Vertical panoramas – can they work?

I’m undecided about vertical panoramas. I love the idea that you can apply the same technique for horizontal panoramas to something tall like a tree or building.

But unlike landscape panoramas – when viewed either in full on a widescreen or using an interactive viewed like I have previously – vertical panoramas seem to make things look short and unimpressive.

Do you think that too?

This is a photo I took of a 9-metre high Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) in Aranda Bushland yesterday, using five horizontal single-exposure frames with the last frame taken looking directly up, stitched in PT Gui PRo with a standard cylindrical projection.

Sure at nine metres it isn’t an impressive tree, but I just haven’t taken a vertical panorama yet that I feel actually makes something look impressive the same way that horizontal panoramas do. Why is that? Is there a way to tweak it so it “works”?

Red box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos)

Here’s another example of Oparara Arch in New Zealand. The arch is pretty much overhead, but it doesn’t look like it in the photo.

Also, does anyone know how to actually work on a vertical panorama vertically in PT Gui rather than working with your head at a right angle because PT Gui insists on treating it like a horizontal panorama?

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Enjoying nature, augmented with data

I love exploring the outdoors, hiking up mountains, photographing white snow at sunset or the dark misty floor of old New Zealand podocarp forest, sitting by the side of wide boulder-strewn rivers and setting up my tripod in the middle of a creek to take long exposures surrounded by deep green mosses.

I also love data. I hated maths at school and spreadsheets bore me to tears, but the wonderful things you can do with data not just to make it pretty but also to see the raw numbers in a new way … much like the difference between describing a new animal to someone, and showing them a picture of it.

When I go hiking I collect a lot of data. I capture the full track log with latitude and longitude, elevation and timestamp; I capture weather information including temperature, humidity and take wind speed readings at intervals. I also take azimuth readings and get position fixes on points of interest to later triangulate them on a topo map so I can accurately caption my photos and describe my experience.

I’ve also started recording audio logs to capture additional information about the experience to help recall and convey the story later (with a secondary purpose of being useful to a coroner investigating my death should I fall off a cliff, again)

This is a Google Earth plot of yesterday’s tramp up to Lewis Tops in Lewis Pass, New Zealand:

Lewis Tops track data in Google Earth

This is the elevation plot, DEM-adjusted from Google Earth (above) and the straight GPS elevation data as shown in ExpertGPS (below):

Lewis Tops track elevation plot

Unfortunately the track data from the ascent up the hill to the bushline was corrupted and lost by my Garmin eTrex 30 (which we’re discussing on the Groundspeak Forums), so I managed to duplicate it for the Google Earth plot but fixing it for an elevation plot is a bit trickier.

The trip computer is separate from the track data recording, so this covers the whole trip:

Garmin eTrex 30 trip computer screenshot

I’ve found the elevation stats from my Garmin’s trip computer are usually way over (although apparently this has been corrected in the last 2.9 firmware) and that from Google Earth’s DEM data way under so those two extremes plus the track data usually give me a moderated result. In this case though the trip computer is way out, as according to my calculations the elevation gain was closer to 1,200 metres and at least 909 metres according to the Google Earth DEM data which is usually conservative. At the very least the the interval between valley floor where I started and the summit was 690 metres so … I think my Garmin is having some issues at the moment.

For those unfamiliar with elevation gain, it’s just the accumulated vertical distance on a track; so in this case if the trail was a smooth and straight concrete ramp from bottom to summit the elevation gain would be exactly 690 metres. But it’s not smooth and straight; it’s up and down and even after reaching the summit and going along the ridge then looping back and coming down through the forest accrued another 187 metres elevation gain according to the track data (barometer + GPS).

Anyway, some more graphs; this is the west-most part of the track as I looped around a tarn and headed back off-trail:

Lewis Tops tarn and Mt Technical

I didn’t get a photo of that particular tarn as there were some people swimming in it, but I took one of a similar scene though a different tarn, just to the east:

Lewis Tops tarn

… which I also got a photo of from below when I looped back downhill:

Lewis Tops tarn

The timestamps of these photos are compared to the timestamps of the track data by ExpertGPS and geotagged to about 5 metre accuracy so I can review on a map exactly where the photos were taken:

Topo Map of Lewis Tops with track data and geotagged photos

Now for the weather data; this is the temperature and relative humidity data sampled at 10-minute intervals, straight off the Kestrel and generated by Kestrel Communicator (smoothed):

Temperature and relative humidity chart

Interesting, but more useful when plotted with the track and terrain data; here I’ve shaded green the timeframes I was below the bushline in the sub-alpine forest and the white section is where I was above the bushline in the alpine meadow. The red line marks the highest point of my climb at an elevation over 1,560 metres.

Temperature and relative humidity chart with terrain information

Now it starts to give some context and meaning to the data.

Another fun thing to do is annotated illustrations of scenes, often done on signs at viewpoints though with much fancier graphics, but some rough lines to reproduce the terrain with sufficient fidelity to correlate it to the photo is fine.

This is a photo from Lewis Pass looking north-east up Cannibal Gorge along the St James Walkway to Ada Pass and Gloriana Peak where there’s still some snow down to 1,800 metres:

Photo and annotated diagram of Cannibal Gorge, Ada Pass and Gloriana Peak

More to come in later posts, with overlaying photos with topographic data, showing fields of view of photos on a map taking into account obstacles like mountains, taking high-accuracy azimuth readings, position fixing and triangulation from multiple locations with a short baseline with and without a GPS; and more.

In closing, a photo of a white gentian in the tussock herbfields of Lewis Tops:

White Gentian

I left my DSLR at home on this hike and just took the point-and-shoot to lighten my pack for the 4,000+ foot elevation gain.

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Panorama of The Remarkables

The west slopes of The Remarkables on the long muddy road up to the skifield, looking down on Frankton and across to Queenstown over the shoulder of Peninsula Hill with Lake Wakatipu, the Eyre and Thompson Mountains in the background.

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West Coast Glaciers

For Easter this year we headed over to the glaciers on the West Coast, namely Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Both glaciers have townships of the same name at their feet; tourists spots where you can organise your ground and air adventures.

The Southern Alps are much closer to the West Coast than the East and it’s amazing how you can see Mt Cook (Aoraki) rising out of the peaks 150km to the south as soon as you exit Arthur’s Pass and hit Kumara Junction.

Our camp site for the first two nights was by Lake Mapourika:

Lake Mapourika

After setting up camp and dinner we drove to Franz Josef and made our way through the dark up to the top of Sentinel Rock to take long exposures of the glacier:

Franz Josef Glacier

The Waiho River that flows out of the Fox Glacier valley:

Waiho River

Two tourists died crossing this river at night in December.

We did a helicopter tour over Fox Glacier and Mt Cook; it was difficult taking well-composed photos through scratched perspex that caught the glare of the sun but here are a few shots.

Co-pilot Jenny

Helicopter landing

It’s rather hard matching up GPS data with the hundreds of peaks and glaciers in the area so if I’ve incorrectly labelled any of these please let me know.

Mt Sefton:

Mt Sefton

Mt Tasman:

Mt Tasman

Fox Glacier:

Fox Glacier

Bismark Peaks:

Bismark Peaks

North slope of Mt Tasman:

North of Mt Tasman

Lake Pukaki:

Lake Pukaki

Douglas Peak:

Douglas Peak

Mt Du Fresne:

Mt Du Fresne

Chancellor Dome:

Chancellor Dome

There’s a DOC hut on a large ledge below Chancellor Dome that we’re planning on being flown up to stay at next time we visit.

The following day we walked up to the terminus of Fox Glacier, past the high cliffs of Cone Rock, gouged by the glacier:

Cone Rock

Plenty of warning signs around, including one forbidding access to certain areas unless with a guided tour:

Guided groups only

Tourists just ignored the warnings:


A border collie named Tussock we met in the Fox Glacier township:


One of the friendly robins that flew over to check us out near our camp site:

Friendly robin

Our last night was spent at Gillespies Beach. Nice view of the Alps but horrid sandflies and noisy partying neighbours:

Sunset on the Alps

Gillespies Beach

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Moeraki Boulders at sunrise

It was her idea. I had little interest in getting up while it was still dark outside, trudging down to the beach and sitting on the cold wet sand for hours in the hope of getting some decent photos of the popular Moeraki Boulders.

We had just the weekend, driving down there on the Saturday and back on the Sunday. I fought the steering wheel most of the way down thanks to a strong west gale that blew across the Canterbury plains. It did make for some beautiful cloud photography so I can’t complain too much:

Canterbury clouds

The plan was to camp in nearby Hampden but the weather decided to go to downhill as we drew closer:

Otago rain

The tent stayed in the car that night and we took a cabin. More like a dog kennel. Did the job though, and we rose around 5:30am the following morning and drove down to the beach. There were some flashes of lightning and we sat in the car rather than be human lightning rods down by the sea, but the weather cleared before the sun came up.

These are some of the photos I took of Moeraki Boulders while the sun rose:

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

My gumboots we had bought for the occasion proved only partly effective as I ran out into the surf with my 430ex-II flash to side-light the boulders. Studying my photos later it probably wasn’t worth the hassle.

I also borrowed Jenny’s 550D camera for a few minutes to shoot some video, using my tripod that I had modified using a hiking pole for smooth panning:

After the sun was well above the horizon and people started coming down onto the beach we headed up to the cafe for breakfast and headed back to Christchurch.

Here are some photos from Oamaru:

Wine barrel



Because it's good

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McLean Falls panorama

Taken standing in the middle of the river at the foot of the Falls. There are several more tiers which you cannot see here. Not a terribly exciting panorama – just wanted you show some of the surrounding forest and put the Falls in context.

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Holiday in The Catlins & Fiordland

Over Christmas and New Years 2011 we went on a roadtrip of the south-east and south-west regions of New Zealand’s South Island. My first time down past Dunedin and to Fiordland. We camped most of the time with a hotel every few days for shower and a proper bed.

After Dunedin our first stop was Purakaunui Bay in The Catlins where we camped for two nights whilst we explored the local coastline, forests and waterfalls:

Purakaunui Bay

McLean Falls:

McLean Falls

Horseshoe Falls (on the same track as Matai Falls):

Horseshoe Falls

Sea Lion lounging on the Purakaunui Bay beach:

Sea lion

Cathedral Caves (one of them):

Cathedral Caves

Tautuku Bay:

Tautuku Bay

We then drove across the south coast, stopping briefly in Curio Bay to check out the petrified forest and staying the night in Invercargill before moving on to Fiordland:

Curio Bay petrified forest

The Lupins (one of the more beautiful weeds) were out on force along the road up the side of Fiordland:

Lupins + sun flare

Pink Lupins

Our campsite at Cascade Creek along the Milford Sound Highway:

Camp @ Cascade Creek

After making camp, we spent a day exploring the Milford Sound Highway. It was overcast and drizzly which made photography wet and difficult but also made for some nice waterfall photos:

Milford Sound Highway

Monkey Creek along the Milford Sound Highway:

Monkey Creek HDR

Christie Falls, where people on the tour buses only get a brief glimpse as they cross the bridge above me … but of course I had to crawl down into it and get my tripod wet:

Christie Falls

Because of the bare rock and steep mountains in this area, the waterfalls don’t last long so I’m glad for the poor weather as the next day they had reduced to a trickle.

We explored Hollyford Road, the only main road leading off the Milford Sound Highway:

Hollyford Road

Using a rope harness, I crawled out to a boulder in the middle of Morraine Creek for this HDR shot:

Morraine Creek HDR

We then did a cruise with Real Journeys on Milford Sound, where we were blessed with beautiful weather:

Milford Sound

First Arm

Stirling Falls; where I had to clean the spray from the waterfall off my lens after every shot!

Stirling Falls

Stirling Falls

Seals – I believe all juvenile males – lounging around on rocks in Milford Sound:

Seals in Milford Sound

Fairy Falls:

Fairy Falls

You can even see a significant fault trace in the hills of Milford Sound where the Alpine Fault has breached the surface:

Milford Sound fault trace

And of course, Mitre Peak:

Mitre Peak

It was only a short cruise so we took more photos along the Milford Sound Highway on our way back:

Milford Sound Highway

… including being harassed by the local Kea population:

Kea on our car

That evening we drove down to Manapouri and went on a Doubtful Sound cruise the next day. Doubtful Sound was a little less dramatic but had more vegetation and was just as beautiful as Milford Sound.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Wilmot Pass

We also toured the Manapouri Hydro Power Station as part of the Doubtful Sound cruise with Real Journeys:

Real Journeys

Hard rock

I popped my head in at the Kepler Track but did not do the 60km Great Walk :)

Kepler Track

That evening we camped near Lake Sylvan in Mt Aspiring National Park not far from the lower end of the Routeburn Track.

Lake Sylvan campsite

The following day we explored the area north of Glenorchy along the foot of Mt Earnslaw:

Cows in Paradise


… and then hit the road and made our way through Central Otago to Mt Cook:

Central Otago



Mt Cook / Aoraki

I also managed to capture this photo of the clouds reflecting the iridescent glacial waters of Lake Pukaki:

Lake Pukaki

See more photos from our trip on Flickr.

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Seal Island, West Coast

Seal Island on the West Coast of New Zealand off Kaipakiti Point north of Punakaiki.

This set of photos was taken while my dad visited us in New Zealand. See more photos taken while he was here.

Whilst processing this panorama I discovered that using a polariser for panorama source photos doesn’t work out – results in banding at the intersections of the photos i.e. the edges of a polarised frame are darker than when you point the polariser directly at that part of the sky. Not sure why …

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Ryde Falls panorama

Went back to Ryde Falls in Oxford Forest with my dad today and took a 7-frame panorama at the top of the lower tier of the Falls.

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Banks Peninsula Southern Bays

We’ve been to Akaroa and the eastern side half a dozen times but we decided to check out the south-west corner of the Banks Peninsula including the Southern Bays.

Out along a ridge on Bossu Road looking back east across Lake Forsyth towards Little River:

Lake Forsyth

Devils Gap is a rock-climbing spot on private land although you can get permission from the land-owner by calling Grant Murray on phoning (03) 325 1070. Leaving a message of intent is acceptable.

Devils Gap

Akaroa from the west side of Akaroa Harbour:


Close-up of Akaroa:


Te Oka Bay, a popular surfing spot down this way. We also spotted several seals and Hector’s dolphins:

Te Oka Bay

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