369 steps above Halifax: atop Wainhouse Tower

Enjoying a bird’s eye view from the top of the Wainhouse Tower at Skircoat Moor on the outskirts of Halifax this Bank Holiday Monday. 

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser. Pressing the fullscreen button is highly recommended for maximum viewing pleasure!

astride_wainhouse_towerThis iconic building is maintained by Calderdale Council, and is open to the public on ‘high days and holidays‘. It affords a fantastic viewpoint across the local area, and is rightly popular with thrill-seekers and those with a sense of historical curiosity. There are 369 steps in order to reach the public gallery which encircles the tower near the top.

wainhouse_details-1I originally climbed the tower almost exactly five years ago, on a previous May Bank Holiday, and shot a series of panoramas. At the time I was pretty pleased with the results: however I’ve gained a lot more experience, and use much better kit since those days. Also I’ve wanted for a while to try out a nifty technique to ‘hide’ the building from the final 360°.

So when I got the chance to take up some friends who were visiting, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to revisit the view. I travelled light this time too – no tripod or panoramic head was needed to make this photograph – as I’d learned the hard way climbing all those steps with a full pack of kit is hard work!

The result of ascending the tower once again is this high resolution panorama, which allows the viewer to look all across Halifax, the lower Calder Valley and beyond. Zoom in, look around, and have fun checking out all sorts of places which might catch your eye as you peek about…

You can also view this panorama on 360cities_logo

Technical info: photographed using Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 8-15mm f4 fisheye zoom lens; RAW shot as dual ISO using Magic Lantern firmware, then processed with LR CR2HDR, Lightroom 5.4. Stitched with PTGui Pro 5.2.0, output using Pano2VR Pro 4.5

wainhouse_details-2

Crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the ‘Causeway Coast’, Co. Antrim

A panorama taken from the middle of the famous rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, on County Antrim’s gloriously unspoiled north coast.

The rope bridge here is one of a series of well-loved tourist attractions along the “Causeway Coast”, situated as it is just a few miles east of the world famous Giant’s Causeway. Combining stunning views with a certain frisson of excitement and risk, it’s highly popular. Many thousands of visitors to the National Trust-managed site traverse the rope bridge every year, high above the crashing waves and swirling currents which separate the rocky islet from the cliffs of the coast.

A rope bridge has been present on the site for hundreds of years: it was originally set in place to allow seasonal access for salmon fishermen. The island, a small volcanic plug, sits next to a fishing ground which was a major source of employment. You can still see the small, recently-restored fisherman’s cottage on the island.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, this was one of the key destinations to bring visitors I first crossed the bridge in 1990 as a gangly, fearless teenager, when it felt considerably less solid than it does now. At that time it was a seasonal attraction: however this iteration of the bridge, installed in 2008, is open all year round (weather permitting, of course).

I hadn’t intended to shoot a pano of the bridge until we pulled up at the nearby carpark; however with such wonderful weather and smaller crowds – as we were visiting midweek and out of high season – meant I brought my pole & pano head along after all. I don’t have a great head for heights so I waited my turn to cross, quickly stopping in the middle and shooting the photos needed for this while looking resolutely straight ahead and trying not to get distracted. I only got to admire the view of the chasm below once I was safely back on terra firma, stitching this together from the comfort of my home!

Since capturing this view I’ve found various panoramas shot around the bridge, including on 360 Cities, but think this may be the first shot on (or indeed a couple of metres above) the bridge itself. Hope you enjoy the view!

Bluebells in the woods: springtime comes to Hardcastle Crags

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

After the short, grey days of winter, springtime percolates slowly through Calderdale, injecting life and colour into the valley once again. Muted monotones turn into verdant hues, flowers and buds appear, and the hills echo to the sounds of bleating lambs and birdsong.

This year it feels as if spring’s come later than ever: the wild garlic is still here, coexisting alongside bluebells and daffodils almost a month later than when I shot this panorama last year. It all feels a bit messed up, and I can hear hailstones hitting the windowpanes outside as I write this. So when there’s a window of good weather, it’s worth taking advantage… such as when I caught the setting sun light up this

Hardcastle Crags is an oasis of calm for me, an outpost of tranquillity and a place to escape the hectic nature of working life. It’s by no means an unspoilt landscape, but despite hundreds of years of man’s influence it’s a treasure trove of flora and fauna, and a great place to explore.

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, shaved Sigma 10mm f2.8 fisheye lens, Nodal Ninja RS-1, Promote Remote Control. 10 exposures, 1.7EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro & HDR Efex 2.

 

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

I first shot the bluebells in the Crags during my first spring in the valley, back in 2007 as I was just starting to embrace panoramic photography. It was the first panorama I shot bracketed in RAW… 3x exposures of 39 views. I stitched three separate panoramas (one for each exposure) overnight using the long-departed Realviz Stitcher. Seems an eon ago.  Six years, and thousands of panoramas later, it was great to revisit the theme once more, applying more rigorous technical and artistic experience to the subject.

It’s prompted me to dig out the original RAWs from 2007 and restitch this scene, which you can view above. It’s by no means perfect, but it acts as a good comparison to this year’s version. And you can never have too many bluebells on on page…

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 400D, Canon 18-55mm, Panosaurus head. 3 exposures, 2EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro

Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser. 

The American-born poet, Sylvia Plath, was buried at Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, in 1963 after a short and troubled life. In the past she was perhaps better known for her marriage to the former Poet Laurate Ted Hughes (originally from Mytholmroyd, a short distance away) but in recent years her creative impact and ability has been positively reappraised, based on a wider body of her work being discovered.

Her grave lies in the new graveyard: the headstone carries a simple inscription from Hughes, and has been defaced several times (if you look closely the name ‘Hughes’ is typeset slightly differently as the text has been replaced: a certain strand of more radical feminists is alleged have attempted to remove his surname repeatedly, in response to the abusive relationship in life and revisionist way he managed her creative legacy after death).

Sylvia Plath's headstone

On previous visits (see photo above from August 2012) the grave has been marked with stones, pens and other trophies and tributes from fans and well-wishers. On this occasion, fifty years after her death, the grave had been tidied up, just displaying floral tributes. During the time I was photographing this pano there was a steady stream of visitors to the site…

I shot this panorama on the same afternoon as a short and impromptu photoshoot with the excellent and highly tipped Merseyside band Bird, in and around the old and new church of St Thomas at Heptonstall.

Adele and Sian from Bird

I shot the band shortly before the second date on their current UK tour, when they played at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We had a short window of opportunity to take a few shots on a cold February afternoon, in the sombre surroundings of this ancient Yorkshire hilltop village under leaden skies. The weather matched their enigmatic, emotional and intimate music… given extra resonance as we viewed Sylvia Plath’s grave.

Thanks to Adele, Sian, Lex, Emma and Jack for their patience and good spirits: sitting in front of an open fire in the pub after an hour’s shooting in the raw winter’s air has rarely felt as rewarding!

Bird’s fourth release, Ophelia, is out now on Jack to Phono Records.

 

Life on Mars: a 360° panorama from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover ‘Opportunity’

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

Here’s a conversion of a panoramic photo which NASA published a couple of days ago. In NASA’s own words “this full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.

As soon as I saw the full resolution image I wanted to turn it into an interactive panorama. However, rather than wade in and significantly change the content, I decided to honour the original image almost ‘as is’. It’s an awesome image in its own right, and the visible seams and fake colours add to the character of the view.

So apart from extending the image to cover a full 360° x 180° spherical view – painting in some sky and adding the NASA ‘meatball’ logo – and adding a little more contrast to the scene, there is no retouching or changes. Now you can get the feeling you’re standing on Mars, under orange skies, seeing a view no human has experienced first-hand.

You can read the full NASA article, and view the full resolution image here. Original image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Universities.

[Edit: since posting this I spotted NASA have published their own version, which is Java-based. You can view it here. I thought it was too cool for somebody not to have done it].