Friday, September 3, 2010

Sky Friday - cloud panoramas

If you've ever taken a series of photographs and used software to stitch them together into a panorama shot, you know how addicting creating "panos" can be.

Back when I had PS Elements 4.0 on my old PC, I used that pano stitching program, but found it a bit time-consuming and it had major limitations and shortcomings, like a really poor blending tool and frequent error messages about not enough memory to complete the task that seemed to take forever.

I still haven't purchased the latest edition of Elements, but recently started taking some pano series shots for the time when I had the software available again.  Then, on a whim, I decided to do a search for "panorama software, iMac", and read some reviews.

Written by a Danish software engineer (I assume that's his title) called "Double Take" came up as an easy-to-use, stand-alone stitch program.  And, you could download a trial version of it for free.  The registered version is only $24.95, which seemed like a deal if it worked well.  The official site is here, where you can read more, download and/or purchase the program.

Anyhow, I tried it on a set of photos I took a few weeks ago on one our hikes, and was amazed at: 1) how simple it is to use; 2) how well it works.  I'd previously tried Hugin, which is a free Linux-based stitching software, based on a review by Ken Rockwell, but I couldn't get it to do anything, and it was far more complex and confusing than I wanted.  Double Take, on the other hand, is simple yet has features that make it vastly superior to the pano program in Elements.  Even when I do get around to purchasing Elements, I'll keep using Double Take for all panos.

* You open up a new file and literally drag and drop as many photos, one at a time, as you want.  The program automatically matches up each one as you drag it.  You can then re-adjust each if needed.  I found the program did a better job than I did.

* You can then edit each one to adjust for exposure, gamma, saturation, brightness and contrast, and correct the geometry of each, if needed, for rotation, pitch and scale.  You can also select it to crop automatically and lock each stitch into place.

In short, it is great.  I ended up ditching all my previous pano shots made in PS Elements and re-did them in DT, in a fraction of the time, with far better results.

Since then, I've gone on a bender with the pano shots.  Even with my zoom lens that allows for wide-angle shots, I still find that a two-shot pano gives more detail and will allow for a bigger size, should I ever care to print it, than a single wide-angle shot.

So, this Sky Friday features several sky panos.  Locations vary, but most were shot on my deck.  All are two-shot panos.  I should also add that most of these were shot in RAW format, and the program handles that just fine, probably as iPhoto jpeg conversions.

Cumulus congestus afternoon 
August 29, 2010

Stratocumulus sunset
August  30, 2010

Cumulonimbus over Perins Peak
August 25, 2010

Sunset and fading storm
August 25, 2010

Virga over Horse Gulch
August 29, 2010

Altostratus sunset
August 27, 2010

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