Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Make Your Own Panorama

On Sunday we had Stake Conference [1], so we got out of Church at noon instead of at two. With all that extra time on our hands, Leann and I decided to go for a drive. We ended up driving around Utah Lake since neither of us had been on the west side of it. I took some photographs while we were driving around that I wanted to stitch together into a panorama. I found some free software called Hugin.[2] It's really quite easy to use.

After you start Hugin, you click on the first button, 1. Load images… I started out with these photographs. As you can see, I took the photographs in such a way that they overlap each other (mouse over the pictures to see examples of where they overlap) by at least 15%. This is important for putting together the final panorama.[3] Hugin finds points that the photographs share and use those to figure out how they overlap.

Now that you've loaded your photographs, hit the next button, 2. Align A script will run for a few seconds or minutes (depending on how many pictures you're stitching together) and then a preview window will pop up. As you can see, Hugin has to bend the photographs to make them fit together correctly. This is the same problem mapmakers face when making flat maps of a spherical Earth. In fact, many of the projections mapmakers use (such as Mercator) are available to you for the projection of your panorama. In addition to stitching your images together, Hugin will also adjust the exposures so that the lines between the different pictures goes away. At this point you can change the projection (I usually use Cylindrical or Equirectangular) and adjust what parts of the image will be cropped off in the final panorama.[4] Once you have things looking the way you want them, simply close the preview window.

The last step is to hit the third button, 3. Create panorama Another script will run, this time taking a little longer. Once it stops, you'll have your new panorama file waiting for you wherever you told it to save to. Clicking on the button will save your panorama as a .tiff file. If you don't want a .tiff, you can save it as a .jpeg or a .png file instead. Instead of hitting the third button, hit the tab all the way to the right that says Stitcher. About halfway down you'll see the option to change the output format of the file. If you look at the other tabs you'll see that there are a lot more options for the savvy. But if you're just an amateur, like me, following the directions I just gave you should work for you most of the time.

Just for fun, I took the panorama I just created and loaded it into the GIMP.[5] I converted to grayscale by choosing Colors, then Desaturate, and then Luminosity. Then I selected Colors and then Levels… By adjusting the black, gray, and white slider bars for the Input Levels, I was able to enhance the appearance of the clouds to really bring out their texture.


[1] The LDS Church (also known as the Mormons) is divided up into local units known as wards. A ward is a single congregation. A stake is an administrative level that usually consists of five to eight wards. Twice a year all the members of a stake gather together for a conference where we are instructed by the leadership of the stake. It is a two-hour meeting on Sunday in contrast to the three-hour meetings that are usually held in the wards.

[2] Hugin can be downloaded for free here. It is available for both Windows and Macs.

[3] In fact, it's best if you take all the photos while standing in one spot, rather than moving around.

[4] If you set your crop so that parts of the final image are blank you can overcome this by following the steps at my post How to Fill in Transparency in a Hugin Panorama.

[5] If you're not sure what the GIMP is, see my post Raster Graphics and Vector Graphics.

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