Archive for September, 2011

This is Part 4 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series by Richard Chesher. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The last installment will be published next Friday, so watch this blog!

Richard Chesher taking an underwater 360° panorama

Keeping the camera stable relative to the sphere center

Just as on land you need to rotate the camera around the nodal point of the lens and keep it level. The problem is that the camera and the camera case is big and subject to movement by wave action and currents. There is no “nodal ninja” for your underwater work and a tripod can be a hassle when swimming to and from a photo location and getting in and out of a dinghy. Also if you want to use a tripod solid enough to hold your camera steady you need to put heavy weights on the end of each leg to keep it in place. I’ve tried this and quickly decided to do it another way.

There are three “levels” of sphere placement – very close to the bottom (less than half a metre) – near the bottom (about a metre off the bottom) and midwater (more than a metre from the bottom).

Image 1 – Richard Chesher holding his underwater camera housing

I made a bracket for my Ikelite housing out of aluminium. The ends are bent as shown in images above so the attachment holes are located above and below the nodal point for the lens. The upper attachment is next to the shutter release lever so I can hold the upper attachment and trigger the camera manually.

For spheres very close to the bottom or near the bottom I use a monopod – a length of 25-mm wide aluminium – attached to the lower camera bracket with a bolt and wing-nut. I use a 200-mm length for very low level spheres and a folding length 500-mm long for images 500-mm to one metre from the bottom (see image 1). Here is a sphere image taken with the monopod at half a meter from the bottom:

When shooting, I am positioned above and behind the camera rig holding the upper bracket. I turn myself and the camera rig in a 360 circle while taking as many shots as possible (usually 19 to 20) while watching the monopod to be sure it stays relatively perpendicular to the bottom. Before I begin, I take a vertical down shot and a vertical up shot. When I take the up shot I need to hold my breath long enough so the surface is not disturbed and there are no bubbles in the scene.

For mid-water spheres I use a surface float with a string to a small folding anchor.

The float is a swimming pool “noodle”. A surveyor’s chalk line spool with the chalk line replaced with fishing line is attached to one end of the float (see photo above). I hook one fluke of the small folding anchor under a dead coral rock and then roll in the line until the float is about half submerged. Surface waves do not disturb the float because it is in a vertical position. I then swim down and attach the camera at the preferred location by simply looping the fishing line around the bottom and top bracket. Then I position myself behind and above the camera and swim slowly in a circle taking about 20 images per 360 degrees and holding the camera so it stays level and so the line stays vertical (see the photo at the beginning of this blog post). Finally, I carefully note the location of the camera relative to some bottom feature and then remove the camera, roll up the line and give the float to Freddy who swims it out of view while I dive down again to take the down and the up photo.

Both the monopod and the noodle technique can be difficult where there is a current but it still works if you are careful and can compensate for it. Surface waves don’t make much difference as long as they are not too big or causing horizontal surge at your location.

The major problem of both techniques is the monstrous, alien, killer ape (me) smack in the center of the sphere. Except in special reserves where the fish are happy to swim with tourists – like the photo at the Amedee Marine Reserve image above – reef creatures prefer to stay as far away as possible from monstrous alien killers. Even where the fish are not chased, speared or netted, schools of fish are difficult to get close to and refuse to stay around while I set up the camera rig and take the sphere image. So I replaced the monster with a robot (mentioned in the last part of this tutorial series). The robot takes the sphere photos while Freddy and I swim elsewhere.

This is Part 4 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series by Richard Chesher. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

This is a guest post by Mark Fink. 360° panoramas in this article were created by the author.

The images in this article are interactive 360° panoramas (VR – virtual reality images). Click to open.

Without sounding too wistful, it really was a warm summer day back on June 17th of 2000. I had traveled into New York City to spend the day shooting virtual reality (VR) images and was particularly pleased since not only was it sunny, but it was also quite clear. VR images are unique in that they allow you to interact with an image by clicking and dragging on it. This way, you get to explore the scene as if you were standing there.

“Rather than dwell on the sadness and the loss that we all experienced 15 months later, I choose to remember a bright, sunny day, a gentle breeze, and a moment to stand on the top of a giant and gaze far into the distance.”

I had never been to the World Trade Center before and decided this would be a perfect day to go up to the top and see the view. On the way up in the elevator, I saw a sign stating no tripods allowed. Uh oh… When shooting VR images, a tripod makes a world of difference, holding the camera and lens in just the right spot so that the images line up to each other.

Now, normally, I’m a very law abiding guy, but this time I figured forgiveness might be easier to get than permission. I understood why they didn’t want tripods; they didn’t want people tripping on them. So, I had to make sure I didn’t let that happen.

“Standing at the base of the twin towers reinforced my feeling of being an ant.”

As I stepped out onto the roof of the south tower, I was amazed at the view, especially looking over to the north tower that rose up to the same level like some twin sibling dwarfing all the other kids on the playground. I felt like an ant standing on the top of the head of a giant.

With the clear skies and gentle breeze, I could see for miles; Brooklyn off to the right, New Jersey to the left, and mid-town straight ahead. It was truly spectacular.

Fortunately, it wasn’t crowded, and I was able to move around without bumping into people. Realizing that at any moment, I could get stopped for wandering around with a tripod, it was time to starting taking pictures as quickly and discreetly as possible. I set the exposure on the camera, placed the tripod, took the pictures, picked up the tripod and moved on to the next spot. In all, I took three sets of images from three spots from the top, then made a quick and graceful exit back inside and down the elevator. Once I was back on ground level, I went to the courtyard area and took two more sets of images, one by a sculpture and another close to the pool that held the globe sculpture. Standing at the base of the twin towers reinforced my feeling of being an ant.

Looking back, I wish I had spent more time enjoying the experience of actually being there, but at least I do have these images that let me re-live that experience. Rather than dwell on the sadness and the loss that we all experienced 15 months later, I choose to remember a bright, sunny day, a gentle breeze, and a moment to stand on the top of a giant and gaze far into the distance.

Who is Karl? Karl is a photographer with 360Cities. He once said: “I didn’t know I could earn money from the ads that are shown on my panoramas!” Karl then upgraded to a PRO account. Then he said: “Nice income! I wish I had known this earlier!”

Don’t make the same mistake that Karl did! Become a PRO and be like Willy, who is making more than a 100 EUR (~$144) using his PRO account each month!

How much can I make with my own panoramas?
It depends. Based on the data we’ve got available from a non-representative sample of our PRO members, you could be making tens or hundreds of dollars or euros per year.

What exactly do I need to do to start earning ad revenue with my panoramas?
1. Upgrade to PRO
2. Sign up for AdSense
3. Enter your Adsense publisher ID in your account settings
4. Sit back and relax while we start showing ads on your panoramas and you start getting all the revenue.

Frequently asked question: I’m already using the 100% ad revenue program for PRO photographers. How can I increase my ad revenue?
When talking about online advertising there are no sure rules, but some guidelines may help you increase the ad revenue that your panoramas generate in 360Cities:
– Upload more panoramas
– Improve your titles and descriptions (provide enough relevant text to improve the ranking of the panorama in search engines and to get better targeted ads)
– Use good tags (ensures your panoramas will be seen)
– Make sure your panoramas are interesting to look at (and to share…)
– Upload panoramas from unique locations where nobody has taken a panorama before
– Be featured in media, blogs, etc.

On August 24th, 2011, a Soyuz rocket with the Progress M-12M spaceship started its journey to the International Space Station. Unfortunately, due to engine failure, it never reached orbit and crashed in Siberia.

360° panorama by Andrew Bodrov.
Click the image to open the interactive version.

Click the image to open the 360 panorama.

(by Vasilis Triantafyllou)

This is Part 3 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series by Richard Chesher. Read Part 1 and Part 2. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

Issues related to being underwater

The first and foremost problem of taking sphere images underwater is finding the correct location to center the sphere. This isn’t much different from selecting the center of a sphere on land other than you can’t see a prospective location from more than a few meters away if you are underwater and need to be able to guess at possible locations from aerial photographs or from the surface. The only real solution to this is to get really familiar with an area by exploration and have the camera rig ready to go in the boat when you find what you are looking for.

Your chances of arriving at an unknown destination, leaping in the water and shooting a spectacular sphere image are pretty slim. Local dive guides can suggest great “dive spots” but these may or may not be suitable for a sphere image. For example, dive operators like “drift dives” and “drop-offs” and almost always require swimming with a group that will vanish before you can get your sphere done. So you need to tell the guide you are looking for a dive spot where there is something visible in all directions and preferably not over 4 meters deep; a place where the sea life is abundant and colorful. Tell the guide you need a location where there is not much wave action or current.

The next problem is accessibility to the location. You need to be in a reasonably protected location. Taking a sphere image is difficult if there are significant waves or currents since you and the camera will be moving all over the place – especially in shallow water. You also need to be at the location on a sunny day. Since the wind direction and strength and cloud cover changes from day to day any one location might – or might not – be accessible when you can be there. So if you plan to take sphere images the best location is one you have been to before and can access easily over at least a week in the hope of having at least one day of nice weather.

You also have to be comfortable with the normal difficulties, dangers and pitfalls of diving or snorkelling so you can concentrate on your photography. You are not going to have much luck with a foggy mask half filled with water or fighting to submerge because you don’t have enough weights or inhaling seawater with every other breath. In short, sphere imaging underwater requires that you are completely at home in the sea. It also requires that you have a diving partner that shares this facility. Another consideration is that your diving buddy has to pay attention and when you start taking a sphere he or she has to either get out of the scene or stay in one place. You will be concentrating on the camera and won’t be able to keep an eye on what your dive partner is up to.

This is Part 3 of the 360° underwater panorama tutorial series by Richard Chesher. Read Part 1 and Part 2. A new installment will be published every Friday, so watch this blog!

Igor Adamec has created a set of 360° panoramas along a mountain trail in Croatia, which virtually takes Google’s StreetView to the mountains! We’re excited to have these panoramas on 360Cities and to share them with you – Welcome to the Premužić’s mountain trail hike!

Premužić’s mountain trail is a hiking trail that leads through the peak areas of Northern and Middle Velebit. The trail is 57km long, and the first 16km of it passes through Northern Velebit. The trail was built in just four years, between 1930 – 1933, and it was named after a forestry engineer called Ante Premužić (1889-1979), who had designed it, organized and participated in the building of the trail. It’s designed in a way that there are no major climbs, almost all the time stretching along at about 1600 m above sea level, and difference in elevation between the highest and lowest points throughout entire length of the trail is only 200 meters. The average gradient is 10%, the highest is 20% and the average track width is 1.2m.

To see all 16 panoramas in the trail, search for Premužić’s mountain trail on 360Cities.