My Adventures In Photography

A while back I started a photography column for my hometown's local newspaper — you'll find all of my columns from those pages here as well as new ones that I write.

To see all of my blog posts to date, click here.

Photography from a planetary perspective

 360-DEGREES: The panorama above is a full 360-degree view of Hemlock Park in Big Rapids. The image begins and ends at the pavilion near the parking lot, which makes creating a miniature planet of the scene extremely easy once everything is lined up. Much of the work in creating this kind of imagery is in the planning. Make sure that the sky and ground of the panorama are consistent textures (for example, in summer I would want the whole ground to be grass), and ensure that the left and right sides of the panorama have buildings or trees that are roughly the same height. When done properly, this photographic technique is highly rewarding.

360-DEGREES: The panorama above is a full 360-degree view of Hemlock Park in Big Rapids. The image begins and ends at the pavilion near the parking lot, which makes creating a miniature planet of the scene extremely easy once everything is lined up. Much of the work in creating this kind of imagery is in the planning. Make sure that the sky and ground of the panorama are consistent textures (for example, in summer I would want the whole ground to be grass), and ensure that the left and right sides of the panorama have buildings or trees that are roughly the same height. When done properly, this photographic technique is highly rewarding.

I won’t lie to you, folks: This post is going to be a little outlandish. Er, out-planetish? Puns aren’t my thing.

What you see above is actually a 360-degree panorama of Hemlock Park in Big Rapids with some Photoshop magic applied to it.

Just about anyone can do this photographic trick as long as they have access to photo editing software that has the Polar Coordinates function that Photoshop has.

You’ll obviously need a camera too. A DSLR is the best choice, but a person can even create something like this using the panorama function of the camera on their phone.

The first step to creating imagery like this is to plan. When creating a panorama of an area, the bottom and top of the panorama needs to have a texture that can be easily manipulated in Photoshop. Take a look at the original panorama for the planet above.

The sky in the image is mostly white and the ground is all snow. Having textures that are similar on the top and bottom of the panorama make fusing the image together later on much easier.

If you’re shooting with a DSLR, shooting with a wide angle lens is strongly recommended. While you don’t have to have the tops of poles and trees fit into the shot, it looks a lot better if you do.

A good example of how it looks when you can’t fit the tops of tall objects into the whole image is below with the planet of downtown Big Rapids. The power poles shoot off into the edge of the frame.

For the image above, I stood in one place and slowly span in a circle as I took my panorama images. 

I took roughly seven images in all and stitched them together in Photoshop to create the panorama. For both 360-degree panoramas and panoramas that aren’t a full circle it is important you begin and end your panorama on areas that are similar.

For example, the panorama of downtown Big Rapids below begins and ends on the sidewalk. Planning the image this way made fusing the beginning and end of the panorama together in Photoshop much easier.

Once you’ve planned out your panorama and put it together, the next step is to make your planet.

 DOWNTOWN: Creating a miniature planet of downtown Big Rapids proved to be more difficult than the one I made in Hemlock Park. Many wires and poles shoot off the edge of the image, and finding the right place to shoot the panorama without getting ran over by cars was tricky. You’ll notice that for the panorama (which isn’t a full 360-degree shot), I made sure that the sidewalk was on the left and right edges of the image. This made creating the planet much easier in Photoshop.

DOWNTOWN: Creating a miniature planet of downtown Big Rapids proved to be more difficult than the one I made in Hemlock Park. Many wires and poles shoot off the edge of the image, and finding the right place to shoot the panorama without getting ran over by cars was tricky. You’ll notice that for the panorama (which isn’t a full 360-degree shot), I made sure that the sidewalk was on the left and right edges of the image. This made creating the planet much easier in Photoshop.

Here are the steps for creating a panoramic planet in Photoshop:

  • Go to Image>Image Size and make the height of your image the same as the width. This will stretch the image, but that’s what we want to happen. The image should now be a perfect square.
  • Rotate the image 180-degrees so it’s upside down.
  • Go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates and select Rectangular to Polar and hit “OK.”

Give the program a moment to think and you’ll have your very own planet just like the two attached to this post.

Remember the planning stage? Keeping in mind that the sky and ground should share a common texture, and the left and right sides of the original panorama should have details that are similar, will make cleaning up your planet a cinch.

Lastly, use the healing brush or clone stamp tools to get rid of any unsightly lines or textures that don’t line up properly.

Creating this kind of imagery takes precision and some foresight into what the final image will look like. When creating the images for this post I went out to many different places to experiment with what would work and what wouldn’t.

Don’t get discouraged if this method doesn’t work straight-away. The outcome is rewarding when you get it right.