Panorama Photography Classes

I’m now offering one day classes in panoramic photography. It will cover the basic principles of panoramas, how to take the source imagery, align, assemble, and output the results. By the end of the day, you should be able to produce 360 degree cylindrical panorama or perhaps even a spherical panorama.

For those who already have the basics, I also offer personal tuition covering advanced techniques for overcoming difficult scenes, post-processing/remapping, and constructing VR tours.

Photoworld Talk Addendum

Thanks to all who attended the Edinburgh Photoworld. I hope that people were able to get  something out of my talk. I took a pano at the start of the day (left). The full pano can be seen here. More of my panoramas can be found here.

I have had requests for the links I gave at the end of my talk. Here are some links below, it’s by no means exhaustive, but hopefully they will be able to get you started.

I also run panorama photography courses for medium and advanced photographers. Please contact me if you are interested in attending a session. Small group tuition is also available.

Hardware

  • Nodal Ninja. Recommended manufacturers of panoramic heads.
  • Agnos. Italian manufacturer of panoramic heads.
  • Red-door. UK reseller of panoramic equipment.
  • 360 Tactical VR. Local reseller of panoramic equipment.

Software

  • Hugin. Open source free software for assembling panoramas. (multi-platform)
  • wiki.panotools.org. Information source for panoramic photography.
  • PTGui. Commercial pano software (PC).
  • PTAssembler. Commercial pano software (PC)
  • Calico. Commercial pano software (Mac)

 Viewing

  • Panozona. Open source, free software for constructing VR Tours
  • DevalVR. Free (non-open) local viewer
  • Gigapan. Share gigapixel panos.
  • HD View. Microsoft technology for displaying high resolution panoramas.
  • Zoomify. Software for zoomable display.

General Information

Out and about with the NEX-7

I’ve been getting used to the NEX-7, especially for street photography. The difference to the A77 couldn’t be more marked. The difference in size is the most noticeable difference, it is certainly less intimidating for people to have pointed at them, in stark contrast to the A77+16-50mm. The CDAF of the NEX-7 in good light is still reasonably quick and I can get the grabbed shot. Even in poor light, the peaking function with MF can give quite good results with some practise.

Fake Battery?

The battery on the NEX-7 is quite small, 1080mAh at 7.2V. With the EV, LCD and LiveView, this means that a spare battery or three is essential. I went onto Amazon to look for genuine spare NP-FW50 batteries and one seller was offering them at less than half the price of the typical seller. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When I received the battery, the packaging looked authentic, hologram and all, but the battery itself looked subtly different from the one I got with the camera.

The major differences I can spot are:

  • The battery casing is different, the suspect one does not have the grooves behind the label
  • The printing is different, crisper on the genuine one, e.g. the QR code
  • There is text missing on the suspect battery, “2ICP9/30/39” which appears on the genuine one
  • The engraving on the bottom right is different
  • The shape of the connectors on the top right is different
  • The colour of the top right corner is a different shade of cyan

I’m trying to get confirmation from Sony whether the battery from Amazon is genuine or not. So far, the battery is working. It charges up and displays percentage charge remaining on the camera. I’m not familiar enough with the run time of the genuine battery to tell whether the Amazon battery has the same amount of juice. The issue however is that I could have just bought for even less money a non-fake third-party spare battery which would have performed just as well.

Out with old, in with the new

It’s been a busy week with new arrivals. My Epson 2100 died a few months ago with a clogged magenta channel, no amount of cleaning would restore it so I finally bit the bullet and ordered an R3000. I was sorely tempted by a 3880 but I don’t really do enough printing to justify such a large printer. The R3000 seemed to be what I needed, basically a baby 3880.

Once I managed to get it home, the process of setting it up remained. The old printer went into its box, I vacuumed up half a ton of dust which had gathered around it. I also took the opportunity to install a Blu-ray burner for backing up files, and put away an old PC which I had left lying in backup next to the new one. The new printer was trussed up in travel tape to prevent various parts from flapping around. I installed the 9 ink cartridges and it automatically primed itself in a 10 min performance of Cage’s lesser known work. Drivers were installed and we were ready to go.

Now was the problem of what to print first. The methodical thing to do would be print out something I was familiar with so that I could compare it with a previous print. Of course I didn’t do this but chose something new. I’d been starved of a printer for so long I wanted to see what it could do with one of the images which was piling up. I chose a night scene I took of the Canal du Midi at Homps. The print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl was pretty good, the density in the dark areas much better than what I had been getting with the 2100. The colours also seemed to be suitably saturated.

I then tried profiling the printer for Tetenal Duo Print 130gsm using SpyderPrint 4.2.3. The problem is using the right media settings, the plain paper settings didn’t really give a satisfactory result so I may have to experiment. Switching to matte black may also help (but I don’t want to waste ink, not yet).

Doing some large prints of panos will be the next test. I will try the Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl HDR version see if this gives a better result.

New member of the stable

The NEX-7 just came into widespread availability this week. I was walking past a local camera store and saw the advert on the window and couldn’t resist popping in to have a play. It proved too much for me to resist and I eneded up buying the NEX-7+18-55mm kit from a nearby store which had one to actually sell (the first shop only had the display copy).

What finally tipped me over the edge? The compactness of the body compared with the A77 is a great selling point. Even if comparable lenses do not differ that much in size between the two systems (E-mount and Alpha respectively), for the short primes I intend to use, the reduction in the size of the body is significant. The EVF is the same as in the A77 which I find to be very usable in most situations I have encountered. The accessory shoe will be useful in the studio for triggers. The inbuilt flash will be useful for the odd fill-flash now and again. I hope to be able to use manual focus lenses with adapters. I still have to get used to the Tri-Navi interface but first impressions are that it is a massive improvement over the NEX-5 which I have used in the past.

I hope to obtain the Rokinon 8mm/2.8 fisheye so that I have a very portable pano rig which leaves the A77 mounted with the 16-50mm/2.8 or large aperture prime ready for street/candid shots. The NEX-7 is small enough that I can bring it along as a backup without too much extra hassle. An LA-EA1 will allow me to mount my Alpha mount lenses when I don’t need fast AF (or any AF for screwdriver lenses).

Pictures below were taken with the NEX-7 fitted with the LA-EA1+35mm/1.8 DT SAM using peaking and magnified view, ISO3200, converted from RAW in Lightroom 4 Beta.

Photo Philosophy

Photography is an interesting blend of the technical and artistic. It lends itself both to gadget geeks and hipsters. We have the gearheads who’ll drool over the latest camera or lens, discuss high ISO performance as if it were the be-all, end-all of camera function, or worship at the altar of megapixels. On the other hand, there are the retro afficionados with their Lomos, Dianas, or Holgas preaching, “Don’t think!” and “Shoot from the Hip”.

In between those two extremes lie a middle ground which takes a balanced view of how to approach and improve one’s photography. For me, I see it terms of four axes which together encapsulates the factors for good photography. There are:

  • Equipment. Photography is merely the formation of an image and the means to record it. However, we require the appropriate tools to achieve our photographic goals. Equipment should be seen as a means to an end, and not an end onto itself. Perhaps gear fetishism brings pleasure to some people but it can distract from the main event, taking  photographs. A professional photographer does not have top end equipment just to look cool, it’s because they need to utilise their capabilities.
  • Technique. Simply having the best tools isn’t enough, you have to know how to use them. But technique in itself can sometimes overshadow content so this needs to be balanced against artistic vision. A professional photographer should have honed their skills through years of practise and a continual process of learning.
  • Artistic Vision. Having the latest and greatest gear and the technique to use it should serve the purpose of expressing your artistic vision. Otherwise you might has well just take snaps of your cat. Some people naturally express their vision, others may require work to develop and enact it. Balance your own experimentation against gaining inspiration from others. Looking at the work of others is helpful for discovering possibilities, but conversely don’t let it narrow your own vision. Develop a style, make the photos you take your own.
  • Opportunity. This isn’t just a matter of finding the time or funds to take photos, but also involves making opportunities. This could be networking with colleagues or potential clients, scouting out new locations, planning photo trips, being in the right place at the right time, or chasing up that lead. If photography is important to you, give it the chance to grow.

There is an interplay between these, my vision may drive the kind of equipment I need to acquire and the skills I need to learn. New opportunities may lead to a different direction in my vision. My technique may evolve to accommodate the equipment I have. To improve, you could consider what balance is best for you and which area(s) you many need to work on.

Landscape and Panoramic Specialist in Glasgow