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A Short History of Panoramic Photography
Since the dawn of
photography in 1839, photographers have tried to represent the world
that they see. The human field of vision being wider than it is high,
photographers began to assemble images horizontally in order to represent the
entire scene laid out in front of them. A panorama can totally encircle
the viewer, reaching a full 360º , while any image covering
more than 100º may technically be called a panorama.
very word "panorama" was coined by the Irish painter
Robert Barker (1739-1806). Barker patented his invention, an enormous
cirular painting which represented the city of Edinburgh. With showings
of his painting in Glasgow and London, he made a fortune, prefiguring
in a way the "IMAX" theaters of today. He hired assistants
and sold licences in other countries. The Frenchman Pierre Prévost
popularized the panorama on the Old Continent, and he is frequently
cited as its inventor whereas he was merely the clever and successful
holder of the patent in France. One of Prévost's assistants,
the young landscape painter Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre
(seen at right) made his fortune with a similar
process, which he called the Diorama. Instead of being merely a
large landscape painting, the Diorama was a painted representation
of Napoleonic battles. Enormous paintings, painted on a sheer fabric,
were illuminated in such a way as to convey action and movement
in the battle scene. It was a kind of light & sound show long
before electricity made such AV performances routine. Opening in
1822, the Diorama was an enormous commercial success: people went
to see the Diorama in the same that their descendants now go to
see Star Wars at the cinema! Panoramas at this time were extremely
popular, and the suffix
"-rama" entered the language at that time.
It can be found on countless words coined since then, and can even
be seen in a famous French novel, Balzac's Père Goriot,
in which the characters entertain themselves at dinner by coining
new words with the then-fashionable new suffix.
It is with the money earned with his
Diorama that Daguerre was able to retire and devote himself to the invention
of photography, picking up where Nicéphore Niépce had
left off. Niépce had created poor-quality images as early as
1822 using a bitumen of Judea emulsion, but exposure times exceeded
ten hours and the process was never practical. After some fifteen years
of additional experimentation, Daguerre elaborated a process in which
a silver plate, exposed to iodine vapour, was used as "film".
The image, after an exposure of just a few minutes, was "fixed"
with sodium hyposulfite. Thus the invention of the silver-based emulsion,
and the discovery of sodium hyposulfite (universal fixer) can be attributed
to Daguerre. He made this process public in 1839 and gained world-wide reknown
as the inventor of photography. It must be pointed out that other scientists
were also working on similar processes at the time: among them an Englishman,
William Henry Fox Talbot, and the Frenchman Hippolyte Bayard, who independently
and simultaneously invented the concept of "negatives" and
prints on paper, processes that they revealed to the world after Daguerre's
invention had already been made public.
Types of Panoramas
developed right from the start of photography. the very first such
images, made on broad silver plates, date back to this time. The image
below, taken in 1842 by Girault de Prangey, represents Rome, as seen
from the Palatine hill.
As early as 1846, special
cameras were developed to allow the capture of extremely broad fields
of view. To be called "panoramic" an image must exceed 100
degrees of width, a bit less than one-third of the total field that
surrounds the viewer. In order to obtain such a broad view, certain
designs use a lens that pivots from one side to the other, exposing
film or a plate which must be held against a curved back so that the
exposure is consistent. The Japanese Widelux and Russian Horizont
cameras use pivoting lens design. Other high-performance cameras,
such as the Hulcher or Globus, can take images that describe a complete
circle around the viewer. The entire camera rotates on a pivot as the film moves through the camera at the same rate as the spin. The mechanics are complex, all parts must be made with great precision so that exposure is consistent through the entire frame. As a result, such cameras are quite expensive; an additional difficulty arises from the fact that very
few photo labs are able to make prints from 35mm negatives or transparencies that may
exceed 20cm ( 8 inches ) in length!
A Widelux camera was
used to make the image below ( Talloires bay, on Lake Annecy ). The
camera uses 35mm film and creates an exposure that measures 24x59mm,
and which covers a field of 140º (measured diagonally across
the frame). This image was used by the Talloires Tourist Office for
Panoramas in the Digital Age
Since the invention
of digital photography way back in the Nineties, it has become easier,
and much more affordable, to use digital images and special software
to create panoramas by stitching together a set of images.
The three images above
show the Palais de l'Isle in Annecy and were taken a few seconds apart.
The light source is constant, and there is sufficient overlap from
one image to the next for the software program to be able to stitch
the three images together, averaging data from one frame to the next.
However, it should be noted that the sky exposure, inconsistent because
of the sun's position on the left side of the picture, resulted in
an unattractive image. So the photographer, using PhotoShop, removed
the entire sky and replaced it with a relatively even blue tint which
serves as a backgroung in the whole image:
Much broader images can be made,
provided that the camera is pivoted on the very axis of the lens
(not of the tripod socket). Rotating the camera over the "nodal
axis" of the lens allows the photographer to make undistorted
images, such as the one below:
This panoramic view of the Mont Blanc mountain chain, taken from Plan
Praz (Mt Brévent)
is composed of some eight different pictures stitched together. it
covers about 180º .
Panorama-creation software is
usually bundled in the software package included with digital cameras,
so that theoretically anyone with a digicam can create panoramas.
Each program offers a slightly different feature set, some allowing
manual adjustment of inaccurate automatic stitching, some not... certain
programs allow the export of panoramas to web pages, using either
plug-ins or java applets. Some of these require some complex coding
and as such are not particularly well suited for beginners. It should
be noted that any digitized image, including scanned photos, may be
stitched together to compose a panorama. However, all of the programs
require images to be absolutely identical in pixel size, so that scanning
of images may be more complicated than using digital cameras images.
A very fine review of numerous stitching programs may be found on
James Rigg's panorama
software page. The two best programs for PC/Windows, in my view,
are the two mentioned below:
Picture PhotoVista ( www.livepicture.com ) has, since 1997, been one of the
best panorama-creation software packages. It stitches images quite
well, and seldom needs manual correction, which nonetheless is possible.
The image of Annecy's Palais de l'Isle was made with PhotoVista.
www.pixaround.com )is a newcomer in the panorama software market,
introduced in April 2000. Nonetheless this freeware is an outstanding
performer. It stitches very accurately, gives the user manual control,
and provides an excellent Java© applet
to display the images in a dynamic mode. Nearly all panorama images
on this entire website were created and posted using this software.
The image below was assembled using PixMaker Lite and can be viewed
scrolling through the entire panorama by clicking on the image below:
QuickStitch ( www.enroute.com ) is a different
kind of panorama software: it allows the user to build high-resolution
images by assembling a mosaic of up to 16 images ( laid out in a 4x4
grid ) to create a single, large image. More automatic than PhotoVista
or PixMaker Lite, QuickStitch requires a very precise alignment of
the images, with a great deal of overlap from picture to picture.
There is no manual override of alignment, so that if a set of pictures
does not assemble correctly, there are no other options. You have
to reshoot the set of images. QuickStitch 360º is Enroute's
circular panorama entry; it is not all that effective and allows no
manual adjustment. Furthermore, the registration/activation process
required by Enroute (as an anti-piracy measure) is an absolute pain
to deal with; it takes upwards of fours hours to install the program.
Not worth the trouble, especially with the excellent freeware now available from Pixaround!
The six images below were assembled
with QuickStitch. The completed panorama can be seen just below the
grid of six images.
ipix ) uses a new technololy and creates 360ºx360º panoramas:
that is to say that the viewer is entirely surrounded by the image,
as if in the middle of a visual bubble. The photographer takes two
fisheye images that are then assembled automatically by the IPIX software.
The specific equipment used must be calibrated for use with the program,
or inaccurate stitches will result. IPIX offers a viewing experience
that can not be duplicated with a print, and as such is restricted
to viewing on a computer monitor.
image below, the Prior's chamber in the Abbaye Hotel in Talloires
(France) is an IPIX displayed by means of a JAVA applet. Smaller and
less detailed than a high-resolution IPIX image, it has the advantage
of not requiring the installation of a (free) plug-in. You can click
on the image below to slect the view that you wish.
Other Web Sites about Panoramas
Images of Savoie made with
images of Faverges (74210)
images from other places
Bridges of Haute Savoie stupendous images made with
Annecy-rama, Cyrille's site at Séquentiel : a virtual
visit of Annecy, made up of panoramas linked together with hotspots.
Annecy castle, the Palais de l'Isle, Town Hall, etc... that you can
see by clicking on the link below:
Annecy-rama Open window
"Guide to Panoramas and Panoramic Photography"
James Rigg's excellent English-language site; techniques and programmes
for the assembly of panoramic images. good illustrations, clear explanations.
Paul Fulbrook's site : Pan images made by en English friend. Images
of the "pubs" of his town.
Panoramas du Lac D'Annecy, de Faverges... par CILD
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Page and images© 2000 by Robert
updated May 6 2000
fin de la page Panorama-RAMA!