PanoramasPanoramas have been around for hundreds of years, as a tool for painters, and predating photography. While it may seem that creating a panorama is simply a matter of taking a bunch of photos and splicing them together, there is a bit more to the process, particularly when preparing a panorama for viewing by computer. because of paralax errors, and lens distortion, a panoramic series of photos rarely has all of the edges line up properly. In addition, the relative size of an image changes as it is panned. You will sometimes notice this when viewing scenic locations which have been panned with a movie camera.
There are essentially two types of panoramas. The first is a sort of a 360 degree strip, which give the viewer the impression of turing around in a circle. The second is the globe, which allows a full 360 degree turn to the side, as well as up and down. Once the panorama is made, it will need to be saved, either as a photograph to be printed, or for web viewing.
Web panoramas are generally viewed in Apple Quick time. The viewer can scroll around inside, by placing the mouse pointer within the panorama, depressing the mouse button, and moving the mouse while leaving the button depressed. If your computer does not have Quick time installed, you will need to go to Apple's web site and download the program. Apple offers this free of charge, though if you are using a dial up connection, it can take a while for the download to complete.
Today's photographers have a selection of tools and techniques available. This is particularly true for today's digital photographer. Photographs may either be scanned in, or taken directly from a digital camera. Creating a panorama will take you about a half hour out at the location, and then another forty five minutes on your computer. I strongly recomend a digital camera; but a film camera will do just fine, keeping in mind that you must wait for the film to be developed, and then add another half hour or so to the time spent on the computer, as you will need to scan the photos in.
The tools required are pretty basic. You will need a camera, a tripod, a stitching program, and a program to convert a stitched panorama for display in Quick time. There are free stitching and conversion programs available, though some of the better ones can cost hundreds of dollars. Also available are combo programs, which both stitch and convert a panoramic series.
I use a combination program called Panorama Factory, developed by Smoky City Design. The program creates panoramas, and also makes them ready for web display. In addition, the program gives the option of printing the panorama in a variety of ways. The cost was approximately $60; but I was happy to pay it, after trying some other programs which did not work nearly as well. Panorama Factory may be downloaded here, as a thirty day trial version, and updated at any time, or you may immediately buy it outright. The trial version, in addition to only lasting thirty days, imprints a little advertisement on the panoramas it creates.
Using the program is simplicity itself. The photo series is placed in it's own directory, which you select in the program. You will need to tell the program what type of series you are trying to stitch (globe, or strip). The first thing that you do is to set the order of the photos. Since I take a series of verticals, the photos need to be turned ninety degrees. One of the features of the program is that it allows batch manipulation of the photographs, including turning the photos. Once this is done, the program asks for the resolution desired, and also asks for the camera/lens combination used to take the series. once it has this information, you simply put it to work. Depending upon the resolution asked for, and the number of photos taken, the program can take from fifteen minutes, up to forty five minutes to get the photos stitched.
I do not pretend to be an expert, though I hope to get much better at this, by year's end. In the meantime, here is a sampling of my current photos, along with a short tutorial of how they were made. One bit of encouragement that I can add is that the process is easy, and requires only patience. You will be surprised, and delighted at how simple the procedure is, and over how well the finished panoramas turn out. At least, this is my hope. Good luck, and have fun.
360 degree strips
This is the easiest panorama to make, and require fifteen to 25 photographs, taken with between twenty and fifty percent overlap within each photograph. The best way that I have found to do this, is to mount the camera on a tripod, and then turn the tripod head ninety degrees, so that the camera takes a series of verticals. This will require over twenty photographs (generally twenty five, depending upon overlap).
Overlap is important, as the stitching program will need some repetition between shots, with which to line up the series. If you do not leave at least twenty percent overlap (fifty percent is better), you may be disappointed in the results.
more of the bike trails
more of 66
a snowy day
the milwaukee lakefront
farwell and north