Thursday, March 6, 2008

HaPaLa - Handheld Panorama Laser-pointer

Former (UK) arts administrator now living in Tokyo Simon Sherwin became involved in kite aerial photography using compact cameras.

At present enjoying being an equirectanglist and he finds the flat 2:1 equirectangular image and its derivatives to be quite fascinating.

He then realized that most of the time when he photographs panoramas tripods aren't always welcomed and as a regular user of a panorama head he decided it was time to make such a tool in a way that would be very portable and of easy use.

As he explains:

"When I started taking panoramas I used a tripod and a panorama head. However I found that some of the places which interest me such as temples, shrines and shops quite reasonably prohibit tripods. And I then discovered that it's not only possible but actually much easier taking good quality panoramas without the burden of a tripod.

So all my panoramas are now taken hand held. I use an 8mm fisheye lens together with these aids and a tilt-variation method which only requires 4 pictures, 2 at +15° and 2 at -15°.

Essential software is Mac OS X, Gimp and PTGui, and additional use is made of Hugin, PanoGLView, Enblend, Lightroom, Photomatrix and CubicConverter."

His new DIY tool, called HaPaLa (Handheld Panorama Laser-pointer), comprises 2 lasers mounted at angles in a cork backed box which bolts to the tripod hole.

His camera a Canon 350D and for the lens he use a Sigma 8mm f3.5 fisheye.

Wrapped around the lens is the Y shaped positioning string used to keep the nodal point at the front of the lens in a fixed position - the ring at the bottom being held over a target object on the ground.

He use it, with great success, for making hand held equirectangular panoramas.

You can see how it does it on a full, very well conceived, page where you can take part on his findings and watch some outstanding animations.

But you may ask, what are equirectangular panoramas?

Simon explains:

"Think of a round balloon with the countries of the world printed on it. Cut a line from the north to south poles. Now pull it hard into a 2:1 rectangle so that the zenith (north pole) and the nadir (south pole) are stretched from being mere dots until they are lines as wide as the equator itself.

The 360 x 180 degrees of longitude and latitude have become a 2:1 rectangle 360 squares wide and 180 squares high.

And if you feel that this 'mapping' of what we see produces a rather painful distortion then think about what linear perspective does with its equally violent vanishing point!".

If you are into this kind of photography also take a look at the wonderful work of Seb Perez-Duarte and if you ever wonder how he accomplish this technique he explains every step of his equirectangular photographs in here and follow his blog in here for some more cool stuff.

And if you are curious about this techniques here are some links to Flickr photo pools so you can discover some more about this:

- Handheld Panoramas
- Equirectangular
- Indoor Panoramas
- HDR Panoramas
- Stereographic Projections
- Create Your Own Planets
- Panoramas
- Autostitch (and other stitching software)
- Night Panorama
- Hugin
- Nodal Ninja

Among many others.

All photos by Simon Sherwin.
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