Making a VFE of the Niagara Whirlpool Part 2 — About Pictures & Panoramas

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Some Technological Tips for Creating and Using Virtual Fieldwork

Making A VFE of the Niagara Whirlpool: Part 1

Making a VFE of the Niagara Whirlpool Part 2 — About Pictures & Panoramas (You are here!)

Making a VFE of the Niagara Whirlpool Part 3 — Putting Panoramas into Google Earth

This photo was taken from the northern end of the Whirlpool looking upstream.

I spent Thursday afternoon and most of Friday above and in the Niagara Gorge, mostly near the Whirlpool and Whirlpool Rapids.  Nice work if you can get it.

I took scads of photographs — about 300.  Now, I need to be attentive to the old joke:

Q: What’s the difference between an amateur and a professional photographer?

A: The professional throws the bad pictures away.

I’ve been putting the pictures together and sorting them out. About a third of them are now posted on my Picasa page.  Without an organized approach, that’s probably still too many.  The Virtual Fieldwork Experience (VFE) that will be built around these images will attempt to organize the pictures in a way that maps onto (literally) the way the gorge is actually laid out.

The VFE will be posted on and the creation process will be detailed here.

In this post, I’ll talk a bit about the thinking behind some specific photographs and this amateur’s photographic techniques.

One of the reasons I have so many pictures is that I’ve found myself addicted to Adobe Photoshop’sPhotomerge‘ feature.  Photomerge is what allows you to very simply make panoramas.  In fact, I’ve ended up with enough panoramas that I need to consider the joke above related to them as well.

Why do I like panoramas?

For the purpose of Virtual Fieldwork Experiences, I like that panoramas allow you to get the big picture.  With a typical camera at an interesting site, you can’t begin to capture in a picture what the eye can take in.  VFEs will never beat being there, but they do allow for a broader perspective.  Or a taller one.

Panoramas allow the VFE user to take a closer look at what interests the VFE user.  If the resolution is high, the user can go from looking at rock strata across the gorge to looking at the grains of the rock at her virtual feet.

The ability to stitch pictures together allows one to upgrade one’s camera without getting a new camera.  You’re not limited to panoramas either.  You can make a quilt of pictures into a single very high resolution photograph.  You can also scan things bigger than your scanner and stitch them together.

Panoramas also allow the camera to focus on things at different distances — in a panorama that sweeps up from the photographer’s feet, the near and the far are both in focus.  That’s cool.  Another cool way to do that is HDR.  That’s on my eventual to-learn list.

Like a camera, your eye can’t focus on the near and far simultaneously, but the eye makes nearly instantaneous adjustments in focus.  That makes it so these photographic tricks aren’t cheating — they’re methods that allow photographers to capture images more like what the eye actually sees.

How to make a panorama in Photoshop:

I made a short how to video using Jing and tried to embed the Jing thing here, but the embedding yielded some very goofy formatting.  Follow this link to see the video in a different window. (Even if Jing is a little clunky in embedding, it’s still very cool).

You may have noticed in the video that there are pictures of my hand before and after the pictures used to make the panorama.  That is there to let me know where the series starts and stops.

A crack in the Whirlpool Sandstone.

A sneak preview of non-photographic content (click on it):

This is an exceprt of the the Geologic Map included with Colossal Cataract edited by Irving Tesmer.

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