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Create A Cool Polar Coordinate Globe Using Just An iPhone and Some Free Software

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Related course: Wow Factor Photography

This is a great little tutorial to play with if you have an iPhone and some spare time in order to get to grips with image editing software. It’s very easy to do and this step by step guide will walk you right through creating a cool polar coordinate globe.
Feel free to leave a comment at the end with a link to your own results.

Tutorial

The first thing you need to do is download a free app to your iPhone called Photosynth. This is (ironically) made by Windows – it’s not available on windows phones or Android.
This is a very straight forward app to use. Point your phone at something you want to capture, let the app capture it, then rotate your position so that it can carry on capturing a panorama. I did my capture in three stages, capturing the ground, the building and trees, and the sky.
When you’re looking to capture a panorama, try to find an area of common ground. I mean this literally. Stand somewhere where the ground isn’t going to change from one point to another,. Otherwise it’s going to look odd where the photos meet.
This is less important for the sky as that’s on the outside of the image. Just make sure you have the top of the buildings included, otherwise the photo will appear unfinished.
When your panorama is complete, email it to yourself so that you can work on it from a computer and finish the final effects.
For the purpose of making this a free experiment, I’m going to show you how to do it with free software called Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program). You can, of course, use Photoshop if you have it.
You can also capture the panorama with your camera and edit it in Photoshop if you’d like a slightly better result or if you don’t have an iPhone.
When you receive your photo from the email, it should look something like the image below.
It’s likely to have a hole in it because the app is designed to create a 3D environment rather then 2D. Some areas are lost when flattened out.
A panorama picture of a garden with a house
Not to worry; this is an easy fix.
Click on the clone tool, highlighted in the box on the left below, then select an area to clone from that roughly matches what you’re coving up.
To select the area, hover over it with a mouse, click ‘Ctrl’, then click away to fix the black area. Don’t worry about making it look perfect as the whole thing is going to be distorted when you apply the effect later on.
A screenshot of Gimp and its toolbox
The trouble with panoramas is that you get some areas that are brighter or darker than others and some slight discolouration.
I find that the best way to fix this is to use the heal tool. This is basically an intelligent clone tool that can detect which parts to repair.
For this instance, it makes the lines and colours between photos blend into each other much better.
The technique is much the same as the clone tool and you can see it in the screenshot below.
A screenshot of Gimp and its heal feature
Once you’re happy with how your panorama looks (and remember not to fuss about it too much), crop your image so that there is no black space at the top or the bottom of the photo.
Choose the box in the top left hand corner, and select the area you want. Then right click, select ‘Image’ and then ‘Crop to Selection’.
A screenshot of the drop down menu for cropping the image in Gimp
Your image should now look something like this:
A panorama picture after it has been corrected with Gimp
Now it’s time to create the effect for the final image.
Select ‘Filters’, ‘Distorts’, then select ‘Polar Coordinates’. Your result should be something like this:
A screenshot of the Polar Coordinates option within Gimp
If you select ‘OK’, your final image will have the sky in the middle and the ground around the outsides. This is not ideal.
You firstly need to deselect ‘Map from top’ to fix this. Then you can rotate the image using the ‘Offset angle’ slider, so that you can place key features where ever you want. I did with the house, positioning it at the top.
Then press ‘OK’.
A screenshot of the Polar Coordinates option within Gimp
You will now have a long picture with black space surrounding a circular image.
I assume you want the space around the circle to be white. If so, use the bucket fill as demonstrated in the image below to fill in the black areas. Try experimenting with different colours to see what best complements your image.
A screenshot of how one can make the background white in Gimp
Now, all you have to do is to crop the image square and save it.
Here you have it, your very own little globe!
The end-result: a panorama picture turned into a small globe
Don’t forget to share your own results!

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3 comments
  1. That’s awesome. I have always wanted to know about the cool polar coordinate creation. One of my friend knows this technique very well and he has been busy to teach me. Thanks for this. It’s a great resource for me.

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