How to Roll the world into a little Ball, (Pano Planets)

by Jerome Mungapen on December 15th, 2009

Ever seen these little planets, I love them and ever since I saw the first one I wanted to make them Here�s a quick tutorial on how to make these using Photoshop. there are a number of more comprehensive explanations out there but this is quick and simple version to get you going.

twin peaks post merge square  balled pano twin peaks post merge square inverted balled pano 360pano-2  Bernal morning planet

Making a  360 Panorama

The first thing is to find a suitable subject area to shoot your panorama. What I find that makes these pano planets fun are the tall objects that grow out of the planet. For this you need to pick a place where the horizon is relatively level with a few interesting tall objects near by. Living in San Francisco I love Twin Peaks and Bernal heights, both of these hills give you great 360 degree views of san Francisco, and each has a few high points of interest. Bernal has a group of trees and a little of Sutro tower, while Twin peaks brings you close to Sutro tower.

To take a good panorama a parallax adjusting panorama head is useful, though I think these images get so distorted so  I don�t think its critical, though shooting on a level tripod is or your shot will never line up when you curl the photo round. I used a Nodal Ninja Pano head  in these examples.

Next the choice of lens, Wide angle will complete the panorama in less shots, and always orientate the camera into portrait mode to get more of the sky and ground in one sweep.

Once you have the camera set up on the tripod with the wide angle lens I set the camera to aperture priority and choose an aperture that will give a good depth of field say f9.0. I then take a four readings at 90 degrees to each other, one being directly into the sun and one directly away to get a feel for the shutter speed variation. I pick an average that will work ok for all directions, then take a few test shots to ensure, that it will be ok.

If the sun is going to be visible in the shot I will do two additional things, one stop down even further, as I like the star affect that the small aperture will give to the sun, and secondly I often use a lee drop in graduated neutral density filter to cover the part of the scene where the sun will be. and sometimes during the panorama I may adjust this  up and down  as I get closer to the sun

Then I shoot the panorama in a clockwise direction starting and finishing the set with a shot of my hand so I can easily find the start and end of the panorama.

bernal-3670 bernal-3648

The example below shows the individual shots before merging


though I didn’t do it in this case I tend to put the strong (high) points of interest in the middle of the panorama, this is because if I decide I want to keep a copy of the panorama without balling it i find the strong elements work better in the middle of the panorama.  You also want the ends of the panorama to be fairly bland of detail as you want to be able to blend the seam together using the patch tool

With all the shots  taken they are merged in Photoshop

twin peaks post merge pano

The shot above has been cleaned up with the crop tool to be exactly 360 degrees and as much of the photo as possible.

Notice the small tower on the right of the image, this isn�t ideal for having a bland seam when joining.  Had I noticed it during shooting I wouldn�t have ended the panorama at that spot, but moved it further away form the edge.


The next step in Photoshop is to make this a square image, as the image is much wider than high, under the image > image size menu, copy the height value into the width


This now gives a distorted square picture

twin peaks post merge square pano

If you want a panorama planet with the  sky on the outside then the image needs to be inverted otherwise the sky will be inside

twin peaks post merge square inverted pano

Next if your photos were shot in raw and imported then they are probably in 16 bit color in which case they need to be converted to 8 bit to allow the filters to work

this is under image  >mode menu


Then you can transform the image using Filter >Distort >polar coordinates

twin peaks-ball

Sometimes the join will show hard lines, I find using the patch tool the best way to get rid of those, you may also want to clone out the the areas near the center that clearly show the radial effect. The shot below is the same pano, without inverting the sky prior to balling up

twin peaks post merge square  balled pano

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    Night Zoom Bursts

    by Jerome Mungapen on December 3rd, 2009

    An interesting and simple effect to try  if you’re shooting at night is a zoom burst. This is a simple technique where by you set a relatively long exposure and as the shutter is open you simply zoom your lens, either from wide to telephoto or from telephoto to wide. I’ve seen this effect  a lot in daylight photos, however it adds another dimension when you combine it with a night time shot.

    the shots below, show the effect in a variety of ways. The camera was on a tripod and triggered for long exposures around the 3 second mark. Depending on how quickly you zoom and by how much the effect changes.



     Zoom Francisco


    One thing I noticed from the shots is I don’t think the shots with the moon are as appealing as without. What do you think ?



    Using flash to tame the sun

    by Jerome Mungapen on November 9th, 2009

    I think using a flash with my camera is finally starting to click , after reading Joe McNally’s hot shoe diaries, I  had an epiphany. You could even say it started to click.  On a sunny weekend in the Napa wine valley I was sat having lunch at the Bouchon bakery in Yountville. It as super sunny and as usual due to a late start it was around mid day with the sun directly overhead.  Taking photos against the sun was giving some great deep blue skies and lovely contrast, however trying to get a photo of the bakery itself was resulting in washed out skies with lens flare. I initially tried using a Lee drop in graduated neutral density filter, and this helped but was still a bit blah.. Then  remembering a photo from the hot shoe diaries I thought I’d try turning the sun down by stopping down and increasing the shutter speed to a point, where I was just about getting the sky and everything else in silhouette.  Then adding my 580 ex I lit up  the bakery (well as much as I could) in a fairly quick snap that improved the shot considerably. Now being ultra lazy I didn’t fit the lens hood and I had my wide angle lens set at 40mm, so I could have switched to the 24-70 which has a much bigger lens hood. This would have got rid of the remaining lens flare. And to get really fancy I could have got the flash off the camera and closer to the building maybe adding a second flash, to even out the lighting but this has given me the idea to do more with flashes. and the shot was never going to be that interesting and I was only playing about whilst eating my macarons anyway.

    The original shot without flash and a lee drop in grad ND filter


    On camera Flash

    amuse bouche

    Now that I’ve realized I can switch off the sun, I’ve been playing around with this some more and below is a shot I took in broad daylight in the rain of a rose petal. Taken with my 180mm macro lens with off camera flash, again dialing down the aperture to make the background almost black, then using flash to light the situation.


    Up close and wide eyed

    by Jerome Mungapen on October 15th, 2009

    Up to this point I have always tended to make macro shots using a macro lens or a lens  of a higher focal length (70- 180mm) however for this shot I  thought I would try a wide angle macro. Using my 16-35 mm at the 16mm end I got up close and personal to this big pink flower. 


    In close and at a wide angle, I don’t know what these big pink flowers are , triffids I think

    To Set a Sail

    by Jerome Mungapen on September 28th, 2009


    After the Crowd has gone

    by Jerome Mungapen on September 27th, 2009


    Weigh a pie ?

    by Jerome Mungapen on September 4th, 2009


    When they say the british summertime is variable they mean it, half an hour of rain then half an hour of sunshine, well the upside is at the changeover you’ll get  a rainbow, and somewhere over it weigh a pie.

    Your World in My Eyes

    by Jerome Mungapen on August 27th, 2009


    I was standing on a hill when the world started to curl in on itself

    Or is it my first 360 Pano planet, and I’m very proud, this was one of the reasons I bought the Nodal ninja panorama head. Though I thought I was  going to need additional software to achieve this effect. Fortunately Austrian Alex over on Flickr had posted the necessary instructions ot complete this using CS3. And I’m very proud of my first attempt. Yeah it could use some cloning to even out the sky and the ground. Additionally I didn’t include Apex and Nadir shots which would improve it more, but still I can’t wait to get out and do a multi stacked pano.

    More Tea Vicar?

    by Jerome Mungapen on August 26th, 2009


    Preparing for a dinner party, I decided to help out in the kitchen by imortalizing the Brie

    Shot with my 5D mk II  at ISO 200 1/60 at f2.8 with my 24-70 f2.8l

    Another Brick in the Wall

    by Jerome Mungapen on August 26th, 2009


    One of the many murals in the mission district, I tried various angles to have this receding into the distance and I expecially liked this angle

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