Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time and Panoramas

First off, where has the time gone? I can't believe how long it's been since I last wrote anything here; life just seemed to keep getting between me, photography and this blog.

I've kept myself pretty busy though and am delving into the world of panoramic photography. Helped out, along the way, by my purchase of a Nodal Ninja head, rotator and leveling head; then topped off by finding a great deal on a "like new" 8mm fish-eye lens. Not that I won't be experimenting with some longer lenses to produce some "giga-pixel" style partial panoramas. Add in some plans to experiment with some HDR work too and I have enough experimenting to keep me busy for quite some time.

Along the way I did run into some obstacles, not that they weren't fixable, but all they did as slow me a little. The first was the need to learn yet more software - plus, should I keep working with open-source (free) software or find the money for a commercial package. I'm currently still using Hugin on my Mac for stitching the panos together and other than a few issues to overcome (wonky control points, zeniths and/or nadirs not stitching, wonky horizons) it's doing a pretty great job of pulling the shots together.

Of course, one big issue with panoramic shots, especially the circular 360 ones is how best to display them. If you just post them "flat" on a webpage they look weird and distorted. And as not everyone has access to a dedicated viewer; I signed up to try out a couple of dedicated hosting sites. Long story short, due to some issues with sizing and format, all my panoramic work to date is posted to my profile on www.360cities.net and as they offer the option for embed codes, I hopefully will be able to share them here. If not, I do know how to convert them to Google Photospheres which I believe can be self contained.

Path To Linnaeus Teaching Gardens

Here is an embedded version of one of my latest panoramas, which includes a link to my profile on 360cities.

While on the subject of 360cities, it's pretty nice having the ability to geo-tag the photos, and have the ability to have them featured on Google Earth. This did, however, throw a challenge my way. I very soon found the shortcomings of the GPS feature on my cellphone (and all cellphones) - they're not very accurate. A lot of it comes down to the app you use, so after a lot of testing I found one that can locate me to within 10 feet of my actual position; or at least it was doing that in my tests. The real challenge will be accurately tag my position when I'm off in the middle of nowhere, especially when there's no cellphone signal. Did you know that cellphones use their cell tower triangulation signal to boost the GPS accuracy? I didn't until just recently. If push comes to shove I will just look to picking up a full blown, standalone GPS unit as I know there are locations I want to photograph that have little to no cellphone signal (such as parts of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state).

Guess I should sign off for now, get some sleep, then plan my next photo session. Then test out my updated GPS app for geo-tagging the shots and get some more panoramas in my profile.