A Panoramic Miracle

Click on the image to see the panorama in an animated viewer

aps fitness studio panorama
It’s a miracle! 

Click on the image above to view the panorama of the aps Fitness Studio ( even better if you use a mobile or tablet – it will rotate as you turn around – try it )  and you’ll ask yourself “how was that photograph taken when there is no camera to be seen in the mirror?”. Not a miracle I’ll grant you but if you didn’t know about Photoshop…………….

If you like gadgets and playing around with software and photoshop or you’re just fascinated – read on to find out.

The main problem in taking full 360 degree panoramas is parallax.  There is lots of information on the web about this – this is a good one by a chap named John Houghton.  In simple terms, if you just rotate the camera on a tripod and then try to stitch the images together it won’t work very well.  This becomes even more of an issue if you want to pan up and down 180 degrees from floor to ceiling.
To eliminate the issue of parallax you need a ‘nodal bracket’ or ‘panoramic head’ to go on the tripod.  This allows you to move the camera around so that the lens’s nodal point is lined up exactly above the centre of the tripod.

chinese nodal bracketInitially I bought a cheap Chinese bracket on ebay for £23.  You get what you pay for but it did a job and let me experiment to see if I wanted to invest in a better one.

I did!  After much research – one of the best things for about buying new gear is the reasearch – I purchased a ‘Nodal Ninja NN3 MK II‘ from Red Door VR Limited. I soon discovered that I needed a Nadir Adapter as well because the bracket wasn’t long enough to allow the camera (Nikon D5100) to be used vertically but it turned out this was a major benefit when taking the nadir photo.

The next issue is taking the photographs.  With an 8mm Samyang fisheye you just need 4 images  to cover the full 360 degree rotation (the panorama head has detents at various positions to cater for different lenses) one for the zenith (the ‘up’ image) and one for the nadir (the down image).  As you can imagine, the zenith is easy (the bracket allows you to swing the camera up) but the nadir isn’t so easy because when you point the camera down the tripod’s in the way and you need an image of the spot exactly under the tripod here.

There are various ways to resolve this and if at this point you’re beginning to lose the will to live I understand, I really do.

My way is to use the nadir adapter to a) mark the floor with coin exactly under the tripod head b) swing the camera over the side of the tripod c) move the tripod until the centre of the lens is over the coin d) remove the coin and take the nadir image here.  There’s still a part of the tripod in the image but much less than there would be without the nadir adapter. And the coin – I forgot to remove the coin! And some other stuff – I didn’t tidy up enough!

So now I have 6 images and need to stitch them together to make the panorama.  After more research I decided to use PTGui.

By using the camera’s timer I managed to avoid me being in the photo but before I could create the panorama I had to remove the camera and tripod from the mirror here.  Normally there’s no mirror but in this case…………..

So far as I could determine (more research) there’s no easy way so Photoshop to the rescue here.  I also used Photoshop to tidy up the nadir image here.

I won’t attempt to explain how PTGui converts the 6 images into a panorama because I really don’t know but it is very clever. Depending on what you want from the final result you end up with a jpeg that looks like the one at the top of this post.  Using PTGui’s built in tool you can publish the panorama to the web with it’s own viewer.  Other projections are available to output like this fisheye example.

I know I’ve made this sound simple but I’m close to being a genius (please see below) and it took even me hours and hours to Photoshop and if it wasn’t my son’s studio and if I hadn’t promised to do it for him……………..


“I’m a misunderstood genius.”
“What’s misunderstood?”
“Nobody thinks I’m a genius.”Bill Watterson cartoonist

What do you think?

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