Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Back to Manly and panoramic photos

2nd May 2006:

Knowing that this nice weather won't last forever, today I took a ferry back to Manly Beach. I didn't bother bringing any beach related stuff as the plan was to lie-out on the grassy area next to the beach: imagine my surprise after traveling for nearly 3/4 hour to get there when it turned out that the grassy areas were closed to allow the grass to grow...

So, I went on a little walk and soon found myself at the improbably named "Cabbage Tree Bay", which sits alongside Manly Beach. This little cove is popular with snorkelers as it it is protected from the waves by a headland and the beach itself had nice, golden sand.

During the course of the afternoon I took a couple of photos of the bay but it became clear that the best way to capture the place was to get a panoramic photo. A normal shot only takes in so much of a scene: to get a panoramic photo, you just take multiple normal shots and join them up later on a computer to end up with a wider/taller photo. Most digital cameras have a panoramic or "stitch-assist" mode which helps you take photos which overlap slightly, enabling easier joining/blending later.

There have been many times since leaving Ireland where it would have been nice to have taken a panoramic photo (e.g. the beach+sea+mountains of Koh Tao and more recently the mountain range of the Blue Mountains), but doing so would require installing software on a computer to stitch the photos together, which is not possible in an Internet café... or would it?

So, that afternoon at Cabbage Tree Bay I took three shots for a panoramic photo and that evening I hunted around the Internet for suitable software which didn't have to be installed and which could run from a USB memory key. Eventually I came across the free "AutoStitch" software for combining individual photos into one panoramic and also found the "Portable Gimp" for image editing as I have been unable to do even the most basic editing (such as cropping) for the past couple of months. I could run both programs from my USB memory key.

The resulting panoramic photo is in the Manly section of my photo gallery. It turned out well enough, but there is a slight fish-bowl effect due to the curvature of sand-raking which had been done on the beach and is in the foreground of the photo. I had also taken panoramic-ready photos of the harbor, while at the Botanical gardens, and that photo (in the Sydney section of the photo gallery) came out better with no apparent distortion.

So, if you're looking to add an extra dimension to your photos, try Google "AutoStitch".