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Sunday, 14 March 2010


Making reality seem like models; making models seem like reality. Transcendence.

I always find such panoramas fascinating. When I first zoomed in on the "gigapicture" I coincidentally stumbled upon this "What the.." scene:


Sort of a bizarre pet, wouldn't you say?

PS. When can I expect this sort of performance from a pocket camera?

A sensible guy. He uses Sigma and Tamron.

Dear Mike,

Three winners.

I react much as you do to these super-large panoramas. I find them peculiarly entrancing, considering that they are rarely inspired or engrossing art. Maybe they speak to the pixel-peeper in all of us. Whatever, it's quite wonderful. And the techie in me can't help but think about the planning and logistics required to make several thousand photographs that need to be merged into a seamless whole.

O'Hare's video is seriously charming and the score supports it well (although I was distracted by the banal lyrics -- -- it's hard for me to tune out words, so I need them to be better words than those). Unlike the super-panorama, this one works for me as art as well, not merely artifice.

Nice to see Smith's work getting more play. I can't help but wonder if this is all Stewart Klipper's doing; I'll have to ask him if his mailing list's tentacles reach into the New York Times. Quite possibly; he knows a hell of a lot of people (aside to readership: Mike's original article for this started with a link that Stewart had e-mailed to me, which I've forwarded to Mike. The inter-web is just one big unruly classroom with everyone passing folded notes back and forth, I think.).

In any case, three enjoyable ways to while away a portion of a saved-daylight Sunday afternoon.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

As others may point out before me, it would be "contratilt" instead of "contrashift," right? Either way, an excellent term for a look that has quickly grown tiresome and overused. I agree that "The Sandpit" is very well done, but at some point one has to say Enough with the "toy city" imagery. So I'm saying it now, after appreciating that example.

Just when I thought photography's Popular-Photography/Spiratone/Cokin special-effects toolbox had been exhausted a decade or two ago, digital came along and provided a whole new range of gimmicky tools that are too often employed in lieu of simple good seeing. Oversaturate! Semi-desaturate! Overblow HDR! Push the Shadow/Highlight sliders all the way! Contratilt!

(Not that there wasn't any contratilt in the film era: it's usually done optically, not digitally, so it's possible there was some. But if so, it was nowhere near as ubiquitous in the film era as it is in the era of Live View and LCD review. You can't open a home-furnishings catalog, a travel magazine, or a foodie coffee-table book without seeing it everywhere.)

"As others will may point out before me, it would be "contratilt" instead of "contrashift," right?"

Well, now that's embarrassing. I actually went through that thought sequence last night when I was thinking of this post. And then went ahead and used the wrong term anyway. Oh well. Fixed now, and thanks.


Unless I am misreading the web page, in the Twenty-six gigapixel Paris, I see that they are using a 300mm f4.0 with a tele converter 2x (equivalent 600mm f8.0)set to F/13 , which if that means F/13 setting on the lens is actually f/23 with a CoC of over twice the diameter of the pixel pitch and effectively throws away over 3/4 of the pixels. They could have gotten a higher resolution image 4 times as fast without the teleconverter

BTW that 300,000 x 300,000 pixels limit in photoshop is a real pain. I had to break the gigapan version of the POD project into 4 sections because of it. (I could have done it in 3 sections as the horizontal size was 864000 , but I wanted an even number) I haven't found a program to assemble larger images than that yet.

Cool on all counts. Thanks, Mike, for some Sunday entertainment.

Whilst looking for that tortious tortoise ,

I noticed that either there is a lot of retouching or Parisians are much more demure than New Yorkers, or maybe it's colder than it looks.

Another photographer based in Sydney, AU, Keith Lotuit, has made several of these style videos with a slightly more time-lapsey effect. He does use a PC lens, but he is using a dSLR as well.


"Sandpit" very interesting. Drat, a week after I discover that you can make reality look that way, you tell me it's old hat. :-(

FWIW, Spiegel Online recently published a piece on creating a similar effect for still images in Photoshop. Site is in German; if necessary, auto-translate services help. Actual technique starts on second page.


"The inter-web is just one big unruly classroom with everyone passing folded notes back and forth" I like that metaphor. Trouble is, in this classrom all the notes end up on the teacher's desk.

I really enjoyed "The Sandpit" and have trying to understand why. I think it's because the use of selective focus really brings a 3-dimensional feel to the imagery. If this had been shot with everything in focus it would have been yawn-inspiring. Instead, the selective focus combined with the fast-motion gave the feeling of looking into an ant hill. The combination was very effective, much more so than a selective focus still image or a speeded-up video.

Still, there's something compelling about imagery with a narrow depth of field....

Dear Hugh,

Well, it might throw away 3/4 of the pixels if it were a monochrome sensor, but since it's not...

I'd like to see some honest-to-god real world experimental data that supports all the armchair theorizing about matching the pixel pitch to the blur circle with a Bayer array. I am substantially more than a bit dubious of that notion.

In any case, they needed to stop down for depth of field. That seems counterintuitive at first glance, but the numbers say otherwise. Suppose you want to maintain sharpness from half a kilometer to infinity, a plausible range, I think? OK, that corresponds to a depth of focus of around 0.75mm. At f/26, assuming the combo is diffraction limited, your resolution is 60 lp/mm. Ignoring diffraction, your focus-limited resolution at the limits would be about 70 lp/mm. So that's a pretty good match, which is the usual criteria for maximum depth of field when diffraction is taken into account.

Now, there's a whole lotta 'sumptions in there, I know, but it's not an implausible number. I might have gone with f/22; I definitely would not have gone with f/16.

Finally, one of their objectives was to produce the largest picture. So, even if your ideas were right, reducing the number of exposures by a factor of four would be a bug, not a feature!

pax / Ctein

@John Hufnagel: "PS. When can I expect this sort of performance from a pocket camera?"

Tortoise like, you mean? Er, right now. (Press) "Er, hold it... hold it... hold it... hold it............"

The Paris photo is nice, but the logistics are daunting.

I use a Gigapan Epic 100 head to do basically the same thing, but automated. It took me only around *20 minutes* to do a 250 image gigapan in Yosemite using the E510 and a 150mm lens (40-150 kit lens, 300mm 35mm equivalent). What the French photographers did is, as far as I am concerned, serious overkill: just because you **can** take a 26GP image, it doesn't mean you **should**.

And John Hufnagel: you can take that sort of picture with a pocket camera. You just need to put it on a gigapan head and take several thousand images. :-)

Oh, and disclosure: I am not connected with gigapan in any way except as a satisfied user (and was in the beta program, but paid for it...).

Oh, and the Gigapan Epic Pro will be out in April and can handle a sprung mass of around 10 lbs, so all you FFDSLR fetishists can get one too. Around $900.

This post is now the first result when googling "contratilt." I guess I need look no further. ch

One thing I like about Smith and his imaginary model cars and Elgin Park: He is using an old 12 MP camera and an older computer. Yet his work continues to draw attention like there's no tomorrow. What lesson can we draw from this?

On the google rank -- and the rest of the first page of results doesn't seem to be about this usage at all. Did Mike just invent this usage? It's one of those obvious ones that sounds like it must have been around forever, but I'm not finding previous usage.


I was starting to think the same thing. Then I saw this:



Something tells me these guys knew when the photographer would be shooting Le Grand Palais. Pity about that one guy's head, though. Wonder where it went?



I was trying to guess, based on your comment, what I would see when I opened the link. I was nowhere close and laughed out loud.

Amazing what you can find in these things!


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