Brief History of Panoramic Photograpy

The word panorama is attributed to Robert Barker (1739 – 1806) who coined the word from the Greek word ‘pan’ meaning all and ‘horama’ meaning view when describing his paintings of Scotland.

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Barker is said to have made a fortune showing a panorama of London as if painted from the roof of Albion Mills in a purpose build circular building in Leicester Square. It was more than three meters in length.

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Barker’s London panorama of 1792, from the top of the Albion Mills.

These panoramic paintings became incredibly popular for a time with panoramas displayed in many major cities. Notable artists include Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

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Long View of London from Bankside, a panorama of London by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647.

and the Russian artist Franz Roubaud (1856-1928) who created great circular paintings or cycloramas of battles which were viewed from the inside.

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Panorama of Moscow battle in 1812 (or Battle of Borodino). Created y Russian painter Franz Roubaud in 1912. Panorama is installed in Moscow Poklonnaya Hill Museum. Only part of the panorama is shown in the image.

I understand that around 30 of these 19th Century panoramas can still be seen today. One of the oldest being Wocher Panorama of Thun in Switzerland.

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By Tobikuehn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
‘Moving panoramas’ were created by scrolling the painting in front of viewers.

Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) took panoramas to another level by developing the diorama theatre. Audiences would sit in a theatre to view a large painting created on several sheets of linen that was transparent in places, then as light was manipulated using mirrors and shutters the image would appear to change. After 10 or 15 minutes, the audience would rotate to view a second or even a third painting.

Daguerre went on to develop his well documented photographic technique and some of the earliest panoramic style photographs were created by placing two (or more) daguerreotype plates next to each other, carefully moving the camera after each exposure.

The image below is of Nashville, Tennessee created from two daguerreotype plates taken by George Barnard in 1864.

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1864 George Barnard albumen silver print; US Library of Congress

George Barnard is also known for taking panoramic landscapes for the Union Army during the Civil War. These would have been very useful for army officers making plans for their next attack but making the prints would have been very difficult as all plates were prepared, exposed and negatives developed in the field. Prints would have been made back in the studio where they would also be trimmed and mounted into a panoramic spread.

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View from the top of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. February 1864, George Barnard albumen silver print, US Library of Congress

Slightly earlier in the 1840, William Henry Fox Talbot was doing something similar with Calotype photographs.

The image below is taken at Talbot’s studio in Reading, west of London in 1844 and consists of two salt prints. I understand that is Talbot in the middle of the picture operating the large camera.

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Reproduced from the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television collection, by courtesy of the Science and Society Picture Library

Eadweard Muybridge created an impressive 13 photograph panorama of San Francisco in 1878. Each print is captured over four or five hours on wet collodion negatives. Each print was attached to a sheet of paper and all of the photos attached to one long sheet of fabric nearly 18′ long.

It is interesting to note that just 30 years before this photograph was taken San Francisco was a small town of no more than 1,000 people until James Wilson Marshall found gold in 1848.

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There were lots of problems with this collage technique of panoramas. Odd distortions can occur and people can appear more than once in the photograph or even appear with limbs missing.

The problem was that originally cameras had a narrow field of view, perhaps 25-40 degrees but later cameras began to be manufactured specifically for taking panoramic photographs These were either swing-lens cameras where the lens moved sideways while the film remained still, or 360 degree cameras where both the lens and the film moved around.

The earliest record of a panoramic camera is from a patent in Australia in 1843 for a hand crank-driven swing lens panoramic camera awarded to Joseph Puchberger, a chemist and Wenzel Prokesh, an optician. It still used daguerreotype plates but they were 19 – 24″ and the lens was able to cover a 150 degree arc.

Friederich von Martens (1809-1875) a German, living in France developed the Megaskope Camera in 1844. It was similar to that of Puchberger but used curved daguerreotype plates and later wet collodion emulsions on curved glass to help minimise distortion.

In 1857 a patent was given to an M. Garella in England for a rotating photographic instrument. Instead of just the lens moving, this camera pivoted through 360 degrees while inside, a sensitive plate moved in the opposite direction to the camera.

Several panoramic cameras followed in quick succession. Thomas Sutton invented this camera in 1858.

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And this was closely followed by Johnson and Harrison’s Pantoscopic Camera in 1862.

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Victor Albert Prout invented a panoramic camera in 1865 and we have previously mentioned Camille Silvy and the panoramic camera that he invented in 1867 to name just a few.

Silvy’s innovative design used a sensitive sheet that gradually unwound from a spool and passed through the camera. In 1881 a flexible celluloid photographic film invented by Hannibal Goodwin made this process even easier and in 1884 when George Eastman’s roll film became commercially available swiftly followed by the Kodak camera in 1888 photography became available to the masses.

With the invention of digital photography and home computers photographs are now stitched together to create sophisticated panoramas in no time at all. Many cameras and even mobile phones have an in-camera panoramic capability and freely available Apps can perform the most sophisticated manipulations that the likes of Robert Barker couldn’t even imagine.

This image was created using an app called 360Panorama by Occipital.

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References:

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Brightlingsea Walk

Over the Easter break I set out early one morning to have breakfast at the beach side cafe in Brightlingsea and a walk around the promenade and marina. It was misty when I first arrived but soon cleared to reveal beautiful clear blue skies. I’ve put together a short video of some of my favourite photos from the morning.

 

Final Major Project Reflection 16

I haven’t written a reflection recently, preferring instead to include my thoughts in my blog posts. However, as my tutor is keen for me to include my personal experiences I thought I would share with you my experiences of visiting a couple of galleries in London last week.

I have been promising to go to London and visit the galleries that hold Constable paintings for several weeks or even months now and last week was when I actually went.

I was staying in Essex and caught a train into Liverpool Street that arrived around 10:00. It was quite empty but there was a man on the seat in front of me that that kept sniffing and slurping his drink and then there was a man next to me across the aisle who was also sniffing and blowing his nose. It was a bit annoying and did make me feel a bit sick but I am a woman of patience, little did I know that this was the start of a very testing day.

On arriving at Liverpool Street I chose to get the tube over to South Kensington where I could begin at the V&A and then walk back across London to the Tate Britain and then the National Gallery. I won’t mention the large school party that tried to get on the tube and exit at the same station as me, they were only mildly frustrating as they took up the whole platform and waited on the exit stairs for everyone to gather together.

I’ve not been to the V&A before and was blown away by the scale of the museum and the size of some of the exhibits. They are beautifully laid out and there is a wonderful range of items on display. With no time to spare I headed straight for the paintings area and the two galleries that hold the Constable paintings. As far as I could tell, the two galleries that hold the Constable paintings were the only two galleries in the whole museum that were closed! Only in England does a flagship museum choose to change the lightbulbs in the middle of a busy Easter school holiday! I asked the man atop of the cherry picker if they were going to to reopen the galleries and he very politely said that they would only be an hour. Not a problem I had seen some very interesting exhibits on my way and would be pleased to go back and view them in more detail.

After pootling around the theatrical exhibit and taking in some lovely Beatrix Potter illustrated letters I went back to the painting area. The workmen were still busy and as there was a sign that said if I needed any help would I please speak to a member of staff, I spoke to a member of staff. Her initial response was “Its nothing to do with me, you need to ask the contractors!” I gave her a ‘look,’ to which she responded “Alright. I’ll go and ask them.”

It turned out that they had been asked to do another piece of work and were going to be another hour. They did concede that they would reopen the second gallery but needed to keep the first gallery closed for safety reasons. I asked the member of staff if it would be possible to let me into this first gallery for a few minutes to view Constable’s Hay Wain sketch and the Salisbury Cathedral painting for a few minutes before they began work again to which she responded “You can see them from here.” I was several metres away behind a rope and at 90 degrees to most of the paintings. I began to explain that I was only in London for the day, I wouldn’t be able to get back again for some time and that I was interested in Constable for my degree course to which she replied “There is some of his paintings in the other gallery, you can go and look in there…” By this time I was more than a bit peeved and couldn’t bring myself to give her another ‘look.’ Instead I simply pointed and said “But it is the Hay Wain sketch I particularly need to see.” She responded by helpfully pointing out “Well you’ll just have to wait then.”

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I was so cheesed off at that response that I stormed out of the museum. I say that I stormed out, it is such a big museum and I didn’t know the way out. It took me about 10 or 15 minutes to finally make my dramatic exit!

I don’t really know that part of London very well but when I saw a familiar fast food logo I thought I would drown my sorrows in a burger, fries and diet coke. I dutifully queued at the quick service till only to have four or five very tall international teenage boys push in front of me. I resisted the urge to point out that that is not the way to queue and instead moved across to a ‘slow’ till.

As I had been marching down Kensington High Street I had passed Holy Trinity Church, Brompton which advertised that it had a cafe. After my burger I thought I would go back to the church and sit in the cafe while I waited for the workmen in the V&A to finish. The cafe is advertised as being open from 11:00 to 16:00 on a Thursday so I was surprised to see, after walking down quite a long drive, that there was a notice on the door saying ‘reopens at 2pm.’ Only in England would a cafe be shut at lunchtime!

It was a beautiful day and the church has a lovely garden so I consoled myself by sitting in the sun for half an hour.

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Back in the V&A the workmen had gone and I was able to get a good look at the paintings but time was pressing on and although I now didn’t have time for the Tate Britain I could still visit the National Gallery if I walked quickly.

I walked down Kensington High Street, along Hyde Park and over towards Buckingham Palace, along the Mall and into Trafalgar Square.

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The National Gallery was heaving and not a pleasant place to be. The final painting of the Hay Wain is there and I was interested to watch several people pointing it out and talking about it. My Mum rang me while I was in there so I tried to escape quite quickly but again couldn’t find my way out and had to ask a member of staff how to get out!

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I headed back along the Embankment to Liverpool Street and as I approached I rang my brother and asked what train he planned to get home. He was already on the train, the front coach on platform 12. I had 10 minutes so I ran across the concourse to platform 12 and down all eight coaches to try and find him but he wasn’t there. I rang him again only for him to double check and let me know that he was actually on platform 11. This was not just across the platform but back up the eight coaches to the ticket barrier and then all the way down another eight coaches to the front of the next train. Just as I jumped onboard the signal went and we pulled away as I was sitting down.

I had arranged to meet someone briefly at Ipswich station to collect something before returning to Colchester and eventually home on the Clacton line. As I was at the front of the train with my brother for his stop, I was the wrong end for a quick getaway at Ipswich and found myself running along the platform, back up the eight coaches and over the bridge just as they were announcing that the next train to Colchester was the next train at platform 2. I dashed out of the station met my friend, grabbed what I needed, ran back into the station and straight onto the train.

At Colchester I was again the wrong end of the train and with just three or four minutes to spare ran back up the platform, along all eight coaches, then past the shops and onto the Clacton line train where I finally fell exhausted into a seat. Joy of Joys, when I arrived at my final station I got off the train at exactly the right place to leave the station without having to take a step further than I needed to!

Throughout this traumatic day I did in fact learn something! I was struck by Constable’s love of his local countryside and how he sketched and painted whatever was around him, wherever he was, rejecting the popular mountainous landscapes of his predecessors preferring instead to paint ordinary life. Perhaps, alongside my panoramas of Constable’s landscapes I should include a panorama of one of my local landscapes?

No-Parallax Point and Creating Panoramas in Lightroom CC

I have struggled a bit to understand about the no-parallax point and the part it plays in panoramic photographs. I understand that parallax can easily be seen by holding up a finger, looking at it through one eye and then through the other eye causes it to apparently move in relation to the background. This is because the entrance to each of of our pupils is in a slightly different position. This parallax will have an effect when taking photographs that are to be stitched together to form a panorama and I need to be careful not to have objects in the foreground change position against the background. I can do this by keeping the entrance to the lens in the same place while I turn the camera.

There is lots of science and minute measurements to help photographers find the no-parallax point for their particular camera and lens. The PanoTools Wiki has a useful chart that lists the entrance pupil distance for a range of cameras and lenses. JohnHPanos also has a useful guide that talks about how to find the no-parallax point for an SLR camera.

To help further there are a number of manual and motorised tri-pod heads that can be purchased from the usual photographic outlets, some that are even controlled from a smart phone. However as a poor student I cannot afford any of them! I have been using a simple bracket that holds my camera slightly back so that the front of the lens is close to the centre of the head of the tripod.

Having said all of that, the software that is currently available to automatically merge photographs together is so good that any parallax is hardly noticeable.

Today I have been out taking a few local panoramas to see if I can spot any parallax errors when my photographs are merged together.

With tripod extension
Without parallax bracket
Without tripod extension
With parallax bracket

I have used the Photo Merge / Panorama option in Lightroom to create these panoramas. It is very straight-forward to do and fun to mess about with it but there is also a very useful tutorial about how to create panoramas in Lightroom on the Adobe website that explains the process I have used very clearly.

I can’t honestly see an awful lot of difference in the two images above. Some of the clouds in the first image look as though they have been cut off as they appear to have some harsh flat edges but when I zoom in on my computer they are not as unnatural as they appear on here.

While I was at it I have merged one of the panoramas several times using the different options available in Lightroom.

With parallax bracket, spherical photo merge
With parallax bracket, spherical photo merge
With parallax bracket, cylindrical photo merge
With parallax bracket, cylindrical photo merge
With parallax bracket, perspective photo merge
With parallax bracket, perspective photo merge

Adobe suggests that the spherical setting is best for 360 degree panoramas, the cylindrical setting is best for very wide panoramas and the perspective setting is best for shorter panoramas.

I like the cylindrical setting for this particular shot.

Alresford Creek, EssexThese are another couple of shots I took this morning and the edited photo of the ford. I’ve left them in colour as the sky and daffodils look great after the past few stormy days.

St Peter's Church, Alresford, Essex

St Peter's Church Yard, Alresford, Essex

The Ford, Alresford Creek, Essex

Lincoln Panoramas

Today I had hoped to be able to practice with the 6×9 Rangefinder but unable to make it work, I took a few panoramas of the cathedral in Lincoln instead.

The first is a photograph of the East view of Lincoln Cathedral. It is made up of 49 photographs in five rows of seven, using the same method that I used for the Alkborough panorama a few days ago. At this size it looks great but on closer inspection there are lots of ‘soft spots’ were the merge is not quite as crisp as it could have been.

49 photograph pano made of 5 rows of 7 images
49 photograph pano made of 5 rows of 7 images

This is a much smaller panorama of the houses opposite the East end of the cathedral. It has merged much better but disappointingly I have managed to capture the dog at an unfortunate angle.

4 photograph pano
4 photograph pano

I moved round to the south side to try again but when the 77 photos have merged in this image the horizontal lines have become quite curved. I suspect this has something to do with the way Lightroom merges all of the photographs together. I did try a few different settings but this was the best result I could get. I may try merging the photos together by hand in Photoshop to see if I can correct this problem.

77 photograph pano made of 6 rows
77 photograph pano made of 6 rows

At the West end of the cathedral there is a row of houses, several with blue plaques on, adjoining the stone gateway. The photograph is a good size and shape and is joined very neatly, probably the best of all that I have created today. I think three rows of five photographs will be the ideal size for my Constable panoramas.

15 photograph pano mande of 3 rows of 5
15 photograph pano mande of 3 rows of 5

Looking at the main entrance to the cathedral at the East side I initially took six photographs for a panorama. I took my time with this waiting for any ‘large heads’ of people coming close to my tripod to pass and also waiting for those people nearer the cathedral to move on a bit before I took their photograph again.

I’m pleased with the way it has joined and the clarity of the photograph. I think I should have allowed for a little more foreground in front of the cathedral though.

6 photograph pano
6 photograph pano

Building on the initial panorama I went on to take another seven rows of photographs. The horizontal lines are slightly bowed and again, at this size I think it looks pretty good but on closer inspection there are one or two areas of softness where it has been difficult to merge.

48 photograph pano made of 8 rows of 6
48 photograph pano made of 8 rows of 6

The following two photographs, taken from outside the castle are of the same view, the first is a panorama made of just six photographs and the other is made of 35 photographs. The six photograph pano has merged very well and every area of the photograph is sharp.

The larger pano has a lot more detail in parts of it but also has those patches of softness in some areas.

6 photograph pano
6 photograph pano
35 photograph pano made up of 5 rows of 7
35 photograph pano made up of 5 rows of 7

Before I really make my mind up, I will arrange for some of the photographs to be printed out at various sizes so that I can be very sure of the optimum number of photographs to use in my final panoramas.

Alkborough Panorama

Today I thought I would practice taking panorama photographs. I went over to Alkborough where I know there is a nice view of the rivers Ouse and Trent joining to become the Humber.

This is the normal view that I might capture from this spot.

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It was a bitterly cold day and the ground was muddier than I have ever known it but despite the numb fingers and appalling conditions I set my camera up on a tripod where I would be able to sweep it round for a good view.

Alkborough Pano-2To compensate for any distortion that can occur as the camera is moved around I used a bracket that holds the camera slightly backward of the tripod, giving it a smaller arc to travel through.

Before I started I hand-held the camera and took a series of portrait photographs freehand, trying to keep the camera even and trying to get a reasonable amount of overlap in each shot. I merged them together in Lightroom to create the photograph below. I actually started by taking photographs quite high up and as I moved round my hands dropped meaning that I needed to crop the image quite heavily to clean up the dead space.

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I used the spirit level in the tripod to ensure that the tripod was perfectly level and then I also used the gyroscope in the camera to ensure that as I moved the camera round it stayed level.

I used the markings around the tripod to mark where my panorama would start and stop, I also took a shot every time I came to mark.

I merged the photos together in Lightroom but because some images didn’t fit together well on the right I chose to crop that part of the image out. I also converted the image to black and white.

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My eyesight is not very good. I have an astigmatism and wear vari-focal lenses and tend to rely quite heavily on my camera’s auto-focus. I found that as I was moving the camera round the auto-focus was zooming in and out and I wasn’t sure how this would affect the final images. The next lot of images I took on manual focus. I picked a point in the centre of the scene, focussed on that and took all of the shots using the same setting.

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I wasn’t satisfied with this view and moved down the hill for a change of scene and, because it was so cold, I thought a little walk might warm me up a bit. I set the camera and tripod up similarly for this next view.

I like this better even though the curve in the hill does make it look a bit distorted.

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For my final attempt I actually did three sweeps across the scene. I took one where the horizon was at the top of the viewfinder, one where it was two thirds up the viewfinder and a third where it was just a third up the viewfinder.

I wasn’t sure how I would merge all three rows of images together but Lightroom coped with it brilliantly. I then just converted it to black and white.

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I think this is my favourite. I like that the trees are fully in view and although you can’t see it on here, I am impressed by the amount of detail in the scene.