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

by Jerome Mungapen on December 15th, 2009
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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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    Categories: frontpage, Landscapes, Panoramas, Photopost, slideshow, Technique

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