Thursday, 6 October 2016

Accidental Panorama with AutoStitch

Panorama photography used to be a complicating photo technique where the process consists of two parts. First the hardware portion where a camera is set up on a sturdy tripod with panoramic head and a series of carefully framed overlapping section of the scene is taken. The next step involves using a panorama stitching software to align and stitch all those overlapping images into a single panorama photograph. If film camera is used that also involves scanning and digitizing the images before they can be stitched with the stitching software.

Panorama photo of Longmen Grottoes or Dragon Gate Grottoes stitch from three images
This simple panorama of Longmen Grottoes of Luoyang, Henan, China was stitched with AutoStitch from 3 images taken a few seconds apart and not shot in sequence.   --     Camera; Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens; Olympus M.Zuiko Digtal ED14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II all three images were shot at 14mm F5 ISO 200 and shutter speed from 1/640s and 1/1250s.

However with digital photography and high speed imaging chip things has all changed and anyone can easily take a panorama photo hand holding a camera or a mobile phone. Almost all mobile phones has a panorama photo mode and they even stitch the finish panorama photo on the device itself just as the photos is taken.

All mirrorless camera and travel zoom has panorama features as well but some work better than others. There are also specialist cameras like the LG 360 cam and the Ricoh Theta camera that take 360 degree panorama images but these are more of the fun camera type. If you are serious about panorama images there is no shortcut and what we said on the first paragraph is mostly true.

Features and performances of panorama software have also improved tremendously in recent years. Panorama software now can stitch the images and deliver the finished panorama in seconds or minutes depending on the complexity of the images and require minimal human input. One of this software is the AutoStitch software that we mentioned in some of our earlier blog posts.

Panorama photo of Longmen Grottoes or Dragon Gate Grottoes stitch from seven images
This panorama stitch was from 7 photographs not originally intended for panorama. AutoStitch64 had no problem stitching them into a panorama photo but the sitting Buddha in the center is slanting and its surrounding has wrong perspective as well.  --    Camera; Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens; Olympus M.Zuiko Digtal ED 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II. Six images are shot at 14mm the center image with the sitting Buddha is shot at 23mm. All images at F5 ISO 200 and shutter speed from 1/640s to 1/1250s.   
Recently we replaced the hard drive on our old desktop computer and installed 64bit Ubuntu on it. Previously we run AutoStitch with WINE on 32 bit Ubuntu with great result. This time we are trying out the AutoStitch 64 bit version. Initially we had some problem getting the AutoStitch 64 to run on Ubuntu with the latest WINE. Changing the WINE window version configuration setting  for AutoStitch 64 to Windows XP took care of that problem. AutoStitch 64 run so much better and faster than the 32 bit version and that is not all as we discover more about this software.

After getting the software to work I randomly picked some images from the picture folder and fed it to AutoStitch 64. Surprisingly without complaint AutoStitch 64 simply stitched together a panorama photograph. It was not a horizontal or vertical panorama image but a spread out larger scene with images added in all directions. Nevertheless it was quite a seamless stitching from AutoStitch 64.

Panorama photo of Longmen Grottoes or Dragon Gate Grottoes AutoStitch from five images
Another trial with 5 images panorama stitch of LongMen Grottoes a UNESCO Heritage site in Henan, China with AutoStitch. This time the stitching is much better then the previous one but there are some edges that need works  --    Camera; Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens; Olympus M.Zuiko Digtal ED14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II all five images are shot at 14mm F5 ISO 200 and shutter speed from 1/640s to 1/1250s.

When my wife looked at the panorama images I just stitched she laughed and said "those are my images but they are not panorama set!" We were amazed -  can you believe it I accidentally stitched a panorama photograph from some random images using AutoStitch.

That gave my wife an ideas to look for images from her trip to Henan, China that were not initially taken as panorama set but she wished that she had.  She experimented with many combination of the images she had in her collection. Here we present a few of those resulting panorama stitches, the last two panorama images look like it was a planned panorama photographs after some editing.

Panorama view of Longmen Grottes or the Dragon gate Grottes at Louyang, Henan, China
This final panorama stitch of Longmen Grottoes or Dragon Gate Grottoes from Luoyang, Henan province China. This one was stitch from six individual photos not taken as panorama set. AutoStitch64 stitch them together beautifully and with some cropping and layer cloning we had a convincing Panorama image.  --    Camera; Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens; Olympus M.Zuiko Digtal ED14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II all six images are shot at 14mm F5 ISO 200 and shutter speed from 1/640s to 1/1250s.

After many combination of different images this final set above taken from Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang, Henan China a UNESCO Heritage site delivered the final result for that set. It had the least distortion and looked like it was from a set of images shot for Panorama. It does have some double images on the right and some mismatch here and there. However problem like these are often found on panorama photograph stitch from images with hand-held camera. 

The picture below is from Lijingmen one of the four ancient gates of the walled city of Luoyang, China. This set consists of three photos, the first two are close enough for panorama stitch. However the third one where the gate is at the wrong end of the three images set. Nevertheless, AutoStitch has no problem stitching this set but the lower part of the images need a lot of cropping and the sky and roof on this photograph need some reconstructions and cloning.

Lijingmen one of the four ancient gates of Luoyang
This three images panorama stitch of LiJingMen the ancient gate of Luoyang in Henan, China. The three images was not originally taken as panorama but AutoStitch having no problem stitching them together, with some reconstruction of the Sky and the roof and cropping of the foreground and that is all it takes.  --  Camera; Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens; Olympus M.Zuiko Digtal ED14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II all three images are shot at 14mm F5.6 ISO between 200 to 250 and shutter speed 1/80s to 1/125s.

We had very good experience with the older 32 bit AutoAtitch from years ago only now we try AutoStitch 64. This 64 bit version is way better than the 32 bit AutoStitch in terms of speed and performance. We also witness the superb pixels matching algorithm of AutoStitch 64. It even matches images that were not taken from the same spot and with lens of different focal length as well. Unavoidably stitching panorama images with condition like this results in more distortion than from the planned panorama set.

AutoStitch can be downloaded free from for personal use without restriction and royalties. However AutoStitch company do request for acknowledgement of usage. Please note that this free version of AutoStitch is a demo version which only stitch spherical projection panorama.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Ichiban Boshi Pavilion Mall KL reopening after renovation 2016

Our usual go to eating place at Pavilion Mall Kuala Lumpur is Ichiban Boshi; one of the many Japanese Restaurants located at Pavilion Mall Kuala Lumpur. We like it mostly for its handmade soba noodle and traditional Japanese dishes.

Ichiban Boshi was closed for renovation about two months ago but is now reopen for business. It was just coincidental that we walked in on the very first day of their reopening as one of their waitresses whom we know told us.

The front sitting area near the entrance of the newly renovated Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant
The front sitting area near the entrance of the newly renovated Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant at Pavilion Mall Kuala Lumpur. This photo was taken at 2.25pm when most of the lunch crowd had left.  --   Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1s, Lens: Panasonic's Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-f/5.6 ASPH, lens zoom at 18mm aperture set at F/4.2 shutter speed 1/60s and ISO at 800.   
After 2 months of renovation the whole place is totally remodeled a much welcome change with a cool and refreshing look. The decor is a mixture of old and modern Japanese style with more tables for diners. We like it better with the lighter theme and the dinning area is evenly lighted unlike previously where some areas were quite dim.

The open sitting area of the redesigned Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant
The open sitting area of the redesigned Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant with the sushi bar on the left and some Japanese style wooden panel in between the dinning area. If you wonder the emptiness of this restaurant in the picture that is because this photo was taken at 3:08pm    --     Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1s, Lens: Panasonic's Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-f/5.6 ASPH, lens zoom at 12mm or 24mm(35mm film) aperture set at F/3.5 shutter speed 1/60s and ISO at 1250.     
On this very first day the staff and waitresses seemed to be out of sync after their long breaks and the newly renovated surrounding. Having an overly zealous and jumpy new restaurant manager was not helping and in fact made the whole situation even more disorganized than it needed to.

Air flown kodai fish sashimi from Ichiban Boshi Japanese resturaunt
The newly renovated Ichiban Boshi restaurant is nice but we miss the air flown specialty like this sumptuous Japanese kodai fish.  You can choose to have it grilled or done sashimi style. Ichiban Boshi used to bring in air flown fish from Japan every Friday. This photo was taken on one of our visit on Oct 3, 2014.     --      Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, Lens: Panasonic LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm F/1.4 lens  aperture set at F/4 shutter speed 1/40s and ISO at 1600.

The menu had many new dishes added in however we do miss some of our favorite dishes that were on the old menu. We missed the air flown fish and sashimi they used to flown in from Japan every Friday.  In the past they updated their menu quite often, so hopefully they continue to do so and put the air flown fish and sashimi back on the menu.

Gripy grilled kodai fish bone from Ichiban Boshi Japanese resturaunt
This photograph is also from Oct 3, 2014 the same day as the previous one. This deep fried kodai bone is from the same fish we had  sashimi and the remaining of the fish and bone was deep fried gently and served as a second delicious crispy dish.      --     Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, Lens: Panasonic LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm F/1.4 lens  aperture set at F/4 shutter speed 1/50s and ISO at 1600.

The Hamachi sashimi or Yellow Tail sashimi was neatly presented in set of 5 or 7 pieces. We ordered the 5 pieces set - we really liked the well textured yet smooth buttery flavor of Hamachi sashimi. Our Hamachi Sashimi for today was extremely fresh and nice as this was their very first day of re-opening.

Hamachi sashimi or yellowtail sashimi from Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant
The Hamachi sashimi comes in set of 5 or 7. Here we had the 5 pieces set. On this very first day of their reopening our hamachi sashimi was just right well texture and buttery smooth.     --     Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1s, Lens: Panasonic's Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-f/5.6 ASPH, lens zoom to 32mm or 64mm(35mm film) aperture set at F/5.6 shutter speed 1/30s and ISO at 1600.      
One of the menu items that was missing last year and found its way back this time is my favourite Japanese styled potato salad and of course we ordered one too.

Japanese styled potato salad from Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant
The delicious Japanese styled potato salad is one of our favourite and is now back on the new menu. This one was very well prepared - looked like their chefs had everything figured out on their first day of reopening.    --      Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1s, Lens: Panasonic's Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-f/5.6 ASPH, lens zoom to 16mm or 32mm(35mm film) aperture set at F/5 shutter speed 1/40s and ISO at 1600.

While I had the potato salad my wife was enjoying herself with a cup of unagi chawanmushi.  She loved unagi as well as chawanmushi and now she had the best of both in one chawan.

Unagi chawanmushi from Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant
Unagi chawanmushi another new item on the menu.  The chawanmushi was silky  smooth and the unagi was succulent and meaty      --     Camera: Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8,  aperture set at F/5 shutter speed 1/30s and ISO at 1600.

As usual we have a delectable lunch. The new menu was not bad we also had soba noodle and an udon set. The new menu emphasised more on udon noodles but if you prefer soba you can request for soba and they may oblige to replace the udon with soba.

In preparing the photos for this blog it surprised me that the little Panasonic Lumix DMC-Gm1s ISO 1600 image's noise level is fairly low compared to the Lumix DMC-G5. However Darktable's photo editing software's Noise Profile plugins with the preset for DMC-G5 reduced the noise on the DMC-G5 images to on par with Gm1s with just a single click.

The Lumix DMC-GM1s is not supported on the Darkatble yet although DMC-GM1 model without the suffix 's' is supported. The images from DMC-GM1s were raw converted on the Silkypix software that came with the Panasonic camera.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Back on our feet

After weeks of salvaging and porting this blog from our old wordpress platform we are now back. This kind of give us renewed energy to revive this blog that we have neglected for far too long. During the period that we were away from the blog our love for photography remain intact. However a number of things have diverted our interest and attention from blogging.

First is the maintenance of the wordpress site with this blog being constantly bombarded with persistent undesirable visitors from eastern Europe. I got turned off looking at the web stats and visitor logs and slowly got tired of logging in every time to block them or ban them but they kept coming back with different IP.  Installing security plugins from Wordpress is only a false security you only realized these plugins are not working in a painful way that is after you got hacked. Sometime last year the site was hacked by script injection and hijacked to spam other website. I hope our blogs' new home at blogger will provide the type of security that is expected from Google which has a good record of it and lets hope it stays that way

The other disturbing element to this blog is our user experience with Olympus Micro-Four Thirds camera. Our past experience with Olympus film camera over the last 30+ years with the OM and the Mju series of cameras was totally positive. Unfortunately that is not the case with the Olympus Digital Pen series of cameras. There are many users I know who had little to no problem with their Micro Four Thirds camera so I can only assume that maybe my luck with Olympus had run dry after being a loyal Olympus user for too long.

My E-P1 had numerous problems from the spot metering circles disappearing from the screen after a firmware update, the camera main control wheel dial worked like a Russian roulette; a game of chance in setting the camera control. The IS (Image Stabilization) symbol kept showing red warning alert on the display, the LCD screen's peripheral went dark and the battery became bloated up and stuck to the battery bay and hard to remove from the camera. All these happened just over a year of using it. My wife's E-PL2 didn't fair any better. The kit lens kept showing a lens locked notification on the camera screen - this lens just died after warranty expired; the hand grip rubber covering dropped off but luckily we found it and managed to glue it back. The main control wheel dial also malfunction like my E-P1 but in a much lesser degree.

Reindeer decoration at Pavilion Mall KL taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 and Kit lens
Reindeer decoration at Mall taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 and the 14-42mm Kit lens --  Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, Lens: Panasonic's LUMIX G VARIO F/3.5-5.6 14 - 42mm ASPH aperture set at F/5.6 shutter speed 1/60s and ISO at 1600.

Checking with online forums and blogs found other Oly users also suffering from some sort of problems as well.  Some had the same problems like us but non can beat mine in numbers and diversities. Luckily with Micro Four Thirds System we can keep our lenses and still have an alternative camera  manufacturer to fall back on. I decided to check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 camera and looking back I am glad I did. The DMC-G5 turns out to be a no nonsense back to basic camera. It does not have all the bell and whistle of its peers. It feels rather plasticky to touch and hold but it is surprisingly reliable and a dependable workhorse - a user experience that echos with other DMC-G5 users. The switch makes me a believer of the Panasonic Lumix system camera and lenses.

For my wife her E-PL2 still works OK other than the unlucky kit lens but not an issue as we got other lenses, including a Lumix kit lens too.

However I notice some of her macro photos have some kind of camera shake or 'shutter shock' problem. Possibly the Olympus 5 axis Image Stabilisation can take care of the camera shake and the 0 second shutter delay may cure the shutter shock problem. We decided to try Olympus one more time for the 5 axis stabilisation and after weeks of checking on forums and photographer blogs the answer is the Pen E-P5. This Pen E-P5 looks like the Olympus camera that has the least complaint. The common issue I notice is the shutter shock problem which was solved after Olympus issued a 0 second anti-shock setting in firmware update.

Q-Dee kinders taken with Olympus Pen E-P5
Q-Dees preschoolers eagerly waiting for their show to start photo taken with Pen E-P5 with M.Zuiko 60mm Macro lens - Camera: Olympus Pen E-P5, Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 MSC Macro Lens, setting at F/3.2 1/80s and ISO 1600.
Elaine upgraded to a E-P5 kit with a 17mm F/1.8 lens and a new 14-42 kit zoom that came free in the promotional package. The E-P5 solved the blurry macro photo problem and she got a new kit lens as well.

We are very pleased with these two cameras and have some catching up to do as we have photos from these two cameras waiting to showcase on this blog. Let's hope all will be smooth sailing from now on and happy blogging.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Retreat, regroup and .....

A few days ago I received an alert email from my site monitoring services saying my blog had gone missing with the error message "server not found". I checked and found that the hosting company suspended my site for "malicious activity". Oh dear, since when a photo blog had become a malicious website and how could I had to set up some "malicious activity" if I had not login to my site for months already. Couldn't reason with that guy he seemed very unhappy over the issue and not answering any further email from me. Now I am locked out from my blog and my server's control panel. 

I started some rethinking of what is the best course of action from here on. There is no point beating a dead horse so if we were to continue with the photo blog a new hosting or a new blog platform plus a rebuild of the website is required.  Well, what are the options for me?

First option is to move my site to another hosting company and continue with Wordpress. I am not very comfortable with this because Wordpress needs a lot of administrative work. Wordpress is also becoming  a magnet for black-hats and hackers basing on visitors' stat from my website. New security hole is discovered almost every other week in Wordpress as well as from its vast pool of third-party plugins. No matter how much attention you put on Wordpress you are likely to be just behind the curve. If you like scripting, programing, updating and doing admin task, Wordpress is for you, otherwise it become an uninspiring and tiresome task that leaves little time and motivation for blogging or photography.

The second option is host it with and let them handle the admin task. However just a quick check around also rule out this option. The free platform on has a lot of limitations and if you opt for the paid one it quickly adds up and become the expensive option. This one is also not the best choice where security is concerned after doing a search with the words "hack" and "wordpress".  The results made me want to quickly get out from there and go to the following option.

Choosing another CMS platform will take time and effort to learn and there is no guarantee that it could be better than Wordpress. There is also the Tumblr blog - this one is interesting I am still  checking it out to see why it is call microblogging and how it compares to regular blog platform.

So these lead me to Google Blogger and mostly for two big reasons - reliability and security. There is no need to sign up for Blogger, almost everyone has a Google account and from there you just need to activate Blogger on your account. Moving the text from Wordpress to Blogger is not difficult; what is needed is the "export file" from your Wordpress. I have them backup on my desktop computer so no problem with that and next just reformat the "export file" to Blogger format. Moving the images are more tedious. I need to get them from my PC and match the exact image that was used for the particular blog post and upload them one by one to Blogger and re-input the captions and metadata. That takes time and but that is all to it. 

I like to thank the following website with contents that helped me come to this decision quickly and provide details on how to move from Wordpress to Blogger. The first one is from an Internet security guy, the second one makes everything "look" so easy and the third one is interesting. - Why and How to Shift from WordPress to Blogger -  Moving From WordPress to Blogger - Why I Switched from Self-Hosted WordPress to Blogger

So we are now on the path of recovery, smile, keep calm carry a camera and have some tea and we will be back soon.

Castelton Darjeeling tea in a shining silver tea pot and a red sugar canister
A refreshing pot of Castelton Darjeeling tea in a shining silver tea pot and a red sugar canister from Betjeman & Barton Tea Room ---  Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, Lens: Panasonic's Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH aperture at at F/3.5 shutter speed 1/60s and ISO at 100.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Recovering a -2 EV Underexposed Image From Olympus XZ-1

Our grand nephew insisted we join him and his family to the cinema one evening. Unfortunately the movie he wanted to watch was taken off for the day's screening. Feeling disappointed and dejected he was not in the best of mood so we decided to have dinner first before thinking how to fill our time for the rest of the evening.

Kids being kids, after dinner he got over the disappointment  and was running all over the mall and posing for photograph. My wife was pleasantly surprised by his happy mood and quickly pulled out her XZ-1 and started snapping away.  He and his little sister were happily posing in front of the lighted fountain at the mall entrance but the tiny flash from the XZ-1 did not have sufficient power to cover the whole scene. On top of that the alternating fountain lighting from bright to dark accompanied by ever changing coloured illuminations fooled the camera metering.

2 stop underexposed photo from Olympus XZ-1 digital camera
A 2 stops underexposed photo from the Olympus XZ-1 in Normal Program Pattern metering mode — Camera: Olympus XZ-1. Setting lens zoom at 28mm(35mm film) or 6.0mm(lens) and at f/1.8 1/30s, ISO 100, Built-in flash On

This photo with both of them in front of the fountain was about 2 stops under exposed. With the images loaded on the computer we tried to recover the images from the RAW files. On the Olympus Viewer 3, I set the Exposure value to + 2 EV or 2 stops over which is the maximum setting available on Olympus Viewer 3.

The recovered image looks good, the colour vibrant and Olympus Viewer 3 has kept the noise level at an acceptable level. I am amazed at how good this small 1/1.63" old fashioned CCD sensor that many people thought as outdated, on the XZ-1 is doing.

After seeing the result from the Olympus Viewer 3, I decided to try this on the Darktable; the raw processing and work flow software on Linux computer. Darktable is very powerful but with a different and sometimes geeky user interface. I had toy with Darktable for a while but yet to commit to it seriously.

2 stop increase in exposure in Darktable Raw Conversion Olympus XZ-1
The same image as before but with a 2 stops increase in exposure during RAW conversion using Darktable — Camera: Olympus XZ-1. Setting lens zoom at 28mm(35mm film) or 6.0mm(lens) and at f/1.8 1/30s, ISO 100, Built-in flash On.
Comparing the result I got from both theDarktable and Olympus Viewer 3 they are very close. The Darktable seems to do better with more details in the mid tone area on the fountain itself while the Viewer 3 is better in protecting the highlight. The Viewer 3 also did better in the noise reduction but the Darktable had many ways to denoise - I tried the Profile Denoise feature on Darktable and found it to perform very well. Darktable is more flexible with what you can do with the images but that also makes it more complicating. The Olympus Viewer 3 has limited set of settings but is a much easier software to master yet produce good result.

After looking at the recovered images and the original images I got an idea to Exposure Blend the recovered image with the original together. Olympus viewer 3 and Darktable both do not have Exposure Blend features in the current version of the software. So the Blending part goes to The GIMP and the blended and tone mapped image overall looks better than the +2EV photo with more contrast and details especially on the illuminated sign and lamps in the photograph.

Result of  the -2EV underexposed image blend with the RAW converted Image.
Exposure blending the two previous images to form this final photo — Camera: Olympus XZ-1. Setting lens zoom at 28mm(35mm film) or 6.0mm(lens) and at f/1.8 1/30s, ISO 100, Built-in flash On.
The only draw back is the blended image has more noise but that can be taken care of with the Wavelet Denoise on Gimp. For web use like on the blog or social websites the noise on the blended image should not pose any problem with the image scaled down to web-ready image size.