from the garden are breathtaking and it was worth the exercise. As you can see. the location provided a nice view of the palace and surrounding area. Below is a full res clip of the palace. Pretty amazing, huh!

prince's palace monaco

Prince's Palace at full resolution

Finally, below was a series of houses we saw on our way up to the garden. We were sitting on a bench taking a break when I noticed the fanciful decoration on them. Each was unique and meticulously restored. For this image I had to zoom out a bit and take five pictures to get all of the subject matter. The wide zoom is what has created the distortion in the image. I think it makes for an interesting image and provides a pretty good record of what I saw.

ornate houses in monaco

Monaco homes showing stunning individuality

Thanks for enduring this long post. I hope you find it helpful when thinking about taking panrama images for your portfolio. They can be quite rewarding and I highly recommend you give them a try sometime.

Have a great weekend,

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Category: France, Photography, Travel, Tutorials

Comments (3)

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  1. LeavesOfCrimson says:

    Hi Lee. One of Michael’s many lenses include a panoramic lens. I know we’ve never gone through this whole process as you’ve outlined. I suspect we couldn’t turn the images into a 25 ft. long image no matter how we tried using that lens though. We have gotten some of the same distortion effects though (with the curvature of the buildings as I see in your last photo). Of course, Michael would know more of what you are talking about here than I am, though I understand the gist. You go through lots of work and that, my friend, is why YOU are a professional photographer and artist!

  2. Lee says:

    Thanks a lot Sherry! Regardless of the equipment, some of these rules apply. I hope you give it a try. The goal is to capture something memorable and a pano is a good way to do that at times. Thanks as always for the visits. Glad you are back in the saddle and having fun with your art pursuits!

  3. Paul Lanigan says:

    Excellent post Lee. With your permission, I’d like to post a link to it on my camera clubs website.