Archive for August, 2011

Search for Editors’ Picks
You can now search for Editors’ Picks and see the list of all of the very best 360Cities panoramas in one place. This allows linking to awesome content of certain types (e.g. underwater panoramas) or by a particular author. Try to invent your own searches for interesting content!

Your profile appears as the first result in a search for your name
When you now search for somebody’s name on 360Cities, we will show a link to their profile page as the first result, followed by panoramas by that photographer.

New language selector in footer
When you first visit 360Cities we select the default language for you based on your browser/OS settings. Up until now it was cumbersome to switch to a different language. Now you can switch to a new language using the language bar.

News on the homepage 

We’ve slightly changed the homepage to add snippets pointing visitors to interesting panoramas and areas of the site, including Editors’ Picks, various gigapixel panoramas, 360Cities’ World Map and the Recent Activity page.


Panoramic photo by Andrea Carlin | lanube360.
Click the image to open the interactive version.

Aerial view of Santiago. You can see some attractions in the city including: Mapocho River Cerro San Cristobal, Andes Mountains, financial district, and so on.

This is Part 2 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series by Richard Chesher. Read Part 1. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

Richard Chesher

Color bias, limited visibility, and low ambient light

Sea water, even when it is tropical clear, is an unforgiving light filter. By the time you are 4 meters deep the ambient light is greatly diminished and most of the red wavelengths are gone. Electronic Flash units or movie floods bring out the wonderful colors of the underwater world – but only very close to the camera. The artificial light is attenuated both on the way to the subject and on the way back so you’ll be lucky if you get nice colors more than two meters from the camera. This is not very useful for a sphere image because the immediate foreground would be beautiful the rest of the sphere would be dark and dismal. Using a pair of big strobes raises additional issues of positioning and rotating the whole rig. So as far as lighting goes I only use ambient light and limit my sphere taking to less than 4 meters – generally less than 3 metres.

When you are in the water your brain corrects for the universal blue cast and colors look wonderful – but your unprocessed images look blue and washed out. The solution is to do your photography in less than 4 meters, shoot in RAW format and correct the images during post processing.

I set the white balance to “shade” or “cloudy” rather than auto-white as this gives a more consistent color balance to start with. Having something white in one of the images helps calibrate the white balance in post processing .

I set the camera on AV and depending on the time of day, water clarity and depth I set the ISO between 200 to 600. The object is to keep the shutter speed above 1/100 sec in the darkest part of the panorama with an F stop between f11 and f16.  This can result in individual frames that are darker or lighter than the others but I adjust them to the same relative values during post processing. My stitching program - AutoPano Giga - does a good job of blending it all together.

Focus is a problem underwater. The low contrast – or complete lack of contrast when the camera is pointing towards deeper water – may prevent the camera from focusing – and triggering. My solution is to either shoot a scene where I am sure there is something for the camera to focus on in every direction or to auto-focus the camera on the closest prime object and then set it on manual focus to shoot the sphere. Despite the excellent depth of focus of the fisheye lens, focus is still a problem when the sphere includes something very close to the camera as well as subjects several meters from the camera. If I want to photograph an object very close to the camera I generally make sure there is something for the camera to focus on in every direction and leave it on auto. Autofocus is necessary when, for example, something swims very close to the camera during an automatic sequence. If I am going to leave the lens on autofocus I check to be sure it is actually taking a photo in the most difficult direction. Originally I used my Canon 7D in the 19 point AF mode but like many 7Ds mine developed a focus error in this mode. I found a fix for this but even so, the AF point expansion mode gets consistently sharper focus – providing there is something to focus on.

This is Part 2 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series. Read Part 1. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!


360° panorama by David Rowley.
Click the image to open the interactive version.

In image taken from the top of Thring Rock, a landmark which can be seen while travelling on the Canning Stock Route

Panoramic photo by Arroz Marisco.
Click the image to open the interactive version.

Without doubt this modest ho(s)tel boasts one of the best view in the world – situated above the now defunct Shyangboche airstrip which once was used to seeing air traffic from Kathmandu it commands a panoramic view of the confluence of three valleys below as well as the neighbouring mountains that make up some of the most famous landmarks in the Himalayas – from the right to left are : Kongde(6187m), Thamserku(6623m), Kangtega(6782m), Ama Dablam(6814m) and Nuptse(7861m) respectively.

The golden comics rule of left-to-right reading of bubbles is difficult to apply on 360° panoramas. Therefore you might want to start reading here. Panorama taken during a 360° panorama workshop in Dubai by rosspisvena.


This is a guest blog post by Richard Chesher, one of the most interesting 360Cities photographers, and a friend of the 360Cities team. Richard has been an active professional photographer for more than 50 years and has been published in National Geographic Magazine, Sports Illustrated, the Encyclopedia Britannica and hundreds of books and magazines, and is an expert in underwater panoramic photography.

1) Richard Chesher with his underwater camera housing

Taking underwater sphere images (360° panoramas – editor’s comment) differs from taking land or aerial sphere images in four ways:

1. Protecting the camera in a watertight housing.
2. Colour bias, limited visibility and low ambient light levels.
3. Issues related to being underwater including breathing, cold, currents, delicate or dangerous creatures to worry about.
4. Keeping the camera in a stable position relative to the subject while rotating through 360 degrees.

Selecting and protecting the Camera

You need a fisheye lens and your choice of camera/lens combination is somewhat controlled by available underwater housings.

The best option is to use a SLR with a full frame sensor – like the Canon 5D with a 10 to 15-mm fisheye lens. But that’s an expensive option for such a risky business. I use a Canon 7D with a Sigma 8-mm lens in an Ikelite Housing with an 8 inch dome and port extension. Photo 1 shows my Canon 7D and Sigma 8-mm lens in an Ikelite Housing with an Ikelite – #5510.45 8″ dome assembly and an Ikelite – #5510.10 8″ port extension. These model numbers would be different depending on your camera and lens.

2) Richard Chesher taking a 360° underwater panorama

There is a wide selection of other housings for Canon and other cameras – whatever you get, make sure you have a fisheye lens that gives you a full 180 degree view and a large diameter dome port (8″) to minimize distortion and maintain your full wide angle view. I’ve used Ikelite housings for 30 years and have only drowned one camera (my own fault) so I have no hesitation recommending Ikelite for your housing. I can also recommend buying it through davidhaas (at) David is an Ikelite dealer and lives near the Ikelite factory. He offers excellent prices but the best part is that David is a well known professional underwater photographer himself and can be a real help with advice and getting spares – especially if you don’t live in the USA.

This gear is big and heavy and expensive so you might be thinking of trying to get something smaller and cheaper. Last year I searched for a more compact solution and tried a Canon S95 in an Ikelite housing with a wide angle “fisheye” adaptor. After a great deal of online research and discussions with other photographers I bought the Dyron Fisheye Adaptor for the S95. The problem with the other adaptors was poor image quality on the edges – both distortion and focus issues. If you zoomed in a bit you got better results but then you didn’t have enough of a wide angle to do a sphere without doing two or more rotations. After a series of trials on the reef I finally had to admit the Dyron fisheye adapter was completely useless for doing sphere images. The photos had vignetting and chromatic aberration for about ¼ of the distance in from the edge – only about 50% of the centre part of the image was OK and even that wasn’t very good. The S95 is, however, a nice little camera and I use it (with no adaptor) to take close-ups and small scenics while the SLR is busy in robot mode. For now I think we are stuck with the big expensive equipment.

This is Part 1 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

These images are interactive 360° panoramas / sphere images – click to open:

This is Part 1 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

Click to open the interactive version.

360° panorama by Richard Chesher.

Richard Chesher:

Every year, in July, the humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae swim from Antarctic waters to New Caledonia. In September they swim south again. Like many visitors to New Caledonia, the whales come here to enjoy the warm springtime-like weather and to cavort in the world’s largest lagoon. Like many cavorting visitors, the main recreation is the mating game. That’s what is happening in this sphere image. Normally these big creatures swim alone or in small groups of two, sometimes 3 whales. But during the mating games other males come around and start showing off.

Freddy and I were sailing from Noumea to Ilot Mato yesterday. Very light winds, blue skies and calm seas – all very relaxing – until I heard a canon go off. Or at least that’s what I thought it was. It turned out to be a whale close behind us smaking his gigantic caudal fin on the sea surface. We were sailing very slowly, about 2 knots, and the whales were coming up behind us, heading in exactly the same direction. One of them – a male – kept smacking the surface of the sea. Two others were swimming side by side – one of them was longer than the Moira, our 14 metre sailboat, and probably weighing twice as much. The other was much smaller – I think it was a young one, perhaps only a year old. The surface-slapping male was coming very close to the pair and then moving off. Two other whales were nearby. There was also some interesting rolling going on with long pectoral fins swishing into the glittering sunlight and big whale bodies splashing against each other. [continued...]

Read the whole story on the panorama page (you will have to scroll down the page to see the story).

The images here are all 360º Panoramas. Click to open them.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN 360º PANORAMA. Photographed by Harbert F. Austin Jr. from the roof of the Kodo elementary School October, 1945. Location: Nekoya-cho. Distance from hypocenter: approx. 760m. The start of restoration work by the citizens in the aftermath of the bomb can be observed as people cross bridges, ride bicycles, and walk about.

One day last year, a friend of mine stumbled across one of these images. Knowing that I am always interested in seeing historical 360º photos, he sent me the link. Panoramic photography has existed for more than a century, but I had not seen these before.  Looking at these images, turning them around in a circle, is the strongest reminder I have had in a very long time of the real power of photography. The image above, even more so than all the other ones, is one of the most heartbreaking images I have ever seen.

I contacted the man running the site where the image was located. His name is Steven Starr, and he teaches at the University of Missouri. His website,, is a resource for anyone who is interested in the danger of existing nuclear arsenals currently held in the world.

Steven directed me to Mari Shimomura of the Hiroshima Peace Museum. I explained to Ms. Shimomura of my desire to publicize these images more widely, and she was kind enough to send me high-resolution scans of photos comprising five different 360º panoramas shot about 6 months after Hiroshima was destroyed. The images were shot by three different American photographers, and one Japanese photographer.

The Japanese photographer, Shigeo Hayashi, said this:

On October 1, 1945, I stood at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and made a slow revolution. In that instant I had a difficulty grasping that this city had been felled by a single explosion. Nothing in my experience had prepared me to conceive of that magnitude of destructive force.

Working as an army engineer for three years, I had dealt with explosive materials on a daily basis, and I thought I knew their power. Standing there, I simply could not accept at an emotional level that a single bomb had done all this.

(taken from Shigeo Hayashi’s “Approaching Ground Zero” in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the Atomic Bombings as Seen through Photographs and Artwork, Nihontosho Center.)

The panorama below was shot from a watchtower of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commerce Association. The building you see in this image still stands today:

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN 360º PANORAMA. Photographed by Shigeo Hayashi from a watchtower of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commerce Association, October 5, 1945. Location: Moto-machi. Distance from hypocenter: approx. 260m.

(You can also see more recent photos of the above place on Google Maps.)


CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN 360º PANORAMA. Photographed by Shigeo Hayashi from the roof of new Chugoku Shimbun building.

The following two images were taken by American photographers (one of them is anonymous)

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN 360º PANORAMA. Photographed by H. J. Peterson in November 1945 from the roof of the Fukuya Department Store. Distance from hypocenter: approx. 710m.


Here is Ground Zero (the Hypocenter)

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN 360º PANORAMA. Ground Zero. Photographed by US Army. from the hypocenter area - Shima Hospital October, 1945


Special thanks to the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

Special thanks to Steven Starr /

Panoramic photo by Night Dubrovnik.
Click the image to open the interactive version.