Nodal Ninja Panographic Tools

At the end of last month, the lone direct store and supplier of Fanotec products, including Nodal Ninja panoheads, closed in Chandler, Arizona. They sold other companies' products for people interested in virtual reality photography, of panoramas where the viewer rotates the object around self and of objects where the viewer rotates an object. Years ago, the former was a hobby of mine. With their closeout sale, I bought a new Nodal Ninja 6 panohead, but I have yet to shoot anything. I also have a newer digital SLR with much better resolution than my old Rebel XT.

Not too many weeks ago I bought some panorama software updates. There is a re-learning curve, and the loss of Photoshop, since I cannot justify the subscription fees, means a bit of effort to learn enough for a new graphic editor, be it GIMP or something else that can handle layers and masking. Maybe it is time to get a drawing tablet, too.

That I have not shot any panoramas in a long time will soon change, so please stay tuned!

Flash Flushed

This past weekend I finally removed Flash. Adobe has declared that Flash will die this year or next, so I decided to get it done now. It's somewhat sad, as I liked the Flash panoramas, and I had some hope of playing with a Flash to do what could be done with QuickTime in LiveStage Pro. However, it died a long time ago, too,

Updating My Site and Its Panoramas

Having recently bought a used Canon 50D with the intention of shooting panoramas again, I have begun updating my old panorama work, trying to relearn various things, and seeking alternatives to applications no longer supported. This includes the looming obsolescence of Adobe Flash by the end of 2020, which was the format I used after Apple killed QuickTime VR support. I never cared for the Java-based options.

Last night I purchased a costly upgrade to Garden Gnome Software's Pano2VR, which I used years ago before engineering studies ate all my free time and energy. Thankfully converting an old *.p2vr project to HTML 5 turns out to be quite simple. However, expecting to be able to add a few more pages to my website built with the long-defunct ShutterBug by XtraLean Software, I was only mildly surprised to find that the program's built-in FTP functionality apparently no longer works. My guess is an OS X update has crippled or blocked it, but I have not yet been able to confirm anything.

Initially I thought a forgotten password was the problem, but Yummy FTP works just fine for connecting to my site. I ended up doing some simple quick edits through it with my text editor BBEdit then a few more edits from my iPad with FTP Client Pro.

My plan is to replace all of my Flash panoramas with HTML 5 ones over the next couple of weeks while doing as little website HTML tweaking as possible, since I need to spend more time messing with C programming. I did pick up a cheap copy of Flux 6, but I haven't even opened it, and they're on at least 7 anyway. There is little benefit to learning HTML for me, so I am happy to keep with a WYSIWYG option.

Chinese Reconciliation  Park, Tacoma, Washington

I drove into Tacoma today while staying with a friend in Bremerton. Towards the end of my visit, I went to a small park that was built to make some me degree of amends for the poor treatment Chinese immigrants to the US suffered in the late 19th century. The park is located near the northern tip of a small peninsula. It was a pleasant place to spend a bit of time. There is a Chinese temple donated by Seattle's sister city of Fuzhou, PRC.

This panorama is a bit misleading, as the water should be the focus. After my two trips to San Carlos, Mexico, this summer, I have an increased interest in bays.

I enjoyed the small conservatory in Tacoma and the once-dazzling downtown under renovation. There are some impressive buildings that stand on the steep staggered slope down into the water.

Pittsburgh Panoramas

This summer, my fellow AEP co-op students and I were taken to Pittsburgh to see some power equipment suppliers and vendors. We were also taken to see the Pittsburgh Pirates whack the Washington Nationals. I took a panorama inside the stadium after the game with an iOS app called Auto Stitch Pic.

The fellow on the right is one of our outstanding chaperones, Brandon Cogan.


The other panorama I took during the game follows. 

 I was impressed with Pittsburgh. It felt prosperous, people were friendly, and the leafy surrounding hills were quite attractive.

WorldWide Panorama: Best of 2013

It has been a few years since I participated in a WorldWide Panorama event, but I will have an entry for the end of the year: the fort at Al Falaij, Oman.

I like the panorama for its content and memories, but also for it being perhaps the first WWP entry ever for Oman.

That said, it was my penultimate panorama. Not long after I took it, my tripod broke and the lens cap fell off my Peleng fisheye, scratching through its anti-glare coating, thus rendering it almost useless.

Nadir Fix

For years I have shot my panoramas as 6 horizontal shots around, spaced 60 degrees apart, and one zenith shot straight up. However, I rarely bothered with the nadir shot where the tripod stands. The result was a hexagon of nothing, where the horizontals panes met but didn't come together at the nadir.

The easiest way to deal with nadir hole is to cover it with a layer bearing a logo then flatten the image. No need to align anything or tweak colors and such to make things blend naturally, as if no tripod ever existed. The few times I had set the tripod aside to shoot the ground beneath it to fill the nadir hole, I met with failure.

Tonight I took my freehand nadir shots, ran them through LensFix CI to defish them, cut out the section that would cover the hole, and used it in a layer. That layer was resized, rotated, and tweaked with the Warp tool under Edit:Transform. Then the layer's Levels are worked to get as seamless a match with the surrounding background as possible. Flatten a last time.

Surely greater competence with Photoshop would help, but I like what I've done: capped the nadir with a natural look.

Photo Casualties

Recently I suffered the loss of my Velbon tripod. One leg refused fully to retract then finally broke. In trying to fix it, the lens cap--kept in place through "ingenious" Soviet design by the friction of a thin felt strip inside the lip of the cap--came off, skittered down the Peleng fisheye's convex lens, and left a big scratch. That has put paid to my VR photography, as I don't know when I will have the money to buy a new tripod and fisheye lens: Even old weighty Soviet military tech Peleng fisheyes are costly, at least $315 or more.

What a bummer. However, now that classes have resumed, I don't have much time to mess with cameras.