I’ve been fooling around with panorama images for a while now. There’s simply too many things in the world that do not fit well on a standard photograph. The front of a palace, a ship, a bridge, cliffs – many things are just way too wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiiiddddddeeeeee. Trees, on the other hand, tend to be too tall. Or there is something that would fit the format well, but you can’t step far enough away from it to get a complete view (AMNH dinosaurs come to mind!). The idea of taking several pictures and stitching them together – well, let’s just say that it takes very much less brains to come up with it than do it properly!
“My camera does this for me!”
Yes, many small cameras have a panorama program included. They tell you what to do and stitch 3 to 5 photos together. Here’s one:
(I’ll forgo captions here; have fun guessing what the pics show)
The problem with these programs is that they work well for landscapes, but you’re limited to a small number of pictures, and you can’t stitch two rows or more for a more even picture format.
Manual panorama creation
The simplest, time-honored way is snapping the pictures, developing the film developed and making prints (or rather, have the film developed and the prints made by a lab), then getting scissors and glue and try your luck. If you really knew how to handle your camera, you could achieve remarkably nice panoramas. If not… usually, there would be significant color differences between pictures, and it would not be possible to match the edges well due to the distortion caused by the lense.
Here’s how this would look – admittedly these are digital pictures, but I cobbled them together as if they were hard prints.
an ideal case, admittedly: when I took the photos I made sure that they were well suited for creating a panorama, and it is a landscape with mostly far-away stuff.
Objects in the foreground make the job much harder! Similarly, rectangular object (pesky buildings, etc.). Check this:
See how the little boy and his grandma got split? How there are clear size differences in the ship and buildings? And the line down the middle…. tsk, tsk! Also, I had to crop a lot away to avoid large empty spaces:
OK, now I could cut away the edges of all pics, and then combine the centers. Edge distortion is worst at the edges, after all……. With digital photography, all is simpler. There are a gazillion programs able to fix edge distortion, and many that stitch photos together for you. Some are horribly expensive, some are affordable, and some even are free. There is, for example, autostitch. That’s the one I have been using for a long time, and of which I now own a commercial spin-off (there are several, at different prices). Most of what I will show here and have already shown on the blog was made with either of the two.
Other free programs are Hugin and Microsoft Image Composite Editor. I’ll test them soon and post on the results. I bet there are more; I simply grabbed the first three I found on Google.
Using a panorama program
OK, let’s throw the original pics of the harbor and the mountains into autostitch (rather, the commercial version PanoramaPlus) and see what happens (I used a brightness adjustment on this, so ignore that it is less dark than the ones above):
As you can see, my son has turned into a ghost, and my wife looks a bit jittery. Also, the foreground is often a bit blurry. Aside from that, however, you can’t really tell that this is a composite image! Autostitch doesn’t crop, the commercial version let’s me crop as I please.
Here’s the Bighorn Mountains again, the view I had at the best dinosaur dig I ever went to.
OK, so far, so good – but autostitch quite often is incapable of finding matches in more difficult cases. A sky, horizontal and vertical lines, huge RGB color differences – all this makes the task of assembling very easy. Us palaeontologists, with our predisposition to take pictures of fossils, make the task much harder. Still, can you believe that matching these two pictures is not possible?
It’s a bit annoying, because some of the photos of the rest of the skeleton have less overlap, but can be aligned. My Styracosaurus will stay headless, I’m afraid, in left lateral view (right lateral worked better, I could get a total shot).
Oh, duh! Look what I found on my HDD, last edited in late 2008:
Hm, so how did I get autostitch to do this three years ago, but not now? I played with the settings a lot, and I guess that back then this may have been a two-stage process, involving a lot of cutting-away on the less suitable skull photo. Whatever I did, I can’t easily re-create that process now. And check the “ghost” second right hand – combing images can have weird effects!
I could plaster this post with more examples, I count 6 alone in my AMNH 2003 folder. And that with pics that I took with the intention of manually combining them into panoramas!
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