High Resolution "Stitched Digital Mosaics"...
Frederick Eberhart created each of the large-format high resolution landscape images featured in this portfolio by shooting arrays of overlapping digital photographs and using panorama software to “stitch” them together. Though recent generations of digital cameras offer dramatically higher
resolution, he continues to push the limits in his stitched mosaics. The process has become an indispensable part of his creative toolkit. While it may takes hours - even days - to stitch an individual mosaic landscape image, Eberhart finds considerable personal satisfaction in the process, and in the result.
The benefits of this time-consuming process are immediately evident to the collector in the prints that are made from these large digital files. Rich, detailed, and, if preferred, very large, Eberhart prints stand apart from single photograph landscape prints for their quality and their impact.
Frederick Eberhart on his Technique
(From Dominion of Light: Mosaic Photographs of the Virginia Landscape)
I carry a light-weight, fixed "zoom" lens digital camera, which allows considerable flexibility (Panasonic DMC-FZ10, replaced in 2008 with a DMC-FZ50 [note: in turn, replaced in 2014 with a DMC-FC1000]). When I find a landscape worth capturing, several factors (considered quickly on the spot) determine how many component photos I will shoot, and thus how large the photo array will be. These include the expanse and aspect ratio of the desired composition, the distance of the subject from the camera, the rate of movement of objects, like clouds, through the scene, and the speed at which the light is changing. I almost always use a solid tripod with a short radius pan-tilt head [note: now I use a gimbal head]. I shoot the images, each overlapping by about a third, in a zigzag pattern (a row right, up one, a row left, up one, a row right, etc., etc.). I often bracket exposures, in case I need to compensate for the dynamic range limitations of my digital camera. Shooting an image may take a few minutes, depending on the size of the array.
To stitch these images, I use robust software capable of handling large arrays on my desktop computer. There are several good applications available, some of them freeware from the web. (I prefer not endorse one over the others.) I load the photo files into the application and ensure that common points between adjoining photos are identified. This often requires considerable manual input to get the best overlay of adjoining photos. The software outputs a "recommended" layout for the stitched image in a large Photoshop file, with as many masked layers as there are component photos. I inspect the boundary between each overlapping photo, adjusting the layer masks with the Photoshop brush tool to ensure the most accurate blend in the final image. My objective is that each tree branch or blade of grass transitions smoothly between these boundaries. It is a labor-intensive approach. Each stitched image takes many hours, even days, to get it right.