Archive for the 'Cameras' Category

Panoramic Photography

Sunday, September 27th, 2009


I have been experimenting with panoramic photography for the last few weeks and I wanted to share some of the things I have learned and offer some tips for anyone wanting to learn how to take panoramic photos. This isn’t a comprehensive panorama tutorial, but it should cover the basics and point you in the direction of panoramic websites where you can learn more.

stereo_test_fused_300.jpgPanoramic photography can be breathtaking. Even really wide angle lenses can’t come close to showing the range of view that you can get with a true panorama. The shot at the top of this page shows a 360 degree panoramic shot. Another method is to take a 360 degree shot by 180 degrees that results in a complete view of your surroundings. Once you have a 360×180 image there are some really interesting things you can do with them. For example, the shot to the right demonstrates a stereographic projection that is created from a panorama. Anther applications for a panorama include Quicktime VR’s which allow you to scroll up, down, and around the image as if you were standing in that spot. So how do you create panoramic photos?

Step 1: Taking the Photos

The first thing you need to know about panoramic photography is that it usually involves taking multiple photos and “stitching” them together into a single shot. While there are expensive cameras with swinging lenses, most panorama photos are made with ordinary cameras. You take lots of photos until you have taken a photo of your complete surroundings. Rather than just going crazy shooting photos in every direction it is a good idea to use a system that will make it easy to assemble the photos later.

In order to improve your chances of having images that will work optimally for stitching together you should definitely consider purchasing a high quality tripod. It is possible to hand hold your camera, but this really increases your chances of having images that don’t stitch together nicely. A normal tripod should work well for single row 360 degree shots. If you are taking multiple row, 360×180 shots you should consider purchasing a panoramic head.

A panoramic tripod head will allow you to move your camera in specific increments until you have completed the full 360. Each photo you take should overlap the shot you took previously. The overlap is important because this redundant data is what the software will use to stitch the photos together later. With my Panasonic Lumix LX3 (which has a pretty wide lens) I can capture a 360×180 degree image by taking 38 photos. That translates into 3 rows of 12 images and a photo for the ground and another photo of the sky straight above. I use the markings on my tripod to know how to turn the camera 30 degrees.

A panoramic tripod head can be an expensive investment. The Nodal Ninja tripod heads get great praise, but they are cost hundreds of dollars. A cheaper option is the Panosaurus that costs about $80. If you are the do-it-yourself type like me, you can build your own. I had some old tripod parts lying around so I decided to build my own panoramic tripod head.

The photo below shows my DIY panoramic tripod head.


This looks intimidating, but once you understand how a panoramic head works it isn’t that bad. The purpose of the head is to position your camera so that the “nodal point” of the camera stays in the same place no matter which direction the camera is pointing. What is a nodal point you ask? You can read the technical definition on wikipedia, but in general terms, this is the point of the camera lens that your camera will rotate around to produce images that aren’t distorted. If you simply rotate a normal tripod the nodal point will be different for each shot causing distortion. You can find the nodal point of your lens following the tutorial here. Don’t obsess over this, because as long as you are close you should be in good shape. Most likely, the nodal point of your camera is towards the front of the lens. There is a good thread on Flickr where you can see a bunch of DIY panoramic tripod heads that should give you some inspiration.

Step 2: Stitching the Photos Together

Once you have the photos taken it is time to create the panorama. Stitching multiple photos together presents some challenges. First of all you need some software. I use Hugin because it is free and has some advanced features. I haven’t used any of the other panorama photo stitcher software options out there, but search the internet and you should be able to see some of the other options out there.

Before you commit to learning Hugin, I should warn you that it wasn’t very easy to get it working for me. I am on a Mac running Snow Leopard and it took some work getting it installed and running. I ended up using MacPorts to help install the autopano-sift-c software required to run Hugin.

Once I had Hugin installed, learning Hugin presented its own challenges. I am the kind of person that jumps right into software without much training, so if you follow some tutorials online you might pick it up quicker than I did. Check out the Hugin Flickr group for additional info.

I hope this post was enough to get you interested in panoramic photography. There are plenty of great resources online if you are looking for more information. My advice would be to join Flickr and plug in to the many groups and passionate users creating panoramic images. There are lots of tutorials on Flickr and most people are more than willing to help out other photographers. Good luck!

6 Non-Traditional ways to use a Panasonic Lumix LX3

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

As you probably know I love pinhole cameras, antiques, hacked and modified cameras, and pretty much anything except for flawless image making devices. I like the chaos and the chance of photography. That’s where the excitement is for me. I am not interested in perfectly exposed, perfectly boring photos. So it may come as a surprise to you that the newest camera in my collection is a digital point-and-shoot. I recently purchased a Panasonic Lumix LX3 and I really love it.

There are plenty of articles online praising the technical prowess of this camera praising it as a point-and-shoot that can compete with an SLR. The only other camera that might give the LX a run for its money is the Canon G10. So rather than rehash the technical specs of the Panasonic Lumix LX3 I thought I would throw out some ideas that might get you thinking how to “hack” this camera to create non-traditional digital photos. If you have some ideas of your own, please add them in the comments.

1. Long Exposures Switch the Panasonic Lumix LX3 over to manual mode and you can control the shutter speed. Try it at night, or in situations where a long exposure can give you unexpected results.

2. Multiple Exposures The Panasonic Lumix LX3 allows you to create multiple exposures in camera. You have to scroll through some menus to get to this setting, but it can give you some really fun and interesting results.

3. Street photography The LX3 is small and quiet so it is a great camera for street photography. Some times I like to “shoot from the hip” and take photos by just pointing the camera in someone’s general direction and snapping a shot. Every once in a while this technique can create some real gems.

4. Manual Focus You paid good money for the fancy focusing technology of the Panasonic Lumix LX3, but why not turn it off? The manual focus of this camera is another way to get back to basics with your camera. Or add some creative blur to your shots.

5. Macro It’s amazing how much things change when you get really close to them. The macro ability of the Panasonic LX3 is pretty impressive and opens a whole new world of possibilities.

6. Black and white I find that unless color really adds something to a photo, I typically prefer the image in black and white. Why not save yourself the trouble of converting to black and white in Photoshop later and shoot in black and white mode. Another advantage of shooting in b&w is that it puts you in a different mind set. I feel like I am looking at the world differently when I have black and white film in my camera.

I hope you found these ideas inspiring. As always, follow me on Flickr if you are curious about what my latest work.

Here are some of the auctions for Panasonic Lumix LX3 cameras and accessories on Ebay that you might be interested in:

Develop film with Coffee and Vitamin C

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

I have been talking about doing this experiment for a long time, but have never gotten to it until this weekend. It is possible to process your own film using coffee. Hard to believe, I know, but it works. The other ingredient besides vitamin C and coffee is washing soda. It was a little hard to track down, but you might look in the laundry section of your local grocery store. Here is a YouTube video showing how it is done:

For my test I used color slide film and it worked just fine. The pictures were taken with my trusty medium format Lego camera. I wasn’t sure what I would get, but the results were black and white negatives (as opposed to color positives). Interesting. Here is a photo from the roll:


Pinhole Camera Made From Juice Box

Sunday, May 11th, 2008


Dennis from Captured Starlight has a nice pinhole camera made out of a juice box. A big part of my fascination with pinhole photography is the ingenuity of the photographers that build there own cameras. Anyone can drop a couple hundred dollars on the latest camera, but it takes a special motivation to build a picture taking machine out of the scraps you find in the garbage.

If you are interested in pinhole photography, Ebay might be a good place to find a starter pinhole camera. Here are the pinhole camera auctions going on right now:

Argus Pinhole Modification

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I don’t have a tutorial for this one, but I thought I would share with you the pinhole modification I made to my Argus. I already had the lens stripped away from my homemade tilt-shift lens experiment and realized that the small leftover body would make a nice pinhole camera. All I really had to do was attach my homemade pinhole shutter (remember the one made out of a floppy disk and a ballpoint pen?) which I modded to work with a cable release. Now I have a pretty decent pinhole camera that I can trigger with the cable rather than adding camera shake with a more traditional shutter mechanism (black tape). It isn’t my most beautiful camera, but it is small and it works! Here are some pictures of it:

Front of the camera with the shutter release cable: argus_pinhole_front.jpg

The back with the film loaded: argus_pinhole_back_closed.jpg

The back of the camera opened up: argus_pinhole_back.jpg

Here are the current auctions on Ebay for “Argus Cameras” that you might be interested in:

Build A Tilt-Shift Lens for Your SLR for Cheap

Saturday, February 16th, 2008


I haven’t posted a good camera modification in a while, so it feels good to present you with this new tutorial on how to build your own tilt-shift lens. Have you seen those photos where only a small part of the picture is in focus and the rest of the image gets dramatically blurred? If you ever wondered how this effect is created, chances are the picture was taken with a tilt-shift lens. Most lenses are fixed exactly parallel to your lens because that is the position that will distribute the light evenly and keep focus at a fixed distance. A tilt-shift lens is different because it allows you pivot the lens. By “tilting” and “shifting” the lens you can throw things out of focus in unconventional ways. Using a tilt-shift lens is a fun way to inject your photos with drama and controlled distortion. Here is a link to a good Flickr gallery full of examples of tilt-shift to give you an idea of what is possible with a tilt-shift lens.

If I have convinced you that a tilt-shift lens would be a nice addition to your photography arsenal, I have some bad news for you. Tilt-shift lenses are expensive. A quick Ebay search reveals that you will be lucky to secure a lens for under $500 with some lenses well over $1000. Yikes! A slightly less expensive option is something called a Lensbaby, which will run you between $100 to $400. Despite hearing good things about the lensbabies, I just can’t justify dropping a couple hundred dollars on a lens that’s main purpose is to degrade and distort my pictures. Luckily there is a third option. Here are some ideas that will help you create your own tilt-shift lens for next to nothing.


Pentax K1000

Sunday, February 10th, 2008


I finally got the camera I have always wanted. No, it wasn’t a Hasselblad or a Mamiya or a Leica. The camera that has been on my wish list longer than any other is the Pentax K1000. Sure, I could pick one up on Ebay for under $100 but I just figured that someday the classic camera would just find its way into my collection. That is pretty much what happened. I love having a story to go along with a camera and now I have one that I will probably be telling quite a few times in the future. Here is how the classic tank of a camera came into my collection…


Yashica Electro35

Saturday, July 7th, 2007


A recent addition to my camera collection that is quickly becoming a favorite is the Yashica Electro35. It is an old rangefinder with a fast lens, a quite shutter, and accurate auto exposure. If you are like me and can only dream about owning a Leica, this camera might be just what you are looking for. They are a bargain on Ebay going for $25 or less.


Happy Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day!

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Dandelions_Polaroid2.jpgDid you make it out to take pictures with your pinhole camera today? I took a couple of my Polaroid pinhole cameras out so that I wouldn’t have to wait for film processing. If you want to see some of the photos that were taken today there is a group on Flickr just for this holiday. While I am on the subject, I wanted to thank the Flickr blog for including one of my pinhole photos in their post the other day as well as a link to the digital pinhole photography group that I administrate. Cool!

Canon AE1 Program

Monday, March 19th, 2007


The newest addition to my camera collection is the Canon AE1 Program. This is the automatic version of the AE1 which I reviewed a few months ago. It is just a coincidence that I got this camera at the same time as my Pentax Super Program becuase these cameras had to be competing against each other around 1984. I had to chuckle at the lens cap because it had “Official 35mm Camera of the 1984 Olympics” on it.