Mittwoch, 1. Oktober 2014

How to publish a photo sphere to Google Maps ?

You won't. It is not an automated process, there someone (or something?) reviewing the submissions and enable to be shown the Google Map. My submission took about 2..3 days to appear.

Worldwide Panorama 2014: Ruins

The site is live, in its 10th years with the topic 'Ruins'.
My contribution after 6 years not joining this, the Hardenburg Castle in Bad Dürkheim.

Sonntag, 28. September 2014

VR Hardenburg - Treppenturm mit Lilienportal

How to embedd a Photo Sphere

Embedding is straight forward, provided your blog provider does allow embedding of HTML into your posts.

Open the photo sphere you like to embed and click on the share icon.

Open the post where you want to add the photo sphere, switch to html view and paste the html code with the iframe tag anywhere.

The result:

How to upload a Photosphere to Google Map View

Since Google is retiring the panoramio service, is worth to look at the new platform Google Maps View. Of course you are required to create a Google account but that is fairly simple process. I did not manage to upload a photo sphere successfully straight away so I summarize the steps here.

It is not enough to create a equirectangular image and upload as photo under the +.
A panoramic image has to deliver specific Photo Sphere XMP Metadata in order to be recognized by Google as a Photo Sphere. You can either do it manually by tinkering the Exif info of the file with a tool like ExifTool or use the easier way by using this Google App. This is a detour which is not straight forward (unlike other Google tools), I guess they will migrate this feature into the upload process sooner or later.

After this step your photo sphere has not yet been put up for Google Maps. The app only adds the basic meta data to your image. Click on the download to get back the image file. You have to download this image and add the image. Now it will be recognized as photo sphere and properly rendered. Note, it takes a while before it actually pops up on Google Maps (not only in your profile). 

Samstag, 27. September 2014

Panoramio shutting down

The image platform showing about 60+ million of images (and spheres), collected since 2005 by thousands of photographers and acquired by Google in 2007 is going to be closed down. 

As reason Google gave is to merge with the View platform, they announced the geo-relevant content would be migrated.

I never uploaded any image to the platform but it was always present in Google Maps, often interesting for places without Street View Coverage. But I have to say the panoramas, they call it spheres, are often of low quality, badly stitched or exposed.
There is a petition going (initiated by the original founders of panoramio), though I doubt Google will listen to it, is a corporate decision, it does not make sense to have competing platforms under the same roof.
This should be a learning lesson about relying on services provided for free, you simply can't assume your work won't be lost or the service available for ever.
In this case Google will certainly try to migrate all content, so you did upload images for many ears in vain.
But there are other cases where services are ceased because they company goes down or the service as such was not successful or profitable enough. Google Orkut is also shutting down. (Discontinued Google Services at Wikipedia)

Wikipedia about panoramio.

Samstag, 20. September 2014

Panoramic Bookshelf: How-to and History Books

This type of books either gives an overview of panoramic photography or guides you through the process of picking up panorama photography.

Here a few books, some of them I own:

Stretch: The Art of Panoramic Photography
by Nick Meers
(2003, english)

One of the first panoramic books I ever bought. A very nice collection of panoramic images of different times and an overview of available technologies (at the time of 2003). The book shows pictures of various photographers.

Panoramic Photography
by Lee Frost (2005, english)
A comprehensive walk-through panoramic imaging with mostly film based technology. Here the author solely uses own images.

Assembling Panoramic Photos: A Designer's Notebook
by William Rodarmor (2005, english)

A typical how-to book for digitial panoramas solely. Given current tools, already outdated, though the basci concepts still apply.

A few more titles with similar background:

Freitag, 19. September 2014

Panoramic Bookshelf

Selection of panoramic Books
I love panorama photography, though it became much more popular and mainstream the last few years because of easy access to the masses. While last time only special cameras could do panoramic shots, today any mobile phone can do it, most of the times with questionable quality but sometimes with decent results.
The greatest achievement for a panoramic image is to be presented as print at the wall, either framed or mounted as dibond print. Another fantastic representation is in book form, usually as coffee-table style books. Over the years I collected some 30 or more panoramic books, and recently I started hunting for panoramic books on the various used-books portals where you can get books at a few Euros which originally cost 10 times more when purchased new. Not quite easy task, as sometime the word panorama as keyword alone does not result in books with panoramic images, but without further hints on sometimes years old books it is a bit like lucky draw.
I will discuss the book categories and the individual titles in upcoming blogs. So stay tuned.

Freitag, 6. Juni 2014

Back in 2014

It has been a while since my last post here. More than 2 years and a move from one continent to another (now back in Europe) in between.
Panorama Photography is getting bigger and more main stream than ever before, though I need to say the number of high quality and pleasing panoramas still is a small percentage only.
The stitching software around is getting matter and progressing, the underlying concept of course wont change, take individual images and stitch them to a large wide panorama or virtual panorama.
If you look at, it still list about 30 software packages for various platforms. For me these remain relevant as I still use them:
Amazing are the changes on the hardware sector, we are moving from cameras that could somewhat assemble images to a panorama or sweep a panorama, from panorama heads and robot heads to mobile phones with panorama apps to dedicated panorama devices.  What previously was done by bulky and expensive devices can now be done by a gadget that finds in your hand (thoug at a lower quality one might comment).
Amazing too, many of them are crowdfunded:

Freitag, 27. Januar 2012

Kodak: End-of-Life'd

I cant believe that one of the most traditional or historical photography equipment and film companies (Kodak on Wikipedia) is going down the drain (link) and filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The company made photography accesible to the masses in the early years and introduced or invented a couple of fantastic things. To name a few:
  • 1900: The Brownie Camera
  • 1935: Kodachrome
  • 1963: Instamatic Camera
  • 1975: The digital camera (Engineer Steven Sasson)
  • 1986: First Megapixel Sensor
More than a few time Kodak missed the train with their products and the competitors happily overtook.

They just announced the Kodak Polaroid SC1630: A camera based on Android, something I was waiting for. Instead of having a phone with an inferior camera build-in, we would have a (bit) more serious camera based on Android, allowing to use all kind of camera applications, almost unlimited possibilities, not being restricted by a manufacturer's firmware updates.

Let's see who gonna grab the leftovers and patents...

Montag, 16. Januar 2012

Canon Angle View Finder

Quite a few times I wished I had screen to tilt or an angle finder for the Canon 5D MKII, but I am not willing to spend 200 U$ on an accessory that I will use only once in the blue moon. Luckily there is some cheap alternative from Seagull, a Chinese company selling a variety of photo equipment (inclusive of a range of large format cameras!). You find the angle view finder with a range of adapters for Canon, Nikon, Sony,.. cameras on ebay for about 50U$. There are different models for 2 to 3x magnification, you can switch from 1x to an alternative magnification factor with a mechanical switch, useful to check focus.
My first impression:
  • It works.
  • The adapter is a bit flimsy, you cant easily slide in and out the view finder.
  • If you dont use an angle view finder permanently you can work with this one.
The items in the box
On a Canon 5D MK II
 I dont know about any shop in Singapore selling it off the shelf.

Canon TS-E 17mm shift and tilt lens

I fancied TS lenses for a long time, even bought a 4x5 to experiment some years back, but thats not exactly the kind of camera you carry around with 2 to 6 exposures. Yes, we can use Photoshop and tilt and warp images, fake miniature scenes, etc. but is not the same as using a TS lens. There are only few in the market and they are all expensive (though you can try a shift adapter for MF lenses on Canon or Nikon DSLR). Finally I got one from DDElectronics in Singapore (almost 400 SGD cheaper than other shops in town !), and just start to enjoy this new lens and learn to create images again in a completely new way. I spare you with technical details, as the web has quite a number of reports, tests and comparisons about this:
I highly recommend to read Peter Hills' introduction about tilt and shift here:
Drop by the TS-E 17mm Flickr group with plenty of real-life sample images:
My first personal impression:
  • Its a fantastic lens, a prime lens worth every cent. 
  • Crisp sharp.
  • You can shoot handheld, its a myth a shift lens always requires a tripod and a big screen.
  • Lot of glass without protection, you will take care of this lens !
A quick comparison to get an idea what it means to shift:

  1. Shifted 10mm, camera levelled
  2. Not shifted but camera tilted up to capture rooftops
  3. Not shifted but camera levelled

Sonntag, 15. Januar 2012

Stitching Software 2012

Some 1.5 years back I visited last time this topic. What are the current stitching software products in the market ?
There is not much movement in terms of new players (rather some disappearing), but the leading (2) existing companies keep their software updated and it is fantastic to see how much they still can improve (at least that ones I use).
From my point of view the important ones remain in 2012:
  • PTGUI (curr. Version 9.1.2)
  • Autopano by Kolor (curr. Version 2.6)
  • Hugin (active opensource project, stable version 2011.4.0 from December 2011)
  • Microsoft ICE (curr. Version 1.4.4 May 2011)
    I am not sure about their strategy, the tool is free as part of their research but the proprietary display software like HDView and Photosynth is based on Silverlight which is shelved by Microsoft for further development)
  • Photoshop Panorama Merge Feature
  • Panorama Factory (Jan 2011, ?)
  • Easypano (still selling at a unreasonable high price, no further comment)
  • Realviz (acquired by Autodesk, also expensive)
  • iSeemMedia (?)
  • Panavue (?)
  • Some OEM software bundled with cameras
  • A list of panoramic software apps for iPhone and Android
    (Personally I dont believe in phones making serious panoramic images)

Sideline: Seems, since the history of patent wars (creation of fisheye based panoramas) around IPIX (defunc since 2006) is closed, even the patent is owned by Sony now.

My recommendation: Stick to Hugin and ICE if you want to use something for free, otherwise PTGui and Autopano are great products at a reasonable price, up to you to decide which one you prefer, both offer trial versions.