(close) Encounters Part 13 < 360° < 371w

by bob on February 5, 2016

in (HDRI) Panorama portraits, HDRI


About the (close) Encounters project

This panorama is part of a bigger series (this is Part 13 – at the bottom of this page you will find direct links to the previous editions) that will be made in the future. Behind the scenes HDRI panorama portraits of people. More info about this project see at the bottom of this page. Not sure witch direction it will go.

(close) Encounters Part 13 – the 360° panorama

For those who not want to read about the technical part of the proces here are a flat version & a 360° (VR) of the final color corrected HDRI Panorama portrait.

1) VR – 360

2) Flat projection


How it started

On 8 december 2014 was shooting a new Dutch Skies 360° XL sky. Saw a big Firetruck appearing to my camera and stopped in front of my camera. That was not a great spot for parking the truck because it would ruining my sky pano shooting. So asked the man who was in charge if it would be possible to park the truck about 200 meters back. Luckily it was not a problem at all could even direct them if the firetruck was far enough and made a kind of stop sign in the air when the truck was far enough.

Was very happy they were so kind because the sky was amazing.

Below you can see the final DS360XL sky plus the Firetruck:


Months later when started working on the that sky not forgot of the fact that the Scheveningen Fire Department were so kind to move their truck so contacted them and asked if they wanted to receive a nice photo print of the DS360XL sky where their truck is also visible – see above – as a gift for their help. They accepted the offer.

Also thought about the idea of shooting a HDRI panorama portret of the Scheveningen Fire Department and mailed them if they also would like the idea. Gladly the invitation was accepted! So we waited until the weather conditions. The weather reports would be good on 10 september 2015. We made a appointment for the shoot on 10 september 2015 08:00. Asked if they could bring as much as possible trucks & Fireman.

The day of the shoot it looked to be very nice weather indeed. So went a bit earlier to the location of the appointment, noticing that the clear blue sky got covered with airplain trails (ggrrrr not like that at all). Prepared the camera and waited. Suddenly saw two big fire trucks appearing and they parked their truck around the camera.

We met and shook hands. The fire department is working in day and night crews so not the complete crew of the Scheveningen Fire Department could come. Mentioned to that not liked the airstripes at all – humorously got a respond “why didn’t you mention that before then we would have arranged that there were no air plain trails” haha!

The light was very beautiful (low sun resulting in nice shadows – also problematic see below ). Within 10 minutes the HDRI pano was recorded.

Yes it takes along time before this HDRI panorama portret is finished: almost 5 months

Not working on it the whole 5 months but in its done in the after hours next to the main projects. Also depend on my good friend JP vd Burg for his color correction – more info see below – its for us pure fun to work on such difficult projects.

Technical info

Below you can read about the most important parts of the process. Note that its simplified there are much more steps.


For processing the raw images out of de Nikon D800 always make use of a color card from QPCard. In this case its the QPCard 203 Book.

16 exposures – generating the HDRI panorama

Not will explain everything in detail but have 16 exposures so generated the HDR’s panorama with HDRsoft Photomatix from every angle and stitched the HDR panorama with the panoramic image stitching software called PTGUI Pro

note: the image below shows all the exposures in a overview (not representing the technique used to generate the HDR’s for this pano)


Bottom retouche & shadow reconstruction

– Next did the bottom retouche in HDRI by first converting the Equirectangular into a cubic projection (with PTGUI Pro)
– then retouched the bottom & front
– now converted the cubic projection back again into a Equirectangular HDRI


Tonemapping & Photoshop

Next the tonemapping process starts. Really like to do this. The only thing is that regardless the usage of a color card you still need to do some finetuning.

Here always do the tonemapping on a kind of instinct / feeling. Made different tonemaps with Photomatix, HDRE Expose 3 & PTGUI Pro so mix those together in Photoshop. Each tonemap/layers have different opacity. So actually play with it until it more or less comes close to the actual colors on the day of the shoot.

Added as top layers two +/- middle exposure panorama’s as guidance for later color correcting see screenshot below:


Color correcting by JP van der Burg

Shooting an HDRI Portrait is one thing, another very important step is color correction. My good friend JP van der Burg did that for me. He’s a real master in color correction + retouche. JP can translate the clients wishes exact what they want without asking to much questions.

Below you can see a before and after color correction:


This HDRI portret has lots of problematic part so asked JP to write some words about his retouche work. Note that his special “sauce” color correcting procedure will not be shown here.


“As usual Bob did an awesome job. I assume he pretty felt intimidated surrounded by all these though firemen. Good thing they didn’t go berserk on him with all that tools! On the other hand Bob the PhotoRobocop also sounds well!

This shot was taken in Scheveningen (The Netherlands) in – late – summer 2015 at sunset. That’s why the shot is warm, yellowish and some of the firemen looked like red tomatoes due to sunburn (or was it a huge Fire?).

That was a major issue to get that right. The skin tones exploded in every direction (skintone hue problems) and of course all the firemen had of course different skin tones. Sometimes when tonemapping in Photomatix it looks like the program ‘forgets’ some areas. I had no other choice then to colorize some areas of the faces. (see screenshots)

Due to exposures against the sun there were some lensflare issues, I had to colorize some spots in the suits.

Beside the overall colour corrections I had to do a lot of section colour corrections and thus a lot of masking.

But at the end we are all content and I hope that our heroes of The Hague Fire Department like it too!”

JP van der Burg – 4 february 2016

Missed opportunities

There are some parts that went not that well but thats more my own fault:

1) wanted to have the name Scheveningen (as printed on the front truck window) also would be seen in the pano. Gave instructions but forgot to check it when shooting – silly moi.

2) could have asked if they would expand their truck ladders that would have given the panorama some more dynamic. Only thought about this after the shoot.

But such things happen, just like the Germans used to say in such cases “C’est la Vie!” 😉

See image below



Big thanks to fireman of Fire department Scheveningen (specially Jaco & Artur) for the permission of taking the panorama and the allowance of showing it on this website & Jp van der Burg for the color correction and retouch & Gerardo Estrada (for having a extra look + suggestion at the – almost final version).

About the (close) Encounters project

HDRI panorama portrait information:

This is a ongoing project and is called (close) Encounters.

The HDRI ( High Dynamic Range Images ) panorama portrait panorama’s are made out of 63 pictures (minimal 9 exposures per angle, 7 angles so 63 images are used to make a HDRI portret panorama.

That makes taking the image with some thrill — it could be ruined due to the fact that if the people are moving the portrait could fail. That idea makes it fascinating for me to do it, Its always exiting to shoot. Warn the customers in advance: “we will see in the final image who moved, so do not dare to move!” Until now (almost) everyone has listened very good in the portrait shoots from the last years.

After the shoot the most time consuming part starts: tonemapping, color correction & retouche. The actually shooting is done within 1 minute per pano, post production can take about 20 or 30 hours (or even more).

Update november 2015:

Last years the technical development of 360° camera’s (so no need to shoot in several angles but just push the button once) is going very quickly. More and more are entering the market and this is fantastic news. My special attention goes to the latest Lytro Immerge development. But have to be honest. For the (close) Encounters series not want to use such camera’s its just too easy. Its much more exciting if there is a bigger chance of failure. It reminds me also to the early days of (portrait) photography, people were told by the photographer “ please do not move”.

Previous Editions (close) Encounters

(close) Encounters Part 1
(close) Encounters Part 2
(close) Encounters Part 3
(close) Encounters Part 4
(close) Encounters Part 5
(close) Encounters Part 6
(close) Encounters Part 7
(close) Encounters Part 8
(close) Encounters Part 9
(close) Encounters Part 10
(close) Encounters Part 11
(close) Encounters Part 12
(close) Encounters Part 13 – see above