The Everest Summit Panorama Project 2015
The goal: A high-res 360° Panorama from Mt. Everest Summit
Climber & photographer: Tim Mosedale
Equipment, training & production: Thomas Worbs
Timeframe: February - June 2015
Click here for the original blog of Tim Modedale or follow Tim on Facebook or Twitter.
The Everest Summit Panorama Blog
April 27, 2015 - Helicopters evacuate Teams from Camp 1 and 2 - Tim Mosedale and Clients are amongst
It is confirmed: Tim Mosedale called his wife this morning reporting he and his team have been helicoptered down from Camp 1 to Base Camp. The original information can be read in the Everest Expedition Facebook Blog.
According to the Twitter Feed of the Romanian climber Alex Gavan the evacuation of the teams stranded at Camp 1 and Camp 2 is in progress. Weather conditions today allow those flights, but it takes some time as only two climbers a time can be airlifted due to the thin air. Let's hope that Tim Mosedale and his clients get down from the hill safely!
April 25, 2015 - Another Tragedy - Strong Earthquake hits Nepal causing Avalanches - Tim Mosedale and Team Safe
Today a strong earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter Scale stroke Nepal and the Khumbu Region at 06:11:26 UTC, 11:56:26 local time (source USGS). Avalanches in the Everest region have been triggered by this quake, one also burying parts of Everest Base Camp as reported on the website of the newspaper The Telegraph.
Tim Mosedale and his clients were at or around Camp 1 at this time. Ali Mosedale, the wife of Tim Mosedale posted on the Everest Expedition Facebook Blog that she had a satelite phone conversation with her husband in the early afternoon confirming that Tim and clients are all accounted. On the left there is an elder photograph of Camp 1 taken by Tim. Let's wish Tim, his team, and all the other climbers in the region that tings do not turn out too worse!
April 20, 2015 - The Expedition arrived at Everest Base Camp (EBC)
Today Tim Mosedale and client went a part way up Pumori just to gain some hight above Base Camp. In the picture on the right you can see the splendid view they had to Everest, Lotse, the Icefall, and Everest Base Camp. I'm sure Tim took a panorama from there.
Tomorrow they will have a rest day and their Puja. The next activities for the days coming are to make first steps into the icefall and after that to undertake a first rotation up to Camp 1 (6.000 m) and possibly to Camp 2 (6.400 m). Let's hope that everything goes fine. For further reading and more photographs please refer to the Facebook Blog of Time Mosedale.

 

April 17, 2015 - The Expedition arrived at Everest Base Camp (EBC)
The team of Tim Mosedale finally arrived at Everest Base Camp. It seems that this was not an easy going. Tim wrote in his Facebook Blog: "... we've arrived at EBC in challenging conditions. Despite the blue sky start to the day it turned snowy and blowy and quote challenging. Thankfully my team are well versed in coping with the ever changing conditions and managed to get here in fine form. We are spending the next couple of days settling in to our new home and getting acquainted with our surroundings. Not only have we got the gear that accompanied us on the trek in but there are also kitbags of stuff we sent directly from KTM not to mention extra gear we freighted from Manchester.". On the left you can see the team's dining tent featured with gas heating and electric light. Doesn't this look to be a cosy place?
Things came different compared to the plan. During the first night in Digboche heavy showfall covered the landscape with a 12 inch layer. As the expedition leader considered it as unfair towards the porters to make them carry all the equipment over The Kongma La Pass under these conditions he changed the itenary. The group headed to Chhukhung and trekked up and down Chhukhung Ri (5.546 m) in order to gain some more elevation training. After that they ruturned to Dingboche for sleeping over. In the next two days Time Mosedale and team trekked up to Everest Base Camp via Lobuche and Gorak Shep. As ever you can read more details and enjoy more photographs in the excellently written Facebook Blog of Time Mosedale.
April 11, 2015 - Arrived in Pangboche
The Everest Expedition Team of Tim Mosedale arrived in Pangboche. This village is located at the main trekking route of the Khumbu valley. Tomorrow they will continue the acclimatization turn towards Dinboche. It is planned to stay there for two nights, then climb up to Kongma La pass (5.400 m), and camp there for three nights. We have a sunrise pano of the campground taken last year. Please click here to view.
April 10, 2015 - Arrived in Gokyo after crossing Renjo La
Great to hear from Tim Mosedale's Blog that he and his clients are all in fine fettle after having crossed the Renjo La pass (5.417m). They arrived in the village of Gokyo today. From Renjo La we have a great panorama from last year's expedition. Please click here to view it interactively and in full size.
What happened the days before? After leaving Khumjung Tim and his group trekked up to an amazing monastery which is built in to the hillside overlooking Thame. He wrote "It's a great walk up through the wooded hillside with some fantastic mani stones along the way". You can find the monestary together with the mani stone in the picture on the right. After chilling the rest of this day a trekking leg up to Marylung (4.150 m) was on the program. At this location they stayed another two nights making a training trip up to 5.000 m. Next sleeping stop was Lungde (around 4.400 m) just before climbing Renjo La and subsequently descending to Gokyo.
In case you want to read more details and see more pictures, Tim Mosedale's Blog on Facebook is the right place.

 

April 3, 2015 - Already above Khumjung
The climber group is already above Khumjung heading for the Thame valley getting the first view to the giants of the Himalayas. On the photo on the right you can see (from left to right) Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam.
Tim Mosedale and team passed Namche Basar two days ago. After that they spent two nights in the village of Kyanjuma for a first acclimatization rest.
Next stop for a tea break will be Syangboche. From here the route heades down through some lovely wooded trails amongst amazing mani stones before picking up the trail to Thamo and in to Thame.
March 31, 2015 - Safe landing in Lukla
With a slight delay Tim Mosedale and his expedition group landed safely at the airport of Lukla where they will hit the trail.
Landing in Lukla is always a bit of an adventure. I made this experience myself when I was trekking in the Khumbu Valley a couple of years ago. When the Twin Otter or Dornier 228 aircrafts of 'Yeti Airlines', 'Buddha Air', 'Agni Air', 'Guna Airlines', or 'Sita Air' touch down there is not much space to grind to a halt. The runway of Lukla goes up steep and ends after only 460 Meters on a rockwall!

 

March 30, 2015 - Arrival in Kathmandu, transfer to Lukla tomorrow
Three days ago Tim Mosedale arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. He was lucky to arrive on time as many international flights have been delayed or routed to other airports because of the heavy rain.
After doing some final arrangements and purchases today, Tim and his clients will leave for their flight to Lukla tomorrow early morning. More details on Tim's Facebook Blog here.

 

March 26, 2015 - A short video explaining the equipment
Tim Mosedale posted a video explaining all the equipment he will take to Mount Everest for the summit panorama shooting. This footage was taken at his home location, the beautiful Lake District in England containing the highest mountain of this country (Scafell Pike, 978m, hope we get a panorama from there soon) shortly before Tim left for Kathmandu. Please click here to watch.

 

March 7, 2015 - The real Test Shooting in the Bavarian Alps
Starting at Rotwandhaus where we spent the night (thanks to the Rotwandhaus crew for the excellent dinner and breakfast) Tim shot a 180x360° test panorama just in front of the hut. We discussed some adjustments in the shooting procedure before we buckled on our ski again. We were so lucky with the weather, this day was a beautiful sunny one providing an exceptional long distance view. It was a pleasure to climb up to Auerspitz (1.811 m) a little peak just in the opposite of the hut for the second panorama training session.
Doing the panorama up there went perfect. The raw material of the panorama Tim shot was absolutely flawless. All the eight rows of images had the right focus. The exposure of all shots hit the spot. None of the photos was spoilt by a shadow of the photographer or blurred due to the shutter being released too early before the camera ground to a halt after turning the rotator. This one was an easy stitch for me except the fast moving cloudes that required some retouch at the end. Click here or into the picture above to examine the result ... and don't forget to zoom in using the mouse wheel.
Now I'm very satisfied with the results my pano student produced. Great job Tim Mosedale! This makes me confident that we will have a full 180x360° panorama from the top of Mount Everest in May if Tim has the opportunity to summit this year.
Downhill from Auerspitz! Tim told me he was not skiing for the past 11 years. Cosidering that, he cutted a fine figure although he was not completely contented with his trace when he reviewed it after arrival in the little valley between Auerspitz and Rotwandhaus. After having lunch at Rotwandhaus we made the final ski downhill using a forest road and we drove back to Munich.
For those who are interested in the production details of this Gigapixel Full Sphere Panorama, here they come. The photo below shows the full equipment setup.
The Camera Body: Sony A7R - 36 Megapixel - Weight: 465g (incl. battery and memory card)
We use a Sony A7R mirrorless camara with a 36 megapixel sensor. This camera is one of the best regarding pixel resolution and performs due to its huge dynamic range especially well for the typically difficult lightning situation of panoramas (a sunburst on one side and dark areas on the other). With other cameras I often had to use image fusion or HDR techniques in difficult lightning situations. Not with the Sony A7R. When taking the shots a bit of underexposed the dynamic range of a single shot was always sufficient to result in a panorama without overexposed lights or noisy or flat dark areas even in sunrise or sunset lightning.
With only 465g (including battery and memory card) the weight of the body is extremely low making it an ideal companion in high mountains. The only problem of this camera is the sensitivity against low temperatures. Below -10°C proper operation is not guaranteed any more according to our tests. But there is a "workaround": for the Everest shooting we prepared heating packs to worm the camera.
The Lens: Carl Zeiss Loxia® 2/25 - Sony E-Mount - Weight: 340g
The lens we are using is the Loxia® 2/35 manufactured by the well known German company Carl Zeiss. A focal length of 35mm in combination with the 36 megapixel sensor of the camera exactely results in a one Gigapixel panorama when the full 180x360° range is covered. Loxia 2/35 is a manual focus lens with an exceptional build quality allowing a very fine focus adjustment for the shots with infinity focus, revealing all the subtle details of the landscape in the far. Beside not geeting soft in terms of sharpness when the aperture is stepped down to f/13 this lens has, in combination with the A7R sensor, a very pleasant reproduction of the colors. Yes, this is a real Zeiss lens.
Regarding chromatic aberration this lens is an outperformer too. At f/13 the chromatic aberration is definitely zero. With other apertures I did not test so far. There is a slight vignetting with f/13 but not an issue as this is corrected perfectly with the standard Lightroom® profile (profile included since version 5.7) without destroying the colour brilliance.
And the sunstar? It is nice as you can see in the picture on the left. 10 long rays. Nevertheless you have to take some special care of it when shooting a panorama. First, there is a single mono-coloured lens flare when not shooting directly into the sun having it in the center of the picture. Second, the shape of the sunstar is varying a lot depending on the angle the sun hits the lens. In case the sunstar is distributed on two or more shots, you will have a serious stitching problem to bring it together nicely. So it is a good advice for this lens always to make a shot directly into the sun. This measure avoids all of the potential shortcomings.
Another property of a lens important for panoramic photography is distortion. If irregular or not corrected properly by software stitching might become a pain. Not with the Loxia® 2/35. The three panoramas I stitched so far had very low control point deviation values after distortion correction in Lightroom®. I did not have to retouche any transitions between shots after stitching with PTGUI even with this high resolution (except the nadir shots of course).
My conclusion: no doubt, the Loxia® 2/35 is the top E-Mount choice for panoramic photographers targeting for high resolution work.
The Remote Shutter Release: Sony RMT-VP1K
Last year Tim Mosedale did not use a remote control to shoot the panos. In some panos retouching of the photographer's shadow was necessary as a consequence. This season Tim has the new Sony RMT-VP1K 360° IR remote control in his photo bag to avoid the shadow and to become a bit faster with shooting. The receiver of this remote control is connected to the Sony USB Multi-function port jack through its fixed cable. The camera body powers it. Equipped with a clip the receiver can be easily fixed to the rotator leg of the panorama head. The only challenge is to open the camera's jack cover and to plug in the cable when wearing thick gloves.
The Panorama Head (Nodal Adapter): Bushman Panoramic Gobi - Weight: 320 g
Like all the Bushman Panoramic products the Gobi Head is a well-balanced trade-off between stability and weight. Its length of the legs is pretty sufficient for the required settings of the Sony A7R / Loxia® 2/35 combination we use (57 mm center distance of the camera body, 79 mm backward distance). The pan rotator of our sample has 15 click stops. That fits exactely to the shooting scheme we use (you can order Gobi with one specific pan click stop number you need). Gobi also provides a detent mechanism for the tilt setting. Different detent rings are provided in the delivery package. We use the 15° divided ring. When fixing the tilt screw the tilt position snaps into the nearest detent position.
Mounting the head is easy when you have prepared the stop positions on the rotator leg and on the camera leg according to your camera body and lens nodal adjustment with the railstops which are part of the Gobi package. All mounting screws and the screws of the rotator are big enough to be turned and fixed with thick gloves.
One thing I personally like very much on all Bushman panoramic heads is the Nadir Feature. When you loosen the screw on the rotator leg you can shift the middle vertical leg to the outside and turn it by 180°. The view of the camara to the downside is now free. After adjusting the tripod to a position where the camera center hits the nadir and the legs are in a different angle than before, you can get a perfect nadir shot. With some experience you can close the nadir gap with this shot completely having all the ground without tripod legs or shadows covered.
The Tripod: Bushman Panoramic Amarula - Weight: 950 g
The Amarula Tripod also is a well-balanced trade-off between stability and weight. With 0.95kg only it provides a very good ratio between height (1.450 mm) and weight. The folded length of this carbon tripod is 370 mm only. Tim prefers the Amarula compared with an even lighter one of another manufacturer (I gave it to him for test) due to wind stability reasons.
The Shooting Technique for the Gigapixel Full Sphere
In order to shoot a full 180x360° gigapicel sphere, we developed the following shooting scheme: 15 shots with tilt 0°, infinity focus; 15 shots with tilt 30° up, infinity focus; 15 shots with tilt 60° up, infinity focus; 5 shots with tilt 75° up, infinity focus; 15 shots with tilt 30° down, infinity focus; 15 shots with tilt 30° down, focus around 5m; 15 shots with tilt 60° down, focus around 3m; 5 shots with tilt 75° down, focus around 2m; 2 nadir shots (90° pan), focus around 1.6m, 102 shots in total. When stitching the different focal planes I use the mask feature of PTGUI by painting manual masks for each shot in order to get the focal plane with the best sharpness into the final panorama. Yes, this is some work, but an overall crisp and sharp gigapixel full sphere is not for free.
So as to get everything sharp with this scheme you need to step the aperture to a value between f/11 and f/16. We decided to use f/13 for the shots in the Himalayas under daylight conditions. With this setting the exposure times are in the range of 1/750 to 1/320 seconds at ISO 100 in the high mountains, short enougth to avoid motion blurred images even if the camera is not 100% stable due to possible (strong) wind.
As already said, the Sony A7R has an excellent dynamic range sufficient for most panorama shooting situations. Nevertheless we decided to do all shots in bracket mode, three shots with +/- 2 f-stops. This is just a security measure if something goes wrong with the light metering up there in the mountains. When you are exhausted, cold, freezing, you make mistakes you would never make in relaxed conditions. And Everest is anything but a relaxed shooting condition.
March 6, 2015 - First Panorama Test Shooting with the Zeiss Loxia, ascend to Rotwandhaus
We went out this morning to a nearby park for a panorama test of the Loxia 2/35. You can see the result on the left. Zeiss indeed lives up its famous name: This lens has a beautiful painting of light. The colors are outstanding and the sharpness is top-of-the-range. Even with closed aperture (f13) softening is not an issue. The stitching process with PTGUI turned out to be easy. In average the control point deviation was below one pixel. We also checked out the aperture setting for the depth of field necessary for a throughout sharp gigapixel full sphere and found out f13 is the right one when building it from four focal planes as planned.
Time to go out to the Bavarian Mountains; in the afternoon Tim and me drove to Spitzingsee the starting point of our tour to the Rotwandhaus. We mounted the skins on our skies and went up. After 2.5 hours of ascend, already close to Rotwandhaus, we were rewarded for our ascend efforts by a fantastic atmosphere. The worm sunlight slowly faded behind the snow-covered peaks of the central Eastern Alps while the snow turned into the blue and the air became more and more frosty.

 

March 5, 2015 - Tim arrived in Munich for our Preparation Training in the Bavarian Alps
Three days for panoramic shooting training for Tim Mosedale. Tim arrived in Munich today, I picked him up at MUC airport. At my home in the city of Munich we prepared all the equipment: sensor cleaning, firmware updates, and some tests. And we unboxed the Zeiss Loxia 2/35 lens (a real posh packaging) that lately arrived. In the evening we went out for a little sightseeing tour in Munich City ending up with a Bavarian Dinner and some beers in the "Augustiner Brauereigaststätte" where probably the best beer of Munich is served (btw: I learned the pronunciation difference between "beer" and "bear" this evening).
March 2, 2015 - Well prepared with our equipment sponsors Bushman Panoramic, Carl Zeiss AG, Leki, and GOAL ZERO
Bushman Panoramic, the manufacturer for high-end and lightweight panoramic equipment, provided two great pieces of hardware for the project: a Gobi Panorama Head and a Amarula Carbon Tripod.
For years Gobi has been the first choice for mountain panorama photographers as this head is only 320g and just fits into your pocket. In spite of this piece of hardwawe being so small, it is stable and robust, and even carries heavier DSLRs (up to 1.9kg). Setting up this head is very quick thanks to the two rail stops that are included in the set. The mounting screws are big enough to be operated even with thick gloves. A rotator with a fixed number of click stops (rotators with a different number of stops according to the lens used are available) is a part of each Gobi package. Due to the small diameter of the rotator the footprint for the shots down is at an absolute minimum. And Gobi has a unique feature: you can turn the vertical leg by 180° to the outside for shooting the nadir picture.
The Amarula Tripod consists of five durable carbon leg segments minimizing the folded size to 370 mm. The weight is 0.95 kg only, a very good ratio for its maximum height of 1.450 mm. This height is already suitable for shooting gigapixel full spheres using four focal planes. Compared to other lightweight tripods Amarula is stiff and stable allowing longer exposure times even in windy conditions when weighted e.g. with a rucksack or similar on the lower hook of the middle pillar. An interesting feature for panoramic photographers is given by the possibility of using one leg as a monopole.
From Carl Zeiss AG we got a superior piece of glass, the recently released ZEISS Loxia® 2/35 E-Mount lens. Stay tuned for the first panoramas that will come here on the blog very soon. I promise you will see the outstanding quality of this lens in combination with the resolution and color depth of the Sony A7R camera body.
Zeiss writes about the lens: " ZEISS Loxia lenses were specifically designed for Sony α7 cameras. This means that they can make the most of the mirrorless, full frame system, while giving you all the creative possibilities of ‘classic’ photography with manual focus at the same time. And that’s not all: ZEISS Loxia lenses also provide everything you need to shoot high quality video, such as the unique DeClick feature for smooth adjustment of the aperture, for example."
For this panorama project this lens is the ideal one. First, the outstanding optical performance will ensure that all the fine details in the landscape panoramas will be razor sharp even when fully zoomed in. Second, the low weight (340 g) together with the robust build quality make it a reliable companion in the high mountains without burdening the climber. And third, the focal length of 35mm, in combination with the resolution of the Sony A7R, result exactly in a one gigapixel full sphere panorama when shooting around completely. This panoramic format is a good compromise between shooting time / stitching effort and resolution.
All in all Tim Mosedale is now equipped perfectly with the top-of-the-range hardware. What we need now for the project is good conditions and a bit of luck. Let's keep the fingers crossed.
Leki sponsored three pairs of their lightweight foldable carbon sticks Micro Tour Stick Vario together with the photo adapter PT-Aergon. These sticks are awesome in terms of stability, weight (520g per pair) and folded size (39cm only). The climbing team will use them during all the preparation treks and as a monopod for all the making-of photo shooting.
GOAL ZERO sponsored a sample of their YETI 150 Solar Generator for this power hungry project. Our camera and all the backup and communication hardware need their food. YETI 150 is a plug-and-play, silent, fume-free generator for emergencies, camping, or wherever you need power. It is a gas-free source of portable power with 14.000 mAh capacity to keep cameras, phones and laptops powered in any situation.

 

February 24, 2015 - This year we hope we'll make it
This year year we hope we'll make it. The preparations for the Everest Panorama Project are in progress.
Becaus last year's attempt to make a high resolution panorama from the Summit of Mount Everest did not go as planned the climber, mountain guide and 4 times Everest summiteer Tim Mosedale will try the undertaking again in 2015. The events from 2014 are summarized in the 2014 Blog together with all the great panoramas Tim shot during the acclimatization treks.
The agreements with the equipment sponsors Bushman Panoramic, Carl Zeiss, and Leki are almost done. A photography training session in the Bavarian Alps is organized.
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