Photo assignment:

39. Panoramas

Assignment for the November 2005 meeting:  Panoramics. Now, before you pass out or think "are you kidding!? I can't do that!" ... ohhhh, yes, you can, and ... you can do it for free!! You don't even need one of those high-dollar fancy schmancy rigs to shoot the shots. Any camera will do; digital is best, of course (<grin!>) but even scanned film images will work. Here's the trick. Go to the Autostitch web site, read up on the program and download their stitching program: 

Download the FREE, I say again ... FREE version of the program currently on the boards. It's small, installs cleanly and won't even be a burp on your hard drive. And when you see the output product ... wow! This baby has algorithms that will make you drool, whether or not you know what algorithms have to do with the program. The ability of this program to seamlessly stitch and integrate different images into one homogenous panorama is outstanding, especially for a FREE (I say again, FREE!) program!!

Bruce Switalla gave us a wonderful kick start on shooting panoramics and using the program at the October meeting, and if you have any questions or need any tips, trix or other insider info, Bruce will be happy to oblige.

So, you say, what do I do? Just take a series of shots, overlapping each shot with at least one half (better one third or even one quarter if you can) of the previous shot, until you shoot the entire expanse you're interested in. This also includes shooting "three-dimensionally" ... a layer on top of the first layer for more sky; or below the first layer for more foreground. Or both, if you're feeling adventurous and can handle that many files, <grin!>.

Remember, when you're shooting panoramas (and in most cases, whenever you can) -- use a tripod. And, if you have the ability to set your camera manually, do this. Set it for the exposure of the scene so you won't have autoexposure shifts with every change of the frame. This will help keep the backgrounds more level and even. If you can't put your camera on manual, don't worry! Shoot anyway; brace if you don't have a tripod, and keep going. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what that program can do to blend your photos into as level an exposure as possible.

Now, to actually produce the panorama, just tell the program which files to stitch, stand back, and watch the magic. You can do all the files at once, or do them in bits, like one "layer" at a time, then stitch the new "layers" together for an entire top to bottom panorama. As Bruce said, experiment! With your camera, your imagination and the program. 

We'll all be very interested in hearing what you liked and didn't like about the program, too ... we might be able to send a report to the  programmer if we get enough working comments. The program is still in "beta" and is not in commercial production at this time, according to the programmer, and at this stage, all constructive criticism is especially important for that final level of tweaking before going into production.

This was a little tougher assignment to post than the usual single-frame stills we shoot, as I wanted to show the extent of the panoramic effect, but couldn't afford to use up all my bandwidth on the server, heh! So I compromised and have posted reduced size and quality versions of the original panoramas submitted by our members. They're larger than you normally see in the presentations, but small enough to load pretty quickly. Click on the links below to go to each person's set:

The Digicam SIG met at Parkdale Library November 15 with seven souls braving the storm. Subject of presentations was panoramas, stitching photos. Bruce Switalla had provided a beta version of a stitch program which worked like a charm. We saw beautiful panorama scenes. Assignment was first try for all.

Plans for next year were discussed. We will attempt to accommodate new users as well as our core group.

John Hoffmann - unusual and beautiful photo of rounded WW II memorial Lady Lex; Downtown skyline; the dunes on Padre Island. Some shot in RAW format were exceptional.

Bruce Switalla - photos of stealth fighters; people in long lines. Great composition.

Bill Draper - Imagination, shooting a cul-de-sac.

Patty Beasley - Gorgeous photos of Rocky Mountain National Park; Packery Channel sunrise and red tide on the Corpus Christi bay front.

Brian and Drew Jacobs - A demonstration how stitching works in stitched shots of an industrial complex, with electric power lines matched exactly.

Ben Luna - Sunset on long San Diego - Coronada Bridge; Waterfront shots. Highlight: White Sands National Monument, white sand dunes, shadow.

Ken Parsons - produced a musical tour of his Padre Island neighborhood. Stills from the DVD are posted to this web site.

Next meeting the third Tuesday in January, 7 PM at Parkdale Library. Assignment is Holiday photos.

For the scribe -
Bill Draper 


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