How I created my drone super panorama of Batad Rice Terraces.
This Batad super panorama is my most favourite image so far. I’d like to share with you how I created this image from 60 photos. I hope this article will give you insight into the process and inspire you to create your own panoramic images. I love shooting panoramas of landscapes, they give such a better view of the surrounding compared to single shot photos. It’s fun, opens up new possibilities and you will be able to create more unique images!
About the Batad super panorama
This Batad super panorama is created from 60 photos, taken with my DJI Mavic Drone, by shooting 3 rows of photos at 360 degrees. They were shot at Batad, Philippines, some of the oldest, most beautiful and unique rice terraces in the world.
During my 11 day stay here to capture Batad to the best of my ability (time lapse & drone video as well). I shot a lot of photos, single shot, horizontal and vertical panoramas, wide angle, zoom, from the land and the sky. But each image just captured a fragment of Batad. And although many were nice images, none captured the complete magic of Batad I so desperately wanted to capture. Seeing photos of Batad is one thing, but to be in Batad and to actually wander through these gorgeous terraces is a whole different thing. Batad is a paradise, like a movie setting in a fantasy film where elves and dragons might fly by any moment. I think this image captures that like no other.
Another Batad super panorama, my second best one:
One of the most stunning locations in the country, untouched by Spanish colonization, hidden far away in the mountains, lies Batad. In an area where many rice terraces were built, non are a greater achievement than Batad. Built higher than any other, on the steepest slopes, more beautiful and better maintained than any of the other rice terraces. The way they irrigate the terraces with the water from the mountains, use very specific plants as a natural pest control, their elaborate way of farming, all of it is evidence of the persistence and advancement of the Ifugao people. For good reason is Batad named UNESCO World Heritage site.
Imagine this too: all of the rocks that support the walls of the rice terraces had to be dragged up from the water bedding. I walked up from there with my camera and tripod bag, a mere 5 kilo. I tell you, it was one of the toughest walks I’ve ever done. Hundreds and hundreds of stairs. Big, uneven, slippery stairs in temperature of 30+ degrees Celsius.
One of my other Batad super panorama tries at shooting the super panorama:
How I created the image
After shooting tons of photos I realized I wanted to capture more of Batad in a single image. A vertical panorama or horizontal didn’t capture enough, so I started combining the technique by shooting multiple rows. Each time facing the camera downwards and shooting up to 5 rows until I was facing vertical. But my stitching software couldn’t stitch more than 3 rows as the change in perspective became too much for the stitching software to handle.
Getting the right colors and composition wasn’t easy. It had to be very clear and sunny. My other versions shot at full/partial cloudy sky simply weren’t as nice. Patience was key and it was only at day 10 that I shot them. (Side note: 4 brownouts and my drone landing by itself in a ricefield and thus drying 3 days in a bag with dry rice slowed me down drastically!)
Getting the right composition was a matter of trial and error that could only be judged after stitching the whole image. I used my Polarpro ND8&16 polarizing filter to soften the light, give a bit more warm feeling to the image and enhance the blue sky. To shoot as steady as possible I used the Tripod Mode. For optimum quality and flexibility I always shoot RAW (DNG) instead of JPG.
Stitching the image was done by opening the files in Photoshop RAW editor and merging them into a DNG panorama. This is my preferred method over any other stitching method. It’s fast and gives the possibility to stretch the corners of the image to keep cropping to a minimum. Works in Photoshop CC only though. If you don’t have that version, you’ll have to open the files and choose Automate > Merge Photomerge. If you don’t have Photoshop, there’s plenty of other software out there to merge panorama’s; Lightroom, PTGui, Autopano Giga etc.
One problem I faced was that Photoshop kept on starting the panorama at the wrong side. So to fix this, I left out a few frames so Photoshop was forced to start at a certain area. This meant the image wasn’t completely 360 degrees, but that wasn’t my goal anyway.
Very basic RAW editing was done, adding some contrast & clarity and increase details in the highlights & shadows. In Photoshop I used Nik Software’s Skylight filter to add some more warmth to the image. I masked out the left side which had become too yellow and the sky. In the top left corner the blue sky had some noise in one of the images. I blurred it by using the blur filter (blue sky) and the Oil Paint filter (for clouds). Separate masked layers were used for this.
All in all color editing was quite minor and least work of all, but the stitching process took half a day per panorama on my laptop. I had to try a few versions to get the right composition, so altogether it was quite a project to create just a few images.
A Batad super panorama shot from the main viewpoint, never came as good as I wanted:
Links to check out!
Read my Batad Blogpost for more info about Batad. It includes my time lapse movie, my aerial movie and more stunning photos. Find the full photo series at the Batad Portfolio section. Prints available!