Lance Armstrong Rides in Griffith Park

Last Wednesday, Lance Armstrong announced to the world that he would be in the LA Zoo parking lot in Griffith Park at 7:30 a.m. the following day if anyone wanted to ride. I have no idea how many people showed up, as I read various reports in the media ranging from 500 to 2000, but needless to say, a lot of people showed up.

I have a couple of videos and few photos from the “event” up on flickr – check them out if you’d like:

Waiting for Lance Armstrong

Update: You can spot me in the livestrong.com video!

20 seconds in, in the background, white jersey, yellow bike: http://www.livestrong.com/lance-armstrong/video/latwitterride-mp4/3848576c-445d-480c-8063-627a627f2aaa/

LA Lance Armstrong Twitter Ride Video

iPhone Panorama Apps

I’ve been reading about and trying out a couple of panorama apps for the iPhone that let you merge multiple photos from the iPhone’s camera into one larger image. The two that I’ll be talking about here are Autostitch and Pano. Both are very simple to use and both have individual strengths and weaknesses that I will attempt so address. If you’re already  familiar with how panorama images are created, bare with me for a moment here.

The way these apps work is they take a bunch of photos and look at the area that overlaps in order to put them together like you would put together a puzzle – match up the edges. Keeping this in mind, that you need to match up the edges, there is an optimum amount of overlap, and the overlapping area needs to look as close to the same in each other image that it overlaps with.

The first app I’ll address is Pano.

In Pano, you take the photo from within the app and only need to worry about overlap on one side. It only allows for overlap on one side, and gives you a transparent overlay for you to match up as you move the iPhone to take the next image. This makes it super easy to use and easy to produce good, clean panoramas. You want to hold the iPhone still and rotate it around a point as you take the photos in order to keep the perspective the same in each image. This is easier to do as the subject(s) in the photo are farther away. The best is scenery that is far away from you, but it is possible to match things up that are closer.

Here’s an image made with Pano:
Station Fire Plume from the Santa Monica Pier

The second app is Autostitch.

Autostitch is more flexible than pano in that you can have overlapping images in all directions – up, down, right and left. The built-in camera app is used to take images to be used in Autostitch. After the images have been captured, you tell Autostitch which images to use for building the panorama image.

You can shoot horizontal and vertical images without needing to tell Autostitch what you’re doing. What this means is that you can get a super wide-angle image, similar to what you would get with a fish eye lens, but without the extreme distortion. You can also create the horizontal panoramas, just like you can in Pano. This does make Autostitch a bit more complicated and a bit tougher to get a good clean image than Pano, but it’s still pretty easy to do.

Here’s an image made with Autostitch, showing off the super-wide angle capabilities:
4 Mile High Smoke Plume

Note that you could have made the first example image in either Pano or Autostitch, but you can only make images like the second in Autostitch. Autostitch also gives you the option to crop the images, or to leave them as they are from within the app. This only requires the tap of the crop button.

If you’re not sure about making Panoramas, but want to give it a try, I would lean towards Pano, but only slightly. If you are willing to experiment a bit to figure out how the app works best, Autostitch is more flexible, but will require some trial and error to get really clean panorama images. I will say after using both that Pano taught me how to shoot better images for Autostitch.

Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have tried either of these apps or perhaps a different iPhone panorama app.

Pano website link >>

Autostitch website link >>

9/12/09 Update:

I’m definitely becoming much more astute with Autostitch and find if to be quite flexible and to my liking. One nice aspect of shooting multiple images, especially on the 3Gs, is that you get to expose properly for the subject that is in the frame at that moment. Take for instance a shot with a bright sky and a foreground in shadow. Normally you would have to do an HDR or sacrifice one or the other. On the 3Gs, I touch the area to focus on and set the exposure for and all is well. So far I have seen remarkable results in high contrast situations such as this:

Station Fire from Woodland Hills

Cool Photos of the Station Fire

I’ve been comparing photo panorama apps on the iPhone to see which I like best, or more accurately which app works better for a given situation. If you’re looking for an app for a horizontal panorama shot, look no further than Pano from Debacle software. I should be getting a commission for all of the people that I have turned on to this very easy to use and very useful app.

Here’s a few of my recent panorama shots of the Station Fire done with Pano:

View from Work

Station Fire JPL Panorama

My Photo in Seattle Schmap

Olympic Sculpture ParkMy photo from the Olympic Sculpture Garden was selected for the Seattle edition Schmap map. If you click on the Olympic Sculpture Garden, you should eventually see the photo. I think a lot of people get these requests from Flickr.

Here’s the Seattle Schmap widget:

Cold Weather Cycling Gloves

I have been searching for some new cold weather gloves since I punched my index finger through my old Performance GoreTex-Thinsulate gloves that I have been using for the last 15+ years. I drove all around the L.A. are one day and checked the wares of Giordana, Craft, Performance, Pearl Izumi, Castelli, Louis Garneau, Specialized and probably a few others that I have forgotten.

My requirements were really determined by my old gloves – something that would last for a long time, be wind and water proof, have something to wipe your face and nose with, and look relatively good if possible. Just as I was about to give up on my quest, I stopped by the Montrose Bike Shop, which isn’t too far from where I live. For some reason I forget that they are there, and I wasn’t expecting to find anything of interest. They had just what I was looking for in the Specialized BG Radiant glove.

Specialized Body Geometry Radiant Glove

They have a leather palm for durability and grip, Hipora shell for breathability, and Thinsulate for warmth. Initially they were a little stiff, but loosened up after using them on the first ride. I noticed that my hands do get a touch damp, but it’s more akin to high humidity than being wet.

I have tried them out on a couple of 40° F days, and so far so good. I don’t intentionally ride in the rain anymore, so I don’t anticipate a wet weather test any time soon, but who knows what mother nature has in store!

1/7/09 Update:

I wore these on the 39th Annual Mt. Wilson New Years ride. Temperatures ranged from right around 40° F at the start of the ride at 9 a.m. to a “guesstimate” of lower 60’s in the sun. This right was a good challenge clothing-wise, as it was pretty cool in the shade, but warm in the sun. I kept the gloves on most of the way uphill, but took them off for the final ascent up to Mt. Wilson on Red Box road.

Red Box Road was completely shaded, and the slope to my left was about half covered in snow, and the air coming off of it was really cold. It may have been in the 30’s for this last stretch up to the peak. I mention this, because I had removed my gloves for this part since my hands were starting to get sweaty in them after climbing for a couple of hours with the ambient temperatures steadily rising as time passed. When I put them on for the descent off the summit, my last two fingers on each hand were a touch cool, but nothing to worry about.

My only complaint is that it was nearly impossible for me to shift down the cassette on my Shimano dual control levers. I could not feel the difference between the main lever and the smaller lever to shift down the cogs, something that comes in handy on a 1+ hour long descent. Perhaps I just need to work on my gloved-shifting technique to get this down.

Overall the gloves worked great! Here’s a pic from the top – note the slowly melting snow behind me.

Mt. Wilson New Years Day Ride, 2009

Critical Eye

John Siracusa’s life story warms my heart and reminds me that I’m not alone. I was prized as a photographers’ assistant for noticing details that would only become apparent after the film was processed and things were expensive to fix in the pre-digital photography world.

I have learned to subdue my critical eye in order to keep harmony in my environment, although my wife may not agree with me on that point.

But my scrutiny was not limited to my own artwork or the products of multinational conglomerates. Oh no, it extended to everything I encountered. This pasta is slightly over-cooked. The top of that door frame is not level. Some paint from that wall got onto the ceiling. Text displayed in 9-point Monaco exhibits a recurring one-pixel spacing anomaly in this operating system.

http://arstechnica.com/staff/fatbits/2009/05/hypercritical.ars

Fidgetr WordPress Plugin

I just added the Fidgetr widget to my blog. I saw it on a Team Slipstream page and looked it up. So far I like the display, but I would like to go in and tweak the css a little to fine tune it. This way I can rotate current flickr images without having to put them in posts.