4.0 Representing the landscapes of South Uist


One of the most effective ways of capturing a sense of landscape is through the use of photography. Although single images can only give one view, multiple shots can be combined to give a much better sense of the landscape. There are a series of examples where photography has been used to create interesting effects, and better communicate a sense of landscape (see Shanks 1992; Hockney 1984; Johnston cited in Bradley 1998). It was clear that one way forward was to present a series of photographs from the sites in South Uist, and to display these on the World Wide Web.

360° panoramas

In South Uist, a series of 360° photographic panoramas were taken so that landscape settings could be examined away from the field. These photographs portrayed the entire landscape setting around a site and seemed to be an ideal alternative to single shots of the landscape. However, sticking the photographs together by hand created large strips which were difficult to manage and awkward to include in printed format. As a result of optical distortion and changes in light, the images often did not fit together perfectly, creating a discontinuous horizon. Furthermore, looking at the photographic strips gave little sense of the landscape. The entire landscape setting could be viewed at once, which is quite unlike looking at the landscape in reality, where you can only see a portion of the landscape at any one time. A more practical alternative was to scan each photograph and recreate the montage with the aid of a computer. In this way it would be possible to manipulate the images, store them conveniently on disk, as well as display them on the World Wide Web.

Initial attempts at creating photographic montages on the computer produced poor results. Using the widely available Paintshop Pro (JASC) the scanned photographs were pasted together manually. The edges were blended together using the 'Clone Brush' function but because the images did not fit together properly, the final image looked disjointed. Furthermore, because the colours of the sky and the earth are rarely identical from photograph to photograph and because of variations in exposure of the film (see methodology), it became impossible to blend the images together convincingly. This method was also extremely time consuming. There was only one advantage: the images produced were not memory intensive, around a third of a megabyte.

QTVR and SpinPanorama

There are a number of software packages available on the market that are designed specifically to stitch images together smoothly. Many of these are designed for Macintosh users, and since this project was PC-based, the choice of software was limited. The software package eventually selected was SpinPanorama . This package is very straightforward to use. The scanned photographs are placed next to one another in the correct sequence and then two points on each side of the photographs are selected which will be joined when stitched. The software then stitches the images together and attempts to blend the colours so that the entire panorama appears continuous. The image created usually needs a brief tidy up, as SpinPanorama tends to leave blank edges where photographs have been distorted to fit together. Once the image has been cleaned up, SpinPanorama converts the file into a continuous QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) image which can be viewed using a quicktime plug-in, which should be downloaded automatically from the Internet when you access these images online.


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Last updated: Tue Aug 8 2000