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.

8 thoughts on “Paris Montage

  1. Wow! You’re there! Say hi to a Parisian, any Parisian, from me. Just go up to them and say “Nick says hi.’ You’ll make their day.

    I love that the Eiffel Tower is visible in the far distance. Difficult to believe that it’s 90 stories tall. When I was in Paris I never did go see it, let alone get near to it (I hate crowds).

    But that top photo looks fine to me–can’t see any flaws. Keep up the good work! You ain’t missin’ nothin’ here in heat-wave Montreal.

  2. And when was this, like, 5 a.m.? I’ve never seen Paris streets so deserted . . .

  3. I absolutely hate crowds, but for some reason Paris didn’t seem so crowded last week. For example, check out the video on Martine’s blog; that was taken dead-center under the Eiffel tower at about 3:00 PM last Thursday. Yeah, there are people around, but it wasn’t a mob by any stretch.

    The panoramas were taken around lunchtime, I think. Tuesday or Wednesday. Same thing; lots of people around, but not a crushing crowd.

    BTW, I highly recommend the view from up there. Hardly anyone there, and it was free. You just go into the Galleries La Fayette (the main store — the one with the big stained glass dome), an look for the escalators on the east side of the dome. As in, if you stand directly under the dome, you’re in the perfume department. Walk east (away from the entrances) and you’ll see some escalators going to the upper floors. Go to the top (about 5 floors) and then you’ll see some stairs that keep going. Mount those stairs and at the top is the exit out onto the roof. (There’s also an overpriced cafe up there.)

  4. Oh wait; my mistake. The video on Martine’s blog is the OTHER one we did, taken as we were walking away from the tower. You can’t really see, but the amount of people around was still entirely reasonable.

  5. What are you doing posting on the blog at 12:45 a.m.? Milk and cookies keeping you awake?

    My ex will be in your vicinity in about 7 hours. You should give her a call! (Think she will be in Montmartre, but can’t be sure).

    Post EVERYTHING! If it’s moving, photograph it! If it’s not moving, paint it!

  6. Nick; I’ve been back home for a week. The trip was from May 31-June 6, so it’s all over now.

    You say “ex.” I assume that’s why you’re back in Montreal. Sorry to hear it, but you recent posts and comments sort of hinted in that direction. It was such a great story — sorry to hear it didn’t work out.

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