Making Panoramas in Tight Spaces 

A blog post written by 360Cities Maestro contributor John Wood.

Click on the panorama thumbnail to enjoy them interactively.

 

Panorama photographers know that unless the scene is distant, the camera must be mounted on a tripod and the lens rotated about the no-parallax point to produce a good panorama.  This is particularly important if objects are in the foreground, otherwise stitching errors will occur.  With careful attention to panorama head setup and depth of field, panoramas can be made with objects ranging from a few centimeters away to infinity: 

Pumpkins At Verrill Farm 09 24 2020 by John Wood

These photographers also magically make the tripod go away, so the camera appears to have been suspended in space.  Rather than looking straight down at the nadir to see the tripod, the camera and tripod are offset a short distance, to make an image of the ground or floor formerly under the tripod. The stitching program PTgui Pro provides a feature called viewpoint correction to handle this.  Since it was not made at the no-parallax point, the image must be stretched, shrunk and masked to fit in the place of the tripod.  However, this only works if the horizontal surface is relatively flat, otherwise distortion and stitching errors become apparent. So, how do you make a panorama when the nadir of the scene is not flat?  In fact, what if the field of view below the camera is complex with objects at variable distance?  The solution is to keep the camera lens at the no-parallax point or as close as possible.  This tutorial will show you how, using an aircraft cockpit as an example.

First the tripod is placed firmly in the pilot’s bucket seat and overlapping images captured 360 degrees around.

Next the camera is tilted straight down, and an image made of the nadir, tripod and all.

Now the goal is to leave the camera in place, but remove the tripod.  Several companies make a system of clamps and flexible arms for use in camera and lighting setup.  The clamps have plastic pads so they can be affixed to priceless museum aircraft without marring surfaces.  The camera tripod screw socket, not utilized by the panorama mount is used to capture the camera in place.

Next the lens ring is carefully removed from the panorama head, and the tripod moved away.

Finally, the tripod is removed, leaving the camera suspended at the no-parallax point and ready for the nadir shot.

 

Note that viewpoint correction is not required when stitching this last shot—it is like any other in the panorama series.  Here we have the finished product:

Another technique helps improve the quality of these panoramas.  An aircraft cockpit with typical overhead lighting can look like a black hole at the bottom.  In this panorama small LED lights were hidden under the pilot’s seat and righthand walkway to illuminate rudder pedals and fill dark shadows:

For aviation enthusiasts, here are a few more cockpits of historic aircraft:

Still more can be found in the Aircraft Cockpits set.

Obviously these techniques can be employed in other cockpits, cars, boats and so on, plus any tight space with a complex nadir.  Next I’m planning to make a panorama in the cockpit of a airport fire truck.  I hope others will put these concepts to work and continue to build the collection of fine panoramas at 360cities.net.


John Wood

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