Making modern panoramic photos to match historic images

Blognosticator Head

I’m multitasking – working on installing solar panels on my roof, working with my students and colleagues, writing a book, working on another person’s book, doing illustrations for another book, singing in a choral group (concert on the 23rd!), preparing the copy for Cal Poly’s commencement ceremony next month, and keeping up with things around the house.

In my spare time I am preparing for a show at our local San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. This show will feature panoramic photos taken by me, one of which I plan to print 10 feet tall and over 58 feet in length. This print will be made in 17 sections on my Epson wide format ink-jet printer, then the output will be laminated with very thin clear film laminate. When it’s finished, John the Wallpaper Hanger will trim the strips (there is a one-inch overlap), and glue these sections to the wall. They will stay up for 45 days, after which John the Wallpaper Hanger will turn into John the Wallpaper Remover, and peel them off the wall. This will work because he will have prepared the wall with a lacquer-based paint that will resist a permanent bond with the wallpaper paste.

I hope this works.

Meanwhile, back in my multitasking world, I have been taking GigaPan panoramas of locations around our community. These are photos of our town and of the region around us. Some of these are replicas of photos taken by a man named Frank Aston, who was a commercial photographer in San Luis Obispo between 1906 and 1947. A few weeks back I wrote in my blog about scanning the long Cirkut camera negatives taken by Mr. Aston. Since then I have identified a few of these images that I want to replicate with new photos, and I have been working on those to put on display in my show in February.

View of Avila Beach LR

This is the panorama taken by Frank Aston of Avila Beach, California, in the early 1900s. The sleepy beach town served as an oil transfer point for Union Oil Company; you can see their large oil tanks on the hills above the pier.

On Saturday I drove out to Avila Beach, a bucolic beach town a few miles from here, and took a replica photo based on an Aston panorama from the early 1900s. His photo was taken from a wooden railroad bridge that is no longer there. But, I was able to get to a spot about 50 feet from that place to make the new version. Where his image is in black and white, mine is in color, and where his was on film, mine is digital. I shot 312 images on my Canon 1ds Mark III with a 200mm telephoto lens. These stitched into a 9GB photo of the scene, which is very sharp and has a tremendous amount of detail.

Avila Beach Panorama LR

This is my GigaPan photo from last Saturday. At center-left you can see the concrete pilings that once held the railroad bridge featured on the left edge of the photo above. The oil tanks on the hills in the distance are gone, and the town is now a popular tourist destination, and a great swimming beach for locals. In the foreground is the mouth of San Luis Obispo Creek. The pier, and the building on the pier, are still here.

My plan for the photo show in February is to hang the historic photos immediately under the modern images. Some of my replica images will be a bit wider in coverage than the historic photos, yet they will convey the same visual impression as the originals.

I start printing the 17 ten-foot panels of my 58-foot photo tomorrow, and for that I am using a home made take-up reel on the floor in front of my printer. I want to handle the photo paper as little as possible to avoid kinking it as I handle it. After the prints are made, I will have them laminated by a commercial firm in town. The process of printing these will be about 20 hours of printer time, spread over a week or so in my home office.

On Friday I leave for Hong Kong for the International Color Consortium meeting there. I will be moderating one session of that conference, and will be attending various printing plant tours during the week. I hope to be able to get a GigaPan image from the top of the hill of the Hong Kong cityscape, so I will be taking the GigaPan rig and a big tripod with me on the trip. More on this later.


About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and was a Guest Professor at Hochschule München from September, 2021 to September, 2022. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
This entry was posted in Adventures, Panoramic Photography, Photography, Printing and Printing Processes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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