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Howell Photographic Arts
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Quad City Storm Paint The Ice


Quad City Storm Paint The Ice for Veterans.

The Quad City Storm have their fans out to Paint The Ice with veteran names this week. I had the pleasure to capture the result with some drone images and some panoramas.

The above image is a Little Planet Projection of a 360 Panorama. Click here to see the full 360 Panorama. This was made with a Nodal Ninja Panorama head and an Olympus OM-D M1X in Hi Res mode with an 8mm fisheye.

I also flew my Mavic 2 Pro drone inside the TaxSlayer Center to capture overhead shots of the ice. I stitched 34 images together to get the following result. The final image is 20,000 x 10,000 pixels and shows incredible detail.



IVRPA - Selfoss

edgeI traveled to Iceland week to take part in the International Virtual Reality Photographers’ Association annual meeting. What a great opportunity to learn and expand my craft! I also get to hang out with the world experts in this area of panoramic photography. This pano of Selfoss, Iceland is an example. I sat down with Joosh Nieuwenhuijse, the author of PTGui (the standard program used to stitch together panoramas), drank some Viking Classic beer, and received some great one-on-one coaching on some of my challenges here.
This panorama is composed of 92 separate frames (5 rows: -60,-30, 0, 30, 60; plus a top and a bottom) with 7 brackets (-3eV, -2eV, -1eV, 0eV, 1eV, 2eV, 3 eV) for each frame. This means that this panorama starts out as 644 separate images …
A couple of the challenges I encountered with this pano:
1. The +30 and +60 degree rows were mostly clouds and sky. Since clouds move during the shoot, it is difficult to find control points in these images to use to stitch them together. Joosh showed me how to use the “Align to Grid” feature to overcome this issue. That worked great.
2. You may notice that my panos usually have a round logo in the bottom. I have historically used this technique to cover the hole that results from where my tripod was sitting. This one doesn’t have a hole in the bottom. That’s because Juergen and Markus Matern told me how to shoot the pano to eliminate this hole. I met Juergen and Markus in the Frankfurt airport on the way here. I couldn’t have had better traveling companions.
As you “pan” around this panorama you’ll notice the conference hotel (the dark gray box of a building), a local church, the Olfusa River, and the suspension bridge that is a landmark for this town of Selfoss.

Bealer Home Theatre

edgeI just visited a fantastic home theatre installation by one of my colleagues. This construction was a long time in the making, and is really fantastic. Now only does it look great, it sounds fantastic as well. Click the image (or this link) to see the entire room.
And … if you’re interested in something like this in your home, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with the builder. He’s considering consulting on projects like this or even doing complete buildouts.

Red Square

edgeMy first visit to Russia was to Moscow. The day was cool and overcast and the city comes across as gray and muted. I didn’t have much time, just one evening in the city, so after dinner I took a cab ride to Red Square. Wow, I’m glad I did! Red Square is a very colorful, cheerful venue. A real contrast to my initial impression of Russia.

Click on the image above to view a 360 panorama of Red Square. A few static images are here.

Calvary Lutheran Panorama

edgeNot far from the Quad Cities, in Illinois, there is a very nice community called New Windsor. While New Windsor is famous in our area as the host of the “Biggest Little Rodeo” … it should also be known as one of the nicest “country” church around. You don’t need directions to get to Calvary Lutheran as it is a very prominent landmark in New Windsor that would be difficult to miss. This is the church home to a few of my friends and colleagues and in particular Eric Young asked me to do a 360 Panorama of the sanctuary. Here’s my attempt.

I used a 35mm lens at f16 on my iDmkIV for this pano and therefore took 75 frames to stitch together. I did 5 horizontal rows of 25 frames each with a Nodal Ninja 5 pano head. Church sanctuaries, in particular, have a lot of dynamic range to them with some dark shadowy areas and some brightly lit highlight areas. This one was no exception, and was particularly challenging since it was a bright, clear day and the morning sun was shining directly in the stained glass windows over the entry doors. Therefore I used HDR processing to accommodate this high dynamic range scene and used 7 exposures of each frame with a 2eV step between each exposure to capture a 12eV total range. As a result, I ended up with 525 separate images to process into this single panorama.

The image you see above is the flattened “sphere” that results from the stitching and HDR operations. I use a software product called PTGui, which uses the Open Source Pano Tools project, to get this far. I am pretty proud of the quality of the stitching. While it took me a little white to hand tune the control points for the image, the result is pretty satisfying. I have yet to identify a stitching error.

The HDR part is a little more challenging and I continue to experiment with different HDR processors to improve the image to capture more of the detail in the windows. One of my challenges is that this image is pretty large, something like 37,000 x 12,000 pixels. It’s difficult to find good software tools that can handle these types of images. (The resulting photoshop file of the above image, including each of the 7 blend planes is something like 30GB is size).

So far I’ve tried true HDR Tone Mapping and Exposure Fusion with PTGui and then improve the image in Photoshop CS5. The above image was created with Exposure Fusion processing and is an improvement over the the HDR Tone Mapping I tried originally. I’ll update these as I go along.

Even though I am using a 4 core i7 processor with 12GB of memory, these images take days to process … literally.

While this is an interesting overview of the Panorama, the objective is to create a virtual environment that the user can navigate around and zoom in and out as they see fit. Therefore I use another set of tools called krpano to convert the above flattened sphere into 6 faces of a cube, these are then combined into a large set of multiple resolution files that use Flash for display on PC’s and HTML5 for display on mobile devices. You’ll be able to zoom in more on PC’s and Mac’s than you’ll be able to on mobile devices

I hope you enjoy this display of the Calvary Lutheran Church in New Windsor, IL.

Project "Can Do" Combine

edgeThe Project “Can Do” Combine in the John Deere Pavilion.

Over 300,000 cans, hundreds of volunteers, one very worthy cause.

Here are a few 360 Panoramas of the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, IL with the Project “Can Do” Combine on display. This is a life size combine sculpture that measures 80 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 16 feet tall and is constructed entirely from cans of food. On December 11th, 2011 this sculpture will be torn down and all the food will be donated to the local Food Bank ... enough food to feed 150 families for an entire year.

I’ve been wanting to do some panoramas of the John Deere Pavilion and this seemed like a perfect time. Click on the poster print below to view the panorama.

And ... a few stills are available here.


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