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panoramic stitching Michael Hallett

panoramic stitching Michael Hallett - Michael Hallett shoots and combines pictures to make stunning panoramics

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By September 2003, Michael Hallett will have worked intermittently over 33 month period on the Bullring photography project and will have made between nine and ten thousand individual photographs. These will provide the basis for a contemporary archive; and a major exhibition and book for publication to coincide with the retail opening of the Bullring.

Michael uses conventional and digital cameras to create a panoramic construction consisting of between 5 and 35 or more individual images giving an angle of view between 180 and 360 degrees. The photographer and viewer become surrounded by the landscape, with each panorama offering a more involved sensation of what it was like to be there. These images see their subject from the inside looking out, extending an awareness of time and space.

panoramic stitching Michael Hallett
Twelve of these have been produced as one metre panoramic constructions provide a celebratory look at the construction of the new Bullring. These images illustrate the story of the growth of Europes largest city centre retail led regeneration project - the Bullring provides more than 110,000sqm of prime retail space, with new transport links and parking improving access for 7.2 million shoppers. Covering more than 40 acres and a cost in excess of 500 million. Presided over by the Rotunda and St. Martin in the Bull Ring Church, these images provide a unique insight into the very heart of Birmingham. Anyone visiting this year's Focus on Imaging exhibition may have seen the display.

panoramic stitching Michael HallettA photographer observes a subject and freezes it in a moment of time, in what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment. The camera frames the picture and allows the viewer to see the image normally within a 50 to 55 degree angle of view. A panoramic construction consisting of between 5 and 35 or more individual images gives an angle of view between 180 and 360 degrees. The photographer and viewer become surrounded by the landscape with each panorama offering a more involved sensation of what it was like to be there.
A conventional photograph is viewed from the outside looking in. A panorama is seen from the inside looking out extending an awareness of time and space. Metaphorically the panoramic construction colours in what the single photograph can only see in black & white. It is the difference between being a voyeur or being a participant.

panoramic stitching Michael HallettMany of the original images that make up a digital construction are made on a digital camera then manipulated and constructed as a panorama in Adobe Photoshop. More recently the images are being made with a Casio QV-5700. With concern over archival integrity of the digital image, greater permanence is achieved by using silver based materials to duplicate the digital output. This involves the use of an Olympus OM-2 camera with a range of lenses. This process has the flexibility of allowing the single photograph to be taken and placed on file for future generations.

Fujifilm Superia X-tra ISO400 colour negative film is the most frequently used sensitive material though under poor light and weather conditions Fujicolor Press ISO800 colour negative film is an excellent alternative. Ways of improving the archival permanence of the digital image, on CD, DVD or equivalent and in print form remains high on the agenda.
An original panorama is constructed as a high quality TIFF document normally for exhibition purposes at 100cm width then enlarged or reduced in size for publication.

panoramic stitching Michael HallettThe conventional camera has a limited field of view. From the earliest days photographers sought to expand this restricted field of vision by creating panoramic images. The most common methods were to make a succession of overlapping negatives and then paste together a corresponding sequence of prints, to use a rotating camera with moving plates or films or simply use a camera with a wide angle lens.
Although Michael Halletts images share their format with their predecessors, they use significantly different technology and expand upon what has gone before. The images captured by a digital camera are transformed into panoramic constructions using a design software package and then output through an ink jet printer. The past and present are freely intermixed, expanding both the content and the time represented in the completed image.

The visual solution of how to describe these amazing man-made edifices became the panoramic construction. The creative use of computer imaging programmes remained further along the learning curve. Now it seems inconceivable that Photoshop had been available for almost a decade and had not been seen as a tool to place individual photographic images over one another in layers as distinct from stitching and merging the images into one another.

About the author
An acknowledged academic, writer and photographic historian, with his development
of the panoramic construction Michael Hallett MPhil FBIPP FRPS FCSD returns to his original career path of photography. He has recently completed a biography on Stefan Lorant, the pioneering editor of Picture Post, and is currently writing an outline history of late-20th century photography. He can be contacted at hallettpic@aol.com.

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