Fun with panoramas

Doing full justice to a beautiful scene or the interior of a building is often quite difficult with normal cameras because their relatively narrow field of view make it impossible to fit everything in at once.

The answer, of course, is to shoot the view in sections and to join these up together later. In the bad old days of film, we would get jumbo prints and cut them up and, with glue and a great deal of sweat and patience, you could come up with a picture that at least that showed the whole scene that had attracted you in the first place.

Now that we have digital photography and software programs that can join many pictures up into one, I decided to experiment with shooting some panoramas. I used a number of different programs, including one given away free with Canon cameras, and Photoshop.

I started getting pretty decent results but there were occasions the programs would fall over and just refuse to join, or stitch, the pictures I had taken. Then, in an online forum somewhere, I came across mention a program called AutoStitch which, it was claimed, made the process of creating panoramas so much easier.

I went along to the website and found that the program is a technology demo created by Matthew Brown and David Lowe at the University of British Columbia in Canada. It is free to download but is only available for Windows computers.

AutoStitch is only just over a megabyte in size and, to be quite frank, I wasn’t expecting all that much from it after I unzipped it into a folder and started it running. To say that the interface has no bells and whistles is to put it mildly but, as I discovered, it has all the essentials.

You start by selecting the pictures that are going to go into making up your panorama and it puts those images together and shows you a low resolution preview of what it’s done. If you like the result, you can go into the settings menu and increase the resolution of the panorama that it’s going to create.

The first set of pictures I fed into it were taken from the pier in front of Ushaka Marine World in Durban and showed the work going on at the new North Pier and the remnants of Vetch’s Pier, made visible by the very low tide. Photoshop had already flatly refused to stitch these pictures together but AutoStitch had no problem, and produced a very nearly perfect result.

The only real fault was that it missed out a child playing soccer on the beach and, instead, produced a little blurry patch where he had been. I was even more impressed to find out that AutoStitch could not only cope with joining up a single row of images, shot from left to right, but that it could also join up more than one row of pictures, or even a vertical panorama.

I was very impressed with AutoStitch and I will certainly be using it in the future. The free demo version is only available for Windows computers but its’ technology has been licensed to a number of commercial software producers and there are versions that will run on Apple computers and Linux-based machines.

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5 thoughts on “Fun with panoramas

  1. Hi Allan.
    I'm busy buying a new tripod – my present Vanguard is a bit light for my Canon 40D, especially for time exposures. Everyone says I should buy Manfrotto, but I think that the bigger/heavier Vanguards look just as good or better, and they are about half the price.
    What do you or your followers think?
    Regards, Fred

  2. Hi Fred
    I quite understand where you're coming from, pricewise, and I see no reason why a heavier Vanguard wouldn't do for occasional or hobby use. Most of the professionals and ethusiasts I know use Manfrotto but its probably more to do with the fact that they will stand up to prolonged use and abuse, rather than that they hold a camera steadier. The real test would be to experiment with the Vanguard in the shop and see if it is stable enough.
    Cheers, Allan

  3. Hi there Allan…. Fred again. I haven't quite mastered Flickr… couldn't send a reply to your message there about Hillcrest Camera Club (I'll have to ask one of my offspring for help when they're not too busy!). Thanks for that response and the one above.

  4. Hi Allan
    Another small basic photo viewer is Irfanview, it works for me for the small amount of image editing i need to do such as resizing, panoramic, cropping and screen capture, and alot of others that I dont use.


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