Stereographic projection “Mini Planet”

Last week I wrote a post about making panoramas called “World thought a letter box frame”. This is a sort of a follow up post.

Since the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity two weeks ago there have been in my image radar more pictures of what have been named “mini planets”. These are images of either panoramas or pictures cropped to the format, then through photographic manipulation software the images have been turned into a faux mini planet. The images have mainly been city scapes which, has made the image look like a small planet.

Mini Planet - Ann Arbor Night by `electricjonny at

Mini Planet – Ann Arbor Night by `electricjonny at

The pictures remind me of an extreme fish eye image made using a very wide angle lens. I do not own such a lens and have never had the chance to make images like this before.

The images are in fact called stereographic projection. In essence, what this means is a rather clever digital manipulation that renders a 360-degree spherical panorama as a flat image. Though you can make them with out having such a panoramic image with a bit of work.

God made the universe in 7 days, Photoshop made a planet in 20 seconds.

First you need to find a sutible image. I would surgest a panoramic but a landscape where the two sides are level and have similar features can work too.

Next open the image into Photoshop and adjust the size of the image. You need the image to have the same height as its width. When you do this it will stretch the image but don’t worry.

You need to invert your image so sky or the top of your image is at the bottom.

Next you need to go to your filter options and select Distort>Polar coordinates.

This creates your planet.

There will be some tidying up in the image especially  it it has not joined correctly or if features have not matched up. The editing here will depend on your image and on your own imagination when editing. I would predict maybe a small amount of cloning and healing will be needed.

You can experiment by adding clouds from about picture to give them more detail and effect.

Here are some I made earlier

This was my first attempt. I took an image which i was not too impressed with but would be ok to experiment with. Panorama of the White Factory This is a panoramic of the White factory in Lodz, Poland. I didn’t like it because i made it by hand with out a tripod and didn’t quite get a level horizon. I processed the image per my instructions above and here is the result.

The image worked quite well apart from where it joined in the middle. The two sides of the picture were not the same which meant i had to be a little creative to make the image work.

I did this by dupplicating the layer and then flipping it vertically  to fill the small gap where the two sides would join.

I also  copied the tree across and blended it behind a building to make it look natural. I then merged the two layers together and in areas where there was still a seam I cloned and healed the area.

A lot of this work was on the area that looks like an island in the pond but infact this is where i was standing when i took the picture.

Once i had delt with the main image I then looked at the sky. I took colour samples from the top and bottom of the sky. I  created a radial gradient and placed the layer behind the “mini planet”. Using the circular selection tool I then masked out everything outside of the planet to blend the sky with the new gradient layer below. I gropued everything into a smart object to reduce noise and sharpened. I then added a vingette on top.

All in all it took about 45 minutes but it was well worth it and I was sure i could do better.

My next try; lets make life easier by making complications

For my next attempt i got an image which i had taken using the panoramic format in my camera.This picture i like a lot because of its surreal vibrancy.

Becuase of the problems i had had before i decided to make this image more balanced.  I duplicated the layer and fliped it vertically to make the image longer. The images were blended in the middle in the area of the larger out building. I then processed using the steps earliar.

Once processed I had to do a small amount of cloning as the filter and blended the join well. The image looks good but it could be better and I learnt a lot. The image blends better when it has matching features to mix. Once again I blended the join by duplicating the layer and then rotating it slightly. I have found this the best way to fix gaps in the seam. it is better than cloning and healing big areas because you don’t have to clone too much and you don’t have small repeating patterns clustered close to each other.

Because the original image had a large area of sky it meant the planet is small and I didn’t need to add a sky. I did enlarge the final out come to make it fit in the frame better.

Lets try 360 degree

I had an early attempt of a 360 panoramic in my folder. It was hell to edit origianlly as my machine at the time was dying and did die after i finally put the image together (it was nearly 5 years old at the time and had had many problems so i think the image was the final nail in the coffin).

The picture was taken in Krakow, Poland in the Cotton Market. This is a long hall in the old town of the city. It sits to the side of the main city square and opposite the city cathedral. It was a very cold January and early in the morning so there weren’t to many people. I stood in the middle of the market between the middle entrance doors at a crossroads type junction in the market. I took about 60 pictures to make up the panoramic and as you can see form the image above it isnt quite straight. This is due to my tripod not being secure when taking the pictures and also the computer not being able to match parts of the image and some of it had to be done manually. In the end the image was made by creating four separate panoramas and then manully blending them together.

My previous attempts at mini planets had shown me that i really needed to have a 360 image which will blend well together (although the other images had worked well).

This image was well blended with only one visable area of the blend which was on the floor. This problem is an issue i believe everyone will have when you have a complex pattern. I had to copy areas and paste them on a new layer like a jigsaw puzzle to make the tiled floor match. On this picture i did not invert the image with top at the bottom which, gives the image a feeling of looking up at the cealing. I thought this would work better as it would have a more natural look.

I edited this image in two parts the background and the foreground. First I duplicated my layer and then masked the top layer so i would just be editing the planet. Previously i had a sky to replicate but not this time. I decided the floor of the hall made a good boundry but i wanted to play around with the colours in the background.

I took my background layer, duplicated it and then added a gaussian blur at the highest setting and set the blending mode to overlay this gave a very smooth almost astrophotogrpahic feel.

On the foreground,  I decide to do a small about of tonal correction and added a warm filter to areas that felt too cold and blue.

After this i created a smart object with all the layers, sharpened, reduced noise and added a low key s curve. I then placed a small vignette on top to draw your eye to the image.

This final image i feel is the best of the three. The experimentation helped me a lot, it gave me the oppertunity to think about my workflow and how i would take images for this type of photograph in the future and what kinds of situations i could use this quiver in my photographic bow.

Let me know what you think? Whats you favorite image of the three?

I have just made a new mini planet this time as a HDR click here to see this. (17/12/12)


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