Paris Montage

My current digital camera lacks the “panorama assist” feature that I enjoyed so much with my previous one. The feature helps you line up successive shots so it is easier for panorama stitching software to get good results without awkward overlaps or misaligned edges. It’s not strictly necessary to have the assist feature, but it helps.

One afternoon when Martine and I were in Paris last week, we took in the view from the roof of the Galleries La Fayette shopping center. The sky was low, with purple, threatening clouds, which always makes for dramatic photographs. So I took five shots, hoping to stitch them into a seamless panorama.

No dice. Because of the angle of view (wide angle lens, pointing downward) there was too much distortion for the stitching software to handle. After several attempts using different software, I got a few that were reasonably good, but not great.

So I tried something different. I added white borders to each image so they look like printed snapshots, and stuck them together on a large canvas, including a bit of drop shadow. I lined up the horizons, but didn’t care if the rest of it was out of whack. OK, it’s not the continuous panorama I was hoping for, but I really like the result.

Here it is (click the photo to see it bigger, or click here to see it huge [2000×913]):

Big Messy Panorama (ver.3)

I’ve always believed that if you can’t solve a problem, you embrace it; it’s a sentiment along the lines of the old chestnut “when God sends you lemons, make lemonade.” Instead of settling for a substandard panorama, I shifted my desire to something else; a montage, inspired in no small way by Toast’s excellent (although stylistically different) montages, which he refers to as “panography.”

By contrast, below are the failed attempts. At first glance, the top one looks alright, and they do provide the very cool effect of a continuous image. But if you look at the larger versions (click the photos), you see the mistakes. For example, in the top one there’s a misalignment on the right side of the angled roof of the Opera.

Big Messy Panorama (ver.2)

Big Messy Panorama (ver.1)

I suppose with a fair bit of Photoshopping I could have fixed some of those mistakes. But on the other hand, I got something completely different, which I like (the montage). I suppose there’s a lesson in there somewhere.