Archive for January, 2010

We’ve received a very interesting letter from Richard Chesher, one of the most dedicated members. It’s a story about his journey to take a photo of the rare and endangered Cagou, Rhynochetos jubatus, in it’s natural habitat. We’ve asked him if we could share the breathtaking story also with you, our readers, and he agreed.

Richard Chesher:

When Frederique and I set out at dawn from Noumea to take a photo of the rare and endangered Cagou, Rhynochetos jubatus, in it’s natural habitat I really did not expect to succeed. But it would be fun trying. The Cagou only exists in New Caledonia and of the estimated population of 1000 half of them live deep in the protected wilderness and wet forests of the 9,045 hectare Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue, about an hour’s drive from Noumea.

Against all probability we came upon a small family of Cagous close to the largest Kaori tree in New Caledonia – a tree that is over 1000 years old. Cagous, the national bird of New Caledonia, have wings but cannot fly. They are very shy creatures and at first they vanished into the brush, then after we waited quietly for awhile Freddy saw two of them moving slowly through the trees. Freddy waited while I slowly tracked them with camera ready. There was, of course no way to set up a tripod and take a shot so I planned to try and get as close as I could, with the camera as low as possible (right on the ground) and take the image while marking the exact position and height of the lens until Freddy could come up with the pano-head so I could complete the panorama.

I ended up crawling through the forest on my belly while wiggling a finger at one of the birds, trying to emulated a big fat grub (which they eat). I was able to coax the female close enough to get an image with my fisheye lens. She cautiously came to within 1.5 metres when the male rushed over and extended his crest, hissing like an angry cat. She put her head down, turned and ran off. The male glared at me for a moment and then followed her into the bush. I did not see them again, although Freddy and I wandered around the forest for about 3 hours.

Cagou New Caledonia

Cagou New Caledonia (this is a static version of the interactive panorama below)

I had a series of shots by then and the one I used, with the male’s crest feathers extended, was perfect. I kept the camera as exactly in place as I could and Freddy came into the forest with my special ground-level Nodal Ninja (just a 200mm spike attached to the head). I shoved the spike into the soft forest soil, set up the camera, and finished taking the sphere.

Cagou New Caledonia in New Caledonia

You can see where this pair have been scratching at the ground searching for small lizards, grubs, insects, earthworms and snails. Cagous mate for life and can live for more than 20 years. The female lays one egg a year and both the male and the female tend the egg and rear the chick. Young cagous may stay on the parent’s 10 to 30 hectare territory and familys may have a maximum of 6 birds.

There is a beetle under a leaf close to the camera, hiding from the Cagous. Can you find it?

Jiri Kepka, the winner of the 360 Cities Gigapixel Treasure Hunt, has received the well deserved $1000 from us.

After announcing the winner two weeks ago, we’ve exchanged a couple of emails with Jiri. About a week ago we asked him to send us a new photo of himself and to share some of his thoughts about the competition. Last weekend we received both, so here they are. He seems to be enjoying himself, judge yourself 🙂

Jiri Kepka, the winner of the Gigapixel treasure hunt

Jiri Kepka, the winner of the Gigapixel Treasure Hunt

Here’s the letter from Jiri to 360 Cities:

I should thank to one of my friends who told me about this competition. At first when i saw the picture I was like whoa! How can anybody find anything here, it’s so big! But then I found the first thing and couldn’t stop until i got all of the first days clues. I spent like 5 or 6 hours in total, trying to find all 30 clues. I guess the most difficult were #21 – fish food and #22 – hippy Czech flag. I’ve traded one or two answers i couldn’t find for those i allready had and once I’ve even involved my girlfriend and her friend in finding the fish food. I would like to thank all the 360 Cities group for making this competition and wish best of luck to them!

We also received a lot of feedback, ideas and suggestions for the next treasure hunt. Most of them are public in the comments in this blog and we’ll publish the rest as new blog posts (if the authors allow us to).

Yes, there’s going to be a next treasure hunt. Now let us get back to work on it 🙂

John Gore published some fascinating panoramas from Gamalakhe Tintown in Margate, South Africa. From the panorama page,

“This is a typical Tin House after which this area of Gamalakhe township got its name: Tin Town. Originally erected as temporary housing for these displaced people, these tin houses have become permanent residences for over 20 years. This home owner has been fortunate enough to now have a brick house as well, but the old tin structure is still used as a residency.”

There is so much life in this image. It is the antithesis of luxury and yet it has everything someone would need – a bed, a fridge, a stove, a roof. The radio, next to the stove, looks just like the one I have in my kitchen. The fridge also looks very similar. It’s amazing how some types of technology have been completely commoditized.

If I look up, I can almost feel the heat radiating from that metal ceiling….

Tin House in Gamalakhe Tintown in Margate

It’s friday. Let’s celebrate by looking at a few amazing panoramas, shall we?

We’ll start with Milford Sound, New Zealand, by Martin Broomfield:

Milford Sound, New Zealand in New Zealand

Then, a view from the stage of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, by Jann Lipka:

Konserhuset Stage View in Sweden

A view from the top, by Hervé Douris:

At the Three Salazes in Reunion

Finally, a view from Space! by Marc Gruber:

Out in Space on 360 Cities

Lots of people have been asking: how was this gigapixel panorama created?

prague 18 gigapixels - zoomed out

I promised to answer everyone’s questions, so here we go…

#1 by Rami Saarikorpi on December 18, 2009 – 10:33 am
What kind of robotic device did you use?
I have Gigapan, but I can not get my Mark II + 300mm to it

I used a robotic device made by my friend Traugott. It allows the use of larger cameras and lenses. It was very helpful and saved a lot of headaches. I have made gigapixel images without this device, and while it worked – – it was much more difficult to shoot, and there were also issues in the stitching that needed to be resolved. Overall, having a robot move the camera for you really makes the process more efficient.

#2 by Waph on December 18, 2009 – 10:48 am
Did you try other stitching software like the Gigapan and gigapixel plug-in of Autopano Giga? How long did the stitching period last?

I have tried many image stitching programs, yes. The gigapan software allows a degree of automation that is impressive. Autopano Giga is also very powerful. You neglected to mention Hugin, which is a free and open-source panorama stitcher; while the usability takes some getting used to, it is very powerful. I prefer PTGui because of the degree of control it allows in the stitching and blending of the panorama. It is an extremely well-made program. It also allows the possibility of “totally automatic” stitching, and when your images are created with this in mind, it can do perfect job.

The stitching period lasted about 3 days. However it was necessary to do it more than once 🙂 I was using a 4-year old machine; if I was using an up-to-date workstation, it might take half the time. It’s possible that in one or two years, the same image might take a fraction of the time to stitch – many innovations are happening in this little corner of technology!

#5 by Maksim on December 18, 2009 – 5:24 pm
Did they remove the windows for you in the observation deck? Or which observation deck did you use?

I was situated above the observation deck, in open air. Those windows in the observation deck are unfortunate – a double layer of dirty windows doesn’t really allow a very nice photo to be taken!

#7 by Clint on December 18, 2009 – 10:32 pm
Amazon EC2 might be a good way to render the Panorama.

Sure, but you’d have to upload the images to render it. And then download it again if you want to open it in photoshop. If I lived in Korea, this might be feasible. However your idea certainly has merit, 360 Cities uses EC2 to convert our panoramas into different formats. It is very economical and convenient.

prague 18 gigapixels - zoomed in

#6 by Tom on December 18, 2009 – 6:33 pm
A few questions. First, where in that observation tower was there a location with an unobstructed 360 degree view? And if there was none, what method(s) did you use to get around various obstructions?
Also, how long did it take to shoot the entire sequence? Was there a problem with shadows moving from one shot to the next?

This panorama was actually shot from 3 different balconies. It is possible to get to the top of the antenna, but this is much farther up, and Prague does not really have any tall buildings anyway, so the view isn’t necessarily better up there.

I was up in the tower for 5 hours. I shot more than one panorama at different resolutions / focal lengths. The first one I made was using a 45mm lens. Only after I had finished that one, I decided to try using the 200mm lens over a few more hours. This second one took more than 3 hours to shoot from beginning to end. I also had some issues with the equipment – the camera was not firing every shot as it was supposed to, and I had to shoot the entire section again from the beginning. Towards the end, my portable hard disk was getting very full. At the very end of the shooting, the battery in the robot finally died – with four shots to spare. So, it was only with a little bit of luck that everything worked ok.

Shadows were not really a problem. If there was much less in the image – say, if it was a panorama of 2 trees in the sunshine with their shadows going across the ground – in that case, shadows would be a problem if there is much time passing between shots. The sun doesn’t move as slowly as you think.

#8 by conrick on December 19, 2009 – 4:43 am
Did you atacched the camera to a computer or to an external drive?

No, the camera was taking photos directly to its memory card. It wasn’t connected to a computer or hard disk.

#13 by HErnestM on December 21, 2009 – 4:49 am
A minor point compared to some of the others, but the first thing that came to mind was why was it shot with a zoom instead of a fixed focus 200mm 1.8 or 2.8? On top of that the zoom was extended out to the maximum 200mm. Typically a lens has the most optical aberrations at the extremes (70mm and 200mm in this case). Granted the lens was of decent quality I’m sure, but unless I have to, I try and back off a little from a maximum zoom to get a clearer image. Just curious about the decision to use the zoom.

It was necessary to use the best type of lens possible – the one that is in my possession 😉 That’s the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 which is a wonderful lens. Sure there are better ones out there.

Does the tiling process crop out the edges to help with the image quality?

Yes, because the images that were shot overlap by about 25%, the stitching process  ends up using only the central portion of each image. So if you are a stickler for fidelity, you can rest easy knowing that the less-sharp edges of the image do not appear in the final stitched panorama.

#26 by frank noon on January 11, 2010 – 6:50 pm
You must have a lot more patience than me to create this.

Actually, I’m not sure. I don’t know how someone as impatient as myself ever decided to do stuff like this. Life is very surprising 😉

I hope I have answered everyone’s questions. If you have more questions, please leave a comment, and I will answer them as they come.

We have only one North Pole on this planet of ours. Here it is.

North Pole on 360 Cities

It doesn’t look very different from some park in the middle of Prague since the mountain of snow got dumped on us this week. But I wouldn’t want to walk home from here. This image is in fact one of the great uses of panoramic imagery: I will never go here, so I’m happy to see it in the next best way….

Thanks Sasan T. Farsani for this great image!

Jiří Kepka is the winner of the 360 Cities Gigapixel Treasure Hunt. Congratulations, Jiří!
Jiří got 29 out of 30 questions correct. He was the first to do so.

For those of you who missed it, we released the world’s largest 360 panorama and gave 30 clues which people had to find, and send to us. The first person to send us the highest number of correct answers wins $1000.

You can see the first set, the second set, and the third set of answers, if you missed them.

I wish that we could give out more prizes, but we can’t – $1000 is a lot, and I’m happy that somebody won. I am surprised that no one got all 30 answers right, though!

Was the competition perfect? Certainly not. But considering the number and quality of the answers submitted, I think it was just about the right level of difficulty, considering the prize.

When will be the next competition? We’re not sure yet. But there will be 🙂

What was your opinion of the competition overall? What went well, and what you change if you were the boss?

The Gigapixel Treasure Hunt is now finished. For those of you who missed it, we released the world’s largest 360 panorama and gave 30 clues which people had to find, and send to us. The first person to send us the highest number of correct answers wins $1000.

Here is the third and final set of clues, revealed. You can see the first set and the second set if you missed them.

21. Where you go when you need fish food
You go to a pet shop, or a pet supply shop. Google Translator sort of works for this – if you translate “pet supples” from English to Czech, you get “chovatelske”. However you can’t translate “pet shop” or “pet supply shop” into anything meaningful for some reason. Anyway, here it is:

22. Hippy czech flag
This turned out to be the single toughest clue in the whole treasure hunt. Many, many people sent in a picture of a normal Czech flag, flapping in the wind. That was in fact the original idea for this clue, until my trickster colleague, Gerardo, proposed something harder. After all, there are lots of normal flags around, but only one with a flower on it!

23. Helicopter
Most people sent in this one, which I believe is the Czech Military airport in Kbely.

This answer was my favorite. I am equal parts shocked and impressed that someone actually found this:

24 Where you can have a beer with Stelcer

A lot of people had trouble with this one. Here is the answer. The name literally means “At Stelcer’s”.

This one really was hard, because the name of the pub is “U Stelceru” which is an example of declension. The non-declined version of the word (without the ‘u’ on the end) doesn’t lend itself well to search engine algorithms.
25. A raven (or a type of crow anyway)
Again, there were a few correct answers here.

26. Pizza = mc squared
Pizza Einstein. What else?

27 W‪here God can read the time from his chair in heaven‬
Yes, this one was hard. But we did publish a hint about it. The church is the closest church to the TV Tower, but the clock is not quite visible. However, a few searches in Google Images would show you this church.

28. Vineyard
You can see the church in some of the results if you search for “Prague vineyard“.

29. This building
The giveway is the giant lettered sign on the top of the building:

30. This place
I hid the real location of this image during the contest. If you check it now, it’s placed correctly.
In case you’re curious, this is the Clinic for Acute Psychiatric Disorders. If you lost the contest, we hope you won’t have to go here. But at least you know where it is now 🙂

And the winner is….

The Gigapixel Treasure Hunt is now finished. For those of you who missed it, we released the world’s largest 360 panorama and gave 30 clues which people had to find, and send to us. The first person to send us the highest number of correct answers wins $1000.

Here is the second set of clues, revealed. You can see the first set, if you missed it.

11. “Pat & Mat” at work, up there
Wow! There were at least SIX “Pat & Mat” figures in the Gigapixel image! Here is one of them:
For those who don’t know, or don’t want to search google for “pat and mat“, they are a couple of characters on children’s TV – adorable guys who build stuff.

12. A driving range
The nearest driving range to the TV Tower (that I know of anyway) is located on Libeňský ostrov (Libensky Island) over in the north.

13. A water tower being beautified
Water towers in Central Europe don’t look like their USA counterparts. Here, they’re fancy, full of rooms, and overall very neat. I would love to live in one of these:

14. A “gentleman’s nightclub”
I wanted to be tactful as we try to be family-friendly. Yes I was talking about a brothel. They seem to be somewhat semi-legal in Prague so it’s not too hard to guess.

15. A clock that’s wrong
This one was not as tricky as some people suggested. The picture was NOT taken between 11am and 3pm as I suggested – I actually finished more like 4:45pm. I suggested in one of my hints that the photo was taken in October, meaning the time on certain clocks would have to be wrong, because it would already be dark outside:

16. A sphere (no, NOT the spherical image itself)
Somebody did right-click on the panorama and select “little planet”, and made a screenshot. Sorry! Here is the sphere:

17. A chairlift
There is a chairlift at Prague Zoo. This might be discovered by a web or image search.

18. A bulls-eye and cross-hairs

19. A female pink face on a window
There were a few of these. Here is one example:

20. A square and a triangle next to each other (in a field)
This one required some searching. Some people mistook the “field” part of the clue. Others mistook “square” for “rectangle”. This was one answer provided by a few people.

While it’s a good try, after speaking to a few other people about it to get some objective opinions, this is NOT a correct answer:

Here is the correct answer:

So, that’s the second set of answers.

We’ll give the third set of answers very soon, and then we’ll announce the winner!

The Gigapixel Treasure Hunt is now finished. For those of you who missed it, we released the world’s largest 360 panorama and gave 30 clues which people had to find, and send to us. The first person to send us the highest number of correct answers wins $1000.

Here are all the clues again, in case you want to play, just for fun:

1. blue hair
2. a heated floor under construction
3. somebody in their underwear
4. south end of the suicide bridge
5. lone pitbull
6. a bagel (or maybe it’s a donut)
7. exterior nudity
8. number 11 and 12, next to each other
9. a bus from a town between the rivers Krka and Kolpa
10. Sgraffito
11. “Pat & Mat” at work, up there
12. A driving range
13. A water tower being beautified
14. A “gentleman’s nightclub”
15. A clock that’s wrong
16. A sphere (no, NOT the spherical image itself)
17. A chairlift
18. A bulls-eye and cross-hairs
19. A female pink face on a window
20. A square and a triangle next to each other (in a field)
21. Where you go when you need fish food
22. Hippy czech flag
23. Helicopter
24 Where you can have a beer with Stelcer
25. A raven (or a type of crow anyway)
26. Pizza = mc squared
27 W‪here God can read the time from his chair in heaven‬
28. Vineyard
29. This building
30. This place

If you want to give it a try, click on the image below. If you want to see the answers, keep scrolling down!

prague 18 gigapixels - zoomed out

Before we announce the winner, we’ll show you all the answers. Today we’ll show you the first ten answers. These were the easiest. Nearly everyone who sent in answers got these.

1. Blue hair

This was one of the first things I saw in the image when I zoomed in and looked around. It’s pretty hard to miss.

2. A heated floor under construction
The only reason I knew what a heated floor under construction looks like is because a friend of mine was renovating the flat he bought, and he shot a nice panorama of his own heated floor under construction. A heated floor is made from a kind of hose that snakes around the whole floor.

3. Somebody in their underwear

4. South end of the suicide bridge

The official name of the suicide bridge is Nuselský most. For obvious reasons.

5. Lone pitbull

This, for the record, is NOT a pitbull. More than one person sent in this clue. Shame on you 😉

Here is a lone pitbull. You can see the swagger and the rippling psychotic pitbull mind in a frenzy. Well, on second thought, I could imagine that maybe it’s not a pitbull. But it’s a lot more of a pitbull than the one above.

6. A bagel (or maybe it’s a donut)
Upon further examination, I’m pretty sure it’s a donut:

7. Exterior nudity
It turns out that there were no fully naked people on display in this photo. There were however quite a few nude statues, relief sculptures, and painted facades. Here is one example:

8. Number 11 and 12, next to each other
Here they are, enjoy a game of football.

9. A bus from a town between the rivers Krka and Kolpa
While this might sound tricky, Google is your friend! Meanwhile, there is one bus that’s quite close to the TV Tower…

10. Sgraffito
Sgraffito is a design scratched into a facade. There is a lot of sgraffito in Prague. Here is one example:

That’s all for today. We’ll post the second set of answers tomorrow!