Panoramicana

In the previous post I talked about my love of wide-angle lenses and the images they produce. This post is about another type of wide angle image: the panorama.

In 2012, following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I spent a weekend volunteering with the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission in the Rockaways. It was an experience that deeply affected me, and which reminded of the fundamental role that photography can play in telling a story.

My submission to WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show "Best 2012 Cell Phone Pictures" - a panoramic image of a Rockaways school gymnasium filled with donated relief supplies - was ranked third best, out of hundreds of submissions, by New York Times senior staff photographer and Lens blog co-editor 
James Estrin.

 

I wasn't aware that my photo had been selected, let alone critiqued on air, until I saw an email from my landlord, who had heard the segment on the the radio. I was in Chicago at the time and I recall streaming a podcast of the show on my iPhone, while driving down the highway, thinking that maybe I do have a pretty decent eye for photography after all.

In discussing my image in the segment Mr. Estrin focused on my use of the panoramic stitching technology that is now widely available with smartphones, noting that, although easily abused like many special effect features, my decision to use the panoramic stitching was particularly effective at telling the story in this instance. To me this speaks to the idea that form follows function, and not the other way around.

 (Click on the image below for a larger version)

 

Saint Francis de Sales School - Beach 129th St, Belle Harbor, NY - Nov 11, 2012


If you live in New York and listen to public radio, then no doubt you know who Brian Lehrer is and understand why a person would be thrilled to have any accomplishment mentioned by him on the air. Here is a screenshot of the show page and you can also listen to the segment directly on this page.

 

The panoramic image above was take on my iPhone, using a free app called Photosynth, by Microsoft. I've enjoyed using the app quite a lot, and I think it does a much better job of stitching together individual images than the native iPhone camera app. It is important to understand the difference between the "panorama" mode of many point and shoot cameras, which achieve a panoramic aspect-ratio by cropping the top and bottom of an otherwise normal frame, and "true panoramas". "True panoramas" can be created in one of two ways: either by using an image sensor or film plane with a panoramic aspect ratio, or by stitching together individual images to create a picture that has an angle of view that is larger than the camera's optics are normally able to achieve. The former method was the dominant way to create panoramas during the "film era", and a class of specialty cameras, such as the Widelux, were manufactured to cater to that particular niche. Nowadays digital photography has made the latter method significantly easier, and drastically cheaper.

Below is a gallery of some other cool panoramas I have made using the app.  

- William Laviano