Monday, July 7, 2008

Hollywood Sign Panorama

This image speaks for itself, since the Hollywood Sign is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. I've enjoyed shooting panoramas for some time, mainly because the format allows the photographer to portray a different viewpoint on a subject, and they're great for city skylines, which I tend to photograph often.

Here's a little history on the famous letters above tinseltown:

The sign originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND," and its purpose was to advertise a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. The developer contracted the Crescent Sign Company to erect thirteen letters on the hillside of Mount Lee, each facing south. The sign company owner, Thomas Fisk Goff designed the sign. Each letter of the sign was 30 feet wide and 50 feet high, and was studded with light bulbs. The sign was officially dedicated on July 13, 1923.

The sign is located on the southern side of Mount Lee in Griffith Park, north of the Mulholland Highway. Its altitude is 1,578 feet.

Click on image to view larger.

Here are a few tips on shooting panoramas:
  • Make sure there is sufficient overlap between photos.
    • Ideally you want about 20-30% overlap between the photos so your panorama software can accurately stitch the pano together.
  • Level tripod head and camera.
    • Ditto above - your pano software will have a hard time stitching your pano if your shots are not level.
  • Manually set white balance and exposure.
    • If you can, set your camera to manual exposure in order to ensure a consistent exposure across the entire panorama. Otherwise, you'll end up with weird lighter or darker patches, especially in the sky.
  • Find an interesting view.
    • While skylines are obvious (and often very common) panorama subjects, try something different, such as a vertical panorama of a tree or a horizontal crop of buildings to show abstract patterns to create visual interest.
  • Use panorama editing software.
    • There are many editing tools out there, and many of them are free. I tend to use the panorama tool included in Photoshop CS2 and above, but I've also had great results with AutoStitch, which is a free download.