A passion for gigapixels - Helmuth Günther

Photographer Helmuth Günther from Bavaria / Germany has shared his passion and emotion for gigapixel VR Drive photography with us.

 


Helmuth Günther works with a Roundshot VR Drive, a Canon EOS 5D Mk iii and a set of (very) long focal lenses.

>>> visit the gigapixel website of Helmuth Günther


1. Helmuth, how did you discover gigapixel photography in general and the VR Drive in particular?

What triggered my gigapixel adventure was my love for detail and the idea, to make the viewer of an image curious. Wide-angle images lead to distorsions, they lack detail. Gigapixel images, on the other hand, can be viewed as an undistorted whole. Tbe viewer can zoom in almost endlessly and discover details. Curiosity leads to a desire for more.


2. How do you select your gigapixel subjects?

When contemplating a subject in its complete beauty, an emotional moment arises, leading to a desire for more. As a viewer, I have to be touched emotionally. This is the basis for a gigapixel capture.

3. What makes your gigapixels special?

My panoramas are characterised by an extreme resolution and very fine detail which I achieve with my full frame digital camera and lenses with focal lengths of up to 800mm. To capture fore- and background I use selective sharpness. A special animation leads the viewer from the highlight of the panorama to the full view of the image.


 

4. What are the technical challenges?

Long focal lengths and, as a consequence, small viewing angles require an extremely precise positioning of the camera. The subject matter is alive! That's why there can always be small changes in the image, for example through moving subjects (traffic, birds, etc.) or through movement of light or clouds. But that's exactly what makes gigapixel photography so exciting! Photographing a mountain summit with a cross in high resolution is not the same as capturing a heavily populated traffic intersection in rush hour. 

5. Does the VR Drive run smoothly enough?

According to my experience, the VR Drive allows a camera positioning which is accurate to the decimal and repeatable over and over again - independent of the sequence of image taking. This is a mandatory prerequisite to lead my gigapixel projects to success.


 

6. What advantages does the VR Drive provide for your gigapixel projects?

The Roundshot VR Drive is an "all-in-one" device which integrates all necessary features:

  • no additional computer is necessary - it allows completely autonomous work even in all conditions, because the touch screen is easily readable even in bright daylight
  • an advanced Wizard for program creation: most important parameters can be entered through an easy to understand interface, allowing the creation of programs which are foolproof. The gigapixel capture can already be prepared back in the office so that the photographer can focus on photography in the field.
  • open interfaces for LAN, wifi, external power and a direct link to the camera; the VR Drive controls the camera through its available USB features such as image release, white balance, check of available storage space (SD cards) as well as image release control
  • the possibility to select a variable number of images per row, thus reducing the required number of images and, translating into a significantly reduced capture time
  • a very high flexibility when it comes to repeating individual images or an image sequence within a panorama - thanks to a very high precision the positions to repeat are reached very accurately; in subsequent stitching these additional images are merged into the final panorama without leaving any gaps


 

7. How have you structured your workflow?

  • As a first step, I create a new panorama using the Program Wizard, with which I define all necessary parameters step-by-step
  • Out in the field I mount the camera on my VR Drive and define the image angle using the visual angle mode function (point on the lower left / upper right corner of the panorama)
  • When image angle and conditions are just right, I press "start" and the gigapixel capture is launched
  • During the program sequence, which lasts several hours, I can flexibly correct possible disturbances using the "back" feature or by stopping the program and resuming it from any x/y position
  • It may be required that I split the panorama into several portions; for that I use either speed or quality mode - depending on the subject matter - as well as different capture sequences to photograph moving objects without duplication
  • Back at the computer the next step consists in grouping the images. The Image Bundler completes this task automatically. By grouping relevant images it sorts out duplicated pictures and generates an xml file (Papywizard) which defines the import structure for the stitching software. This xml file has a very high relevance for gigapixel imagery and is the key for success. The images are passed on to the stitching software in a clearly defined sequence and structure, even if they had been recorded in a random pattern (partial panoramas, repetitions).
  • The final gigapixel panorama is then presented in a viewer on the internet.


 

8. Have you suggested new software features in the past and how do you use these features?

Yes, quite a few! One of my suggestions was, for example, to introduce a new function "x/y repeat". This new feature makes it possible to jump to any position in the panorama and re-capture parts of the panorama.

The trigger for this idea was my experience that the VR Drive, regardless from what position or sequence, always reaches a new point very accurately.

I attach a very high importance to the speed mode, as it allows to register images through a continuous gigapixel sweep very quickly, reducing possible vibrations thanks to mass inertia. To use the speed mode fully, I suggested a change in the VR Drive return speed which will be introduced in the next software release.

I have always been very pleased to pass feedback on software enhancements and bug fixes to the Seitz team. Seitz has always implemented these suggestions in a timely manner - our exchange of ideas has always been very stimulating and constructive. The VR Drive is my reliable companion for all my gigapixel projects.

Many thanks Helmuth for this insightful Interview!

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