I spied a fantastic sunset the last week, so I packed up my cameras and headed out in search of a good vantage point to capture it. I came across this spectacular spot in Mindarie. I was originally out testing my Minolta 500si and 700si, but since I found such a perfect vantage point it occurred to me to try some panoramas, as I had not done many of these in the past. So I set my Nex to panorama mode and gave it a whirl. Now any who have tried in camera panorama will know what a pain this can be, you have to move not too fast and not too slow or your camera will get angry at you and out of every 5 you manage to complete only one will actually be stitched properly. I think I took about 8 and this is the only one that worked, nice though it is. (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Minolta W.Rokkor-SG 28mm 3.5 manual lens
After all that struggle I remembered I had seen other photographers talking about ‘stitching’ their photos together in Photoshop. I took a seven snap series right across the horizon, with the hope of trying this ‘stitching’ method later at home. Once home I loaded up my 7 images and went about trying to line them up, now that wasn’t too hard, however getting the lighting right was a whole other kettle of fish. So I looked around for tips on the net and came across a few guys that did a lot of stitches and they suggested using a stitching software to aid with these problems. I tried looking for some of the ones they suggested, however they were paid software that were quite expensive and since this was just a fun project not really worth it for this application. I continued searching when I came across this product offered by Microsoft called Image Composite Editor or ICE for short. The official description is:
Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. The stitched panorama can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading it to the Photosynth web site. Or the panorama can be saved in a wide variety of image formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to the multiresolution tiled format used by Silverlight’s Deep Zoom and by the HD View and HD View SL panorama viewers.
(This is how the software looks with after a stitch has just been processed. Though this is one that did not work properly due to my framing being wrong.)
This sounded like just the trick, so I quickly downloaded it, eager to give it a try. I was unsure exactly how it would work, so I loaded my 7 photos I had taken and set it to auto stitch, off it went calculating. It did not take too long and I have to say did an amazing job for being fed freehand shot images. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Minolta W.Rokkor-SG 28mm 3.5 manual lens
I love how this captures from coast right around to coast, with an amazing ray of sunset protruding through the clouds and if you look close there is a luxury cruiser and a sail boat in there too. Of course this had now totally captured my imagination, I had to go out and try shooting more stitches. Lisa and I decided to head into Joondalup to grab coffee and search for some more scenes to try shooting to stitch later. The first thing we came across was this old mural on this wall that was fantastic. For this I wanted to try shooting a grid as opposed to just a line of photos, I shot 4 across the top and 4 across this bottom, in the hope of creating this really wide angle feeling shot. Again this image processed perfectly in auto mode and gave me the exact desired effect. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens
Excellent, now I wanted to try some more complex, larger stitches and this of course is where I came unstuck. Not far away from this mural, there is another one on a wall down an alleyway. This one is really long and due to the alley it is in you cannot get far enough back to get the shot, so I wanted to try and get a perspective stitch. I took 31 photos of this to try to stitch.
This would have worked fine however as you can see I stupidly followed the way the mural tapered off, so when I crop down the edges to get the final image, I had lost a lot of the closer section of mural. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens
As the sun was now going down we could see a fantastic sunset, so we raced to the coast so I could try and get a nice large stitch of this fantastic view. I took 33 photos in the hope of stitching this together. Yet again I did not visualize my grid properly, so I believe after reviewing I realised I stupidly took about 10 pics on the top row, 8 on the next, 6 on the next and 9 on the bottom. The software now really struggled to combine these in auto mode, it would just give me the horizontal panorama, about 7 images across. This was not what I wanted, I realise it was my own short comings when taking the shots, however I was sure I could overcome it. So I switched the software to manual mode where I could set the columns and rows and overlaps of images etc. and I got very close to achieving something, though it looks a little alien world’ish. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens
I have tried many attempts but I just cannot salvage this set yet, which is unfortunate. However this is not a short coming of the software, more a short coming of me not visualising my ‘grid’ properly before shooting the images for the stitch. All in all I am very happy with this Microsoft ICE software, not only is it free, it is very powerful, stitches well and matches your lighting for you. I recommend everyone give it a try,as even when you don’t get them to work, you can create these unique looking worlds.
This was about the best I could get it in the end. Here is the stitch: (click on image for a larger version, sadly my photo storage has re-sized them to small) Shot on my Nex-5 using my Jupiter 8 50mm f2 manual lens
For anyone wanting to learn more about stitching, there is a fantastic tutorial on Manual Lens Forum here:
You can grab the Microsoft ICE software here:
32 bit version: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/730cd6bb-6450-4e66-8101-a94e71cb0779/
64 bit version: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/69699e5a-5c91-4b01-898c-ef012cbb07f7/default.aspx