Saturday, May 17, 2008

1900 Panoramas

Panoramic Earth now features over 1900 panoramas taken from around the world. Each 360 panorama comes with photographers comments and some local information, making it a kind of guide to places. The latest panoramas come from Mount Mauganui in New Zealand, the Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong and Central Park in New York.

Mount Maunganui, New Zealand360 Panorama from Mount Maunganui in New Zealandpanorama (c) Peter Watts - all rights reserved

Central Park , New York360 Panorama from Central Park, New York
panorama (c) Peter Watts - all rights reserved

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong360 panorama of Tian Tan Buddha in Ngong Ping, Hong Kongpanorama (c) Peter Watts - all rights reserved

KingPano Panoramic Head Review

When in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to meet with Bill King, the inventor of the KingPano panoramic head. Over a coffee we talked about the development of the head, where he is going with it from here, and my experience and observations while using it. I have used it world-wide for a couple of years shooting over 3,000 panoramas, and found it a light weight, sturdy and inexpensive alternative to other professional panoramic heads available.

Recent reviews put the KingPano as a suitable alternative to the Manfrotto MN303SPH panoramic head, and I agree. For a start it is much cheaper, much lighter and comes with little compromise compared to the Manfrotto system.

Developed over several years, the KingPano and has gone through more than 40 designs. The current version is made of durable Acrylic, with a stop-click base. I have previously reviewed the Panosaurus, and much prefer the KingPano to it. The feel is more solid, it is lighter weight and has a click stop base, which the Panosaurus does not. Similarly, the vertical arm of the KingPano feels more solid than that of the Panosaurus when attached to the base.

The KingPano also comes with a leveling device attached (unlike many rivals). This is a three-ring device, which I am not particularly fond and find fiddly to use. I also found that this was not the most solid system, and at points there was too much flex. Instead, I prefer to use a ball and socket system, such as the Manfrotto 438, which allows you to lock the camera in place with one switch (although this does add to the weight). Bill was kind enough to make me a head without his leveling system, and this has worked a dream.

One of the drawbacks of the current KingPano is that the camera mount has to be unscrewed from the horizontal arm of the tripod each time it is used. This can be a real pain, especially if you are taking a number of images from different locations, but need to set down between shots for transport. In the end I adapted my mounting arm from the Panosaurus and used that.

The other drawback was that the set-up is shorter than the Panosaurus, so could not be set up accurately for the use of zoom lenses. Both systems have problems shooting the vertical zenith shot of spherical panoramas as the attaching screw for the camera can protrude (the Panosaurus has the option of using a recessed screw, but again this leads to a time consuming, more fiddly, set down after each shot).

Bill listened eagerly to my observations, and has big plans for the future. He is setting up a workshop which will make future models in metal, will have a quick release for the camera and overcome the zenith shot issues. He is also considering changing the leveling system and extending the length of the arms. Considering himself a perfectionist, I look forward to having a go with the next model. By then I expect it will rapidly become the panorama head of choice for many.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Real Player Ad-on Breaks Google Map Search

Ad-onsfor browsers are great, but sometimes they throw up problems. While the RealPlayer Browser ad-on for Fire Fox browsers allows you to automatically find downloadable content on a page it has an unfortunate side effect - it prevents search in Google Maps. So if you have this ad-on active in Fire Fox, then you may only be able to search Google Maps once before you have to refresh the entire page, a pain for those who spend their time go-locating places. We have noticed that this is not the only web function that is affected by the RealPlayer Browser Ad-on. If you are facing this problem then try de-activating this ad-on.
  • Select Tools > Ad-ons
  • Select the RealPlayer Browser form the list
  • Click on Disable
  • Restart Fire Fox and see if the problem has been resolved.
More information from the Google Maps Usergroup. Fire Fox is still reported by most of those who use it to be more stable, more friendly and more adaptable than any of Microsoft's IE family.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Klaus Mayer - Panoramas from Australia

It has been fantastic to watch a number of panoramas from rural places in Australia being added to Panoramic Earth in the last few days. A new member, Klaus Mayer, has been adding images from both the The Grampians and from Kangaroo Island. Given the vast distances between the two, this represents quite a lot of time in a car.

Klaus emigrated to Australia in 2000 and claims that photography is just a hobby. One, it seems, to which he is committed. He started creating panoramas when coming across Helmut Dersch’s PTViewer a couple of years ago, at a time when he was still using film.

He recently brought a K10D, is now ‘hooked on panos’ as he put it, and started sharing some on a personal home page. His favourite destinations are in the outback, which means that a lot of driving is required, and time is limited to weekends and holidays. Thankfully, being in Australia, sun is often not a problem.

Klaus started adding Australian images to Panoramic Earth in April 2008. A full list of Klaus’s panoramas is available from his profile, and those interested in his work can follow him via his own RSS feed. About the site, Klaus says ‘I like because it shows visitors where the photo was taken and which direction they are facing when viewing the pano’.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Google Maps Loss of Satellite Images

Just over the last few days, the presentation of the satellite images on Google maps has been temperamental, which will cause problems for people wanting to accurately geo-locate pins on maps. For those submitting images to Panoramic Earth, this causes problems both in locating the image and setting the true north point of the panorama. There is not a lot that we can do except hope that this problem, beyond the control of anyone except Google, will be shortly resolved.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Most Popular Panoramas in April 2008

It is always interesting to see what people are looking at. Here is a list of the top 16 most popular and most frequently viewed panoramas from Panoramic Earth in April. Places in Mallorca are popular at the moment, this may be a reflection of the weather in the UK (Mallorca is a very popular destination for people in England), and the fact that the time to book summer holidays is with us.
  1. La Pergola Aparthotel in Mallorca
  2. Scotts Hotel in Mallorca
  3. Es Canet Parc Agroturismo in Mallorca
  4. Puerto de Sóller Beach outside Hotel Esplendido in Mallorca
  5. Hotel Son Borguny in Mallorca
  6. City Hall in Singapore
  7. St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
  8. Colosseum of Rome in Rome
  9. Millennium Bridge in London
  10. Ketteringham Hall in Ketteringham
  11. The Monument to the Fire of London in London
  12. Westminster Cathedral in London
  13. Tower Bridge in London
  14. The London Eye in London
  15. London Bridge in London
  16. Circus Maximus in Rome

New Panoramas on Panoramic Earth