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In June I visited sunny Stockholm for the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) conference, a scientific meeting on the subjects of bioinformatics and computational biology that has been held annually since 1993, and has grown to the largest and most prestigious meetings in these fields. The conference and special interest groups went on for a week so I had quite a bit of free time to shoot some little planets. About 10 minutes walk from my hotel was this church which I think is called the Church of Riddarholmen – seems to be a pretty good match with this model that someone has created – which would make it one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. I was a bit optimistic shooting this as stitching a nadir composed of cobblestones is usually a bit of a nightmare. I got lucky this time though and Hugin stitched it perfectly first time.

church_topaz

Close by is an area know as Gamla stan which means ‘Old City’. Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen and is home to Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum and Sweden’s baroque Royal Palace. Here are two of my partners in crime for the trip, Daniel and Tracey, who assisted me in conducting a thorough analysis of Stockholm’s nightlife.

gamblastan_topaz

One of the conference receptions was held in Stockholm City Hall. It stands on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, next to Riddarfjärden’s northern shore and facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Södermalm. It houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial blue and golden halls. It is the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet and one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions.

nobel_3_topaz

One of the strangest things about Stockholm in summer is that night seems to last only a few hours. It was dark by about midnight, but then light again by about 2.30am. If you’re out drinking until this sort of time then you face an inevitable walk of shame home without the cover of darkness. Not particulaly fair, but in winter I imagine the situation is reversed so things probably even out. This was taken using ISO 1600 at just before 3am.

waterfront_topaz

I didn’t have my tripod with me for this trip so all these planets were handheld, so no bracketing, enfusing or HDR. I’ve recently reinstalled Windows XP and am having lots of fun with CS4 and a plugin called Topaz Adjust, which produces HDR/enfuse-like effects via adaptive exposure adjustments – perfect for handheld panoramas. There’s a free trial but it’s quite cheap anyway.

The weather in London over the last few days has been pretty awful, and it made me realise that some parts of our recently departed summer were actually pretty nice. June for example was fantastic – living in Wimbledon, where the All England Club host the annual tennis grand slam, we had two weeks of glorious weather, almost certainly a jinx due to the construction of the new sliding roof on centre court. As much as I like to complain about the traffic restrictions they impose during the tournament and the influx of slow moving tourists, I love watching the tennis and you feel quite privileged getting your local weather forecast on the national news.

On the Wednesday of the first week I got in line and queued for a good three hours to get it. Armed to the teeth with booze, crisps and some roasting sunshine, that wasn’t as tough as it sounds so seemed to pass quite quickly. But when we got in the afternoon drinking had gone to my head a little so we went and had a sit down on the hill adjacent to court number one.

wimbledon_1_800_85

A couple of year back it was Henman hill, now I think they call it Murray mountain. Either way, it’s a great place to sit back, have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. There’s also a big TV screen where you can watch what’s going on in centre or court number one. I wasn’t the only one who was feeling the effects of afternoon drinkies as there were more than a few casualties having a siesta, surrounded by a plethora of empty beer cans and wine bottles.

wimbledon_2_800_85

At the top of the hill they have a white picket fence which encloses a little water feature complete with lilies and a fountain. Here my friend Sarah gazes out (eyes closed obviously) over the 19 tournament courts that make up the club.

wimbledon_3_800_85

In the heart of the complex they have some pretty fancy architecture like this spiral staircase that leads up to what I think is the press area. Lots of glass and steel, obviously very high budget.

golf1_800_85

And a very heavy media presence too. This is Wimbledon park golf club, just across the road. When else are you going to be allowed to park a van like this on the 18th hole? There was no one inside so I was very tempted to jump in and start pressing some buttons.

golf2_up_800_85

And more to the point, when else am I going to be able to take a load of photos from inside a sand bunker, without getting chased off by some angry guy wielding a golf club?

Wimbledon park golf club

Time for a few stereographic shots from some of London’s many train stations. First up is Paddington station, from where you can catch trains to the west country (I used to  travel from here to Bristol when I was a undergraduate). This was taken at about two in the morning so it was completely deserted apart from us lot. The huge 200 meter long roof is supported by wrought iron arches in three spans – this shot only shows one of those so you get some idea of the scale.  Lots of detail and not too much noise at ISO 3200.

paddington_planet_85

Next up is Waterloo station, the main London terminus for trains to the south west of England and the suburbs of London. What works nicely here in a stereographic projection is the roof. It was a bit of pain to stitch and retouch the beams and girders but I think it was worth it. Most planetoids have relatively little going on in the ‘sky’ region but here the situation is reversed.

waterloo1_85

Waterloo is a big station – apparently it has more platforms than any other station in the UK – this is a little further along. It was unusually busy for this time of day due to tube strikes so I had to remove quite a few duplicate people from this one.

waterloo2_85

Flip it 180 degrees and you get a better view of the roof. This is right underneath the central clock.

waterloo2_up_85

Ok first things first, we need some photos. We’ll begin by constructing a regular equirectangular panorama, then we’ll turn it into a little planet. An equirectangular pano covers 360 x 180 degrees so we need to shoot all the way around, plus the the nadir (the ground you’re standing on), and perhaps the zenith (the sky above you) though this isn’t too important and I usually don’t bother.

Some tips on taking the photos:

  • Shoot portrait, not landscape.
  • Try and make sure each photo overlaps the previous one by about 15%.
  • Try and rotate around the nodal point (where the light enters the lens) rather than around where you’re standing. Basically try and keep the lens in the same position. Doing so minimises parallax error when you have objects in your near field.
  • Shoot with your camera set to manual if possible.
  • When shooting the nadir, try and get out of the shot!
  • For best results use a panoramic tripod head like the Nodal Ninja.

The number of shots you’ll need depends on the angle of view of your lens – the wider it is the fewer shots you need. With my Canon G7 + Raynox wide angle lens (so about 24mm)  I’d need 10 shots to make the full 360 degrees facing slightly down, another 10 facing slightly up, then one for the nadir, 21 in total. With my Nikon D90 and Tokina 10-17mm fisheye I need 6 for the full 360 degrees and one for the nadir, 7 in total.

For this tutorial you can download all the images I used from here. I actually bracketed the shots (at 0EV, -2EV and +2EV) giving us 3 lots of 7 so that we can make the planet in HDR. This is what they look like:

21 photos

So when you’ve got the photos, time to get Hugin up and running. Take the first 7 photos (dsc_0001-dsc0007) and load them into Hugin via the assistant panel ‘load images’ button:

assistant panel

The EXIF metadata should be read directly from the images – if not you’ll have to enter the focal length and focal length multiplier values for your camera set up. For the example, the images are at 10mm and the focal length multiplier is 1.5. I used a fisheye lens so select full frame fisheye from the drop down menu. Normally, you can set lens type to normal/rectilinear. When you’ve loaded your photos, hit ‘align’ and wait for the control points to be generated and the images to be aligned. In a minute or two the preview window will pop up:

preview equirectangular

So now we should have an equirectangular panorama. If the images haven’t aligned properly you’ll have to go over to the images and control points tabs and make some adjustments:

  • From the images panel, select all the pairs of image (use control-click) that you know do not overlap. Remove control points that connect these images using the ‘remove points’ button.
  • If you have a recent version of Hugin, press the ‘run celeste’ button to remove control points from clouds, as these tend to move between shots which causes misalignment problems. More details on Celeste here.
  • From the control points panel, select pairs of images and look at the control points that connect the two images. Remove any which are clearly in the wrong place. It’s also very easy to add some manually.
  • When you’re done, hit ‘align’ from the assistant panel and check the preview again.

For full Hugin documentation go here. If everything looks ok, it’s time to make our planet. At the bottom left of the preview window, select ‘stereographic’ projection. At the top hit ‘fit’, and then press ‘update’ (if you have a very recent version of Hugin with the OpenGL preview everything should change before your eyes). Next hit ‘numerical transformation’ at the top. Set the pitch to 90 and hit ‘ok’:

numerical transform

Press ‘update’ again and you should see a a tiny little planet right in the middle of the square. Slide the slider at the bottom to the left and hit ‘update’. Keep doing this until your little planet fills up the square:

preview stereographic

Now close the preview window and head over to the stitcher panel. Hit ‘stitch’, choose a file name, and you’re done! Easy eh. But hang on, let’s go HDR. Go to the file menu and save the .PTO file. Click on the ‘new project’ button, then go to file and select ‘apply template’. Open the .PTO file you just saved and you’ll be prompted to select the images. Now chose the next 7 photos in the -2EV brackets set (dsc_0008-dsc0014). Have a quick look in preview and the planet should look exactly the same, but darker. Stitch it, then repeat for the last 7 images (dsc_0015-dsc0021). You should end up with 3 planets that look something like this:

three planets

With these three aligned planets, HDR is a quick hop away using this tutorial. Once you’ve tone mapped it you’ll probably need to use Gimp or Photoshop to edit the middle of the planet to remove my tripod; it’s a good idea to shoot from a spot where this isn’t going to be too difficult, so grass/gravel/sand etc is a good choice. Then tweak the colours and levels a touch and you’re done!

dog bench planet

This one came out quite well. It’s a shame though; I’d tied the dog to the bench to stop him getting in a fight with a couple of swans. He took this quite well and actually jumped up on the bench and sat facing the pond. By the time I’d got my tripod in place he was off again though. Ah well at least he’s stayed still for his 3 exposures..