Back from the Czech Republic and Hungary

For Thanksgiving this year, TB and I decided to take Owen on his first international trip and make our first visit to Eastern Europe. We departed Seattle Saturday, November 21, flying Lufthansa to Prague via Frankfurt.

Map of Eastern Europe Sidebar:
Hungarians and Czechs would take offense to their countries being classified as “Eastern Europe” however, for my purposes, I consider everything east of Berlin and formerly under Communist rule Eastern Europe.

After the 10-hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, 3-hour layover and 1-hour flight to Prague we were all exhausted. Owen is still a great travel baby and several flight attendants and nearby passengers commented on how happy he was throughout both flights. He had smiles and lots of chattering for anyone who looked his way and slept about 5½ hours during the 10-hour leg. TB grabbed 2 hours of sleep but I stayed awake the entire time reading or pacing with Owen.

Continue reading “Back from the Czech Republic and Hungary”

Picture Gallery: South America

Here are some pictures from our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil earlier this month to celebrate the 10-year wedding anniversary of friends we went to school with.

We spent a lot of time in cafes in Buenos Aires and hit the major sites (Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana beach, Sugar Loaf, etc.) in Rio. We also dined at authentic Brazilian churrascarias (steakhouses/barbecues) about a half-dozen times. All in all, we had a great time. Rio is a must-do if you haven’t been already.

Back from the Land of the Rising Sun

I am just returning to Seattle from Tokyo where I was the keynote speaker for Remix Japan. About 1500 people attended the event held at the Tokyo International Forum on Wednesday, September 19. In addition to the 80-minute keynote, I also presented a 50-minute general session for all attendees.

The keynote and general session covered various aspects of Microsoft’s Software+Services initiative and our broad Web platform, tools and services portfolio. Following the 3 hours for the back-to-back keynote and general session I spent another 3 hours in the afternoon doing interviews & briefings with members of the Japanese press.

It was my first time visiting Japan and the trip was too short for me to really take Tokyo and its 12+ million residents in. I spent the morning of Sep 18 meeting with my colleagues in the Microsoft Japan building near Shinjuku station (the busiest train station in the world). We then spent the rest of the day in rehearsals with the various partners and Microsoft staffers who were preparing demos for the keynote and general sessions. I left my hotel room at the Park Hyatt—the hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation…it’s amazing!—at 9 AM and returned just before midnight. I was in the bed by 1 AM and up again at 6 AM to make it to the venue by 8 AM for final keynote preparations. The keynote started at 10 AM.

Tokyo Panorama from Park Hyatt room 4216
Picture of Tokyo from Park Hyatt
Nikon D200, Nikon 18-200 f/3.5 @ 18mm f/16, ISO 400, 1/80
Panorama captured from room 4216 at the Park Hyatt hotel. It consists of 5 individual, landscape photos taken by hand (no tripod) then stitched together as described in my panorama tutorial.

Continue reading “Back from the Land of the Rising Sun”

Tip: Creating a Digital Panorama

I have published an overview explaining the steps for creating a digital panorama from start to finish. This article was inspired by the panorama I shot of Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze on May 27, which was also featured in my recent post about my visit to Florence, Italy. It is pretty detailed so I put the entire article in its own page. I have included the introductory sections in case you are just passing through or unsure whether you care to read the article in its entirety.

Overview

A panorama is a large composite picture created by stitching together a series of overlapping smaller photos. This is done to capture a broader aspect ratio and higher resolution of a scene than a single picture is capable, even when it is captured with a wide angle lens. The best panoramas are created from two or more photos with overlapping vertical or horizontal regions across the entire scene. When the photos are combined, they recreate a full 90°, 180°, 360° (and anywhere in between) of a given scene.

Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze (Florence, Italy) panorama
Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, May 27, 2007, Florence, Italy

Introduction

The quality, popularity and relative simplicity of digital cameras and photo processing software have made creating digital panoramas much easier today than just a few years ago. Creating a decent panorama using a digital camera is greatly simplified, as in most cases, by having the proper equipment and workflow.

As with single-image digital photography — and photography, in general — adhering to the fundamentals by controlling focus & lighting is a must. The omelette is only as good as the ingredients that go in it. If you take a crappy set of photos, you will end up with a crappy panorama. The more control you have and exert over the process of capturing the individual photos, the better the final panorama will be when you will later stitch them together. For this reason, point-and-shoot digital cameras are great for their convenience but not ideal for capturing panoramas. You can use point-and-shoot cameras to capture a panorama but you won’t get anywhere near the results possible with a basic digital SLR which provide more control for capturing a consistent set of images across the entire scene.

Other must-have equipment, in my opinion, is a good tripod. Camera shake will kill a panorama. Tripods also help you control the level of the camera as you pan it across the scene capturing the individual photos. Imagine taking 24 pictures (at 15° intervals) to capture a full 360° scene without using a tripod. Could you keep the camera steady? Would the pictures be anywhere near level from start to finish? Probably not. A tripod is your friend when it comes to panoramas. Invest in one, borrow one or rent one. You won’t be sorry.

Once you have captured a solid photo set, creating the composite becomes an exercise in matching the overlapping regions and correcting for lens artifacts & color shifts then transforming (or warping) the images so they can be joined into the final panorama. By investing more in equipment specifically designed for capturing panoramas, one can completely eliminate such corrections and transformations from the workflow. However, such equipment can be very expensive. The good news is there are several relatively inexpensive computer software programs that automate the image corrections and will even automatically stitch the images together for you.

Pictured above is the most recent panorama I created. It is of Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze in Florence, Italy taken on May 27, 2007. The final, high-resolution image has a resolution of 7097×3624 pixels. My current camera is a Nikon D200 which has a maximum resolution of 3872×2592. So how did I create a single image 1.8x wider and 1.4x taller than my camera can capture? By taking 7 separate, overlapping pictures and stitching them together.

In the following article, I will take you through the process, equipment and software I used to create the picture above from start to finish. Let’s get started.

Read the entire article…