Friday, October 31, 2008

A couple of Freebies

Bald Rock Panorama

This panorama was taken from the Bald Rock overlook on US Highway 276. It is comprised of three overlapping images taken with the wide-angle lens. I then used the new Microsoft Image Composite Editor to stitch them together into one image. It is a very simple utility to use. There are a handful of different algorithms you can choose from depending on if you took the images by rotating in one spot as with a tripod, or if you panned side-to-side as if you were moving in a vehicle. You can also crop the image as necessary. All in all I was quite impressed with it. A couple of cons that I noticed is that it didn't support RAW file types so you have to convert to TIFF or JPEG prior to stitching them together. Plus, it doesn't support the Mac OS. Still it is free, easy to use, and gives good results. Just a note, Microsoft Research is the same group that made Photosynth. Also, check out their Worldwide Telescope project.

Another free application that I recently found is Picturenaut. It is used to create High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. HDR images are created by taking several photographs of the same scene with each photograph being exposed differently. You then use a special application to blend them together to produce an image with greater dynamic range than can be captured with just one photograph. HDR photography has really started to pick up steam in the past couple of years and there are several mature applications that are commonly used for it. However, the choices available for those of use wanting to try HDR imagery without purchasing expensive software were quite few. Picturenaut is one such application. I have just started playing around with it and don't have any final, presentable images yet. However, so far it does most everything that I want for now. It is an open-source application with a small community growing around it. I hope to have some presentable images processed with it in a week or two.

I found out about Picturenaut as it was included on a CD in a book that I am currently reading. The HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch is a fairly technical book that delves into imaging technologies in general and HDR techniques and uses in video, still photography and computer graphics/animation. While it does get into technical details in some chapters, the reader never really feels bogged down by them. Well, at least I didn't, but that might just be my science background coming out. If you want to have a better understanding of the theories as well as general applications of HDR imaging, then I do recommend the book. As mentioned a CD is included that contains the Picturenaut HDR application for Windows operating systems, an HDR application for MACs, and sample images you can practice with along with the reading.

Tonight is Halloween. Stay safe if you are going out.

Keep Shooting

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