Josh Sommers

Josh Sommers is a Software Engineer, Graphic Designer, amateur digital photographer and musician from Petaluma, Northern California. Josh began using computers to create artwork at the age of 12 in the early 1990's, starting with Photoshop version 2. His enthusiasm for computers and digital art continued to grow throughout high school, and upon graduation he was selected to receive a full tuition scholarship to DeVry University in Southern California. He graduated from DeVry magna cum laude in 2001 with a degree in Computer Information Systems. He pursued a career in software design and within a year earned a position as the lead applications developer for a billing software firm in Northern California. At the same time he became interested in digital photography. Since 2001 he has focused primarily on his artwork and experimental photography including panoramic photography, conformal mappings, and high dynamic range photography. You can see his broad range of artwork and photography online at

Technical Details

Equipment used:

  • Full Size Tripod
  • Nodal Ninja 3 Panoramic Tripod Head
  • Canon Digital Rebel XTi
  • Canon 10-22mm Super Wide Angle Lens

Capturing Technique

To create the base equirectangular image I find it is best to shoot in High Dynamic Range. This allows me to prevent strong over exposure near the sun or any other light source, and underexposure in the shadows. I shoot using my camera's auto-bracketing mode set to -2, 0 , +2 exposure value, and I set this range on an area of the scene with average exposure. I take three shots at each of 17 camera positions with the camera in portrait orientation: One row of eight positions (at 45 degree intervals) pointed 45 degrees upwards, one row of eight positions pointed 30 degrees downwards and one shot, handheld at arms length pointed directly down for the nadir shot. This approach enables me to leave out the zenith shot, which in general is the hardest shot to stitch.

Stitching Technique

I use Autopano, Hugin and Enblend to stitch my base equirectangular image. Because I shoot in HDR, the final panorama is actually comprised of three panoramas: one for each exposure value. Before I begin the stitching process it is necessary to group the differently exposed images into individual folders- one for the under exposed images, one for the standard exposures and one for the over exposed images. It is also necessary to name the images from each camera position for each exposure value the same (ex. The first camera position image for each exposure value would be named img(1).jpg).

I begin by stitching the overexposed image set. I load the images into Hugin and then use Autopano to auto generate control points. Then using Hugin I remove bad control points and create additional control points to better align the images. When the images are sufficiently aligned I render the panorama into a blended single layer TIFF file using Enblend. To produce the remaining two panoramas, I simply copy the Hugin project file into the standard and underexposed directories. This causes Hugin to load the same control points for the standard and under exposed image sets. Again, Enblend is used to render the final high quality TIFF file.

Once I have all three panoramas stitched and rendered, the next step is to create the HDR image and perform tone-mapping. This is done using Photomatix. The resulting HDR image is then loaded into Hugin to produce the stereographic projection. In this stage an infinite number of views can be produced from the same equirectangular panorama, and is the most creative stage of the process.