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History of Aerial Panoramas

Dec 1, 2007
Even before the invention of modern photography, artists were creating beautiful panoramic images. The ability to capture an image and chemically fix it to a photographic plate spurred greater innovation and experimentation.

Early photographic technology was cumbersome was often unreliable and photographers struggled to consistently capture usable images. A simple exposure of a still life image could take hours.

It was not long before the process of creating photographic panoramas outpaced the traditional images rendered by artists. Before the invention of powered flight, early photographers and artists were largely earth bound. Well, not entirely earth bound but limited to where they could travel by air. If a panoramic artist or photographer wanted to get an overview of a land or cityscape, it usually involved hiking up the nearest hillside or other elevated vantage point.

The seventeen eighties saw the advent of the hot air balloon. Travel by hot air balloon was considered a passing fancy more suited for the wealthy hobbyist than for any practical application. Travel might not be the right word since going aloft in a balloon meant being at the mercy of the prevailing wind. Still, some daredevil artists must surely have taken braved the risk in order to capture a different view of the world.

By the eighteen twenties, fixed plate photography had been introduced. The process of dealing with wet plate cameras involved a very small window of time. Early wet plates needed to be developed and fixed very quickly after exposure. Still, these difficulties did not stop photographers from meeting the challenge of capturing photographic images from the air. All of the equipment would be sent aloft in a hot air balloon, which was very often tethered to the ground.

The earliest successful birds eye images taken from a balloon date back to the eighteen sixties. As the process of picture taking improved so did the ability to achieve powered flight. Lighter than air blimps powered with small internal combustion motors for controlled maneuvers, providing photographers with a more stable platform.

The ability to take aerial photographs was not lost on mapmakers and military planners. The late eighteen nineties saw prolific use of light than air ships but this was about to change with the introduction of powered, heavier than air flight. The airplane gave photographers a freedom of movement that was not possible before. With greater airspeeds than blimps and the ability to land without help ground crews, the airplane quickly became the platform of choice for aerial photography.

Aerial panoramas have quickly become a favorite genre for many people. The ability to capture an image from different altitudes and various perspectives gives the panoramic artist a much larger palette from which to work. Anyone who has watched a televised sporting event is familiar with the blimp shots taken from overhead. Many of these overhead shots are not directed solely at the stadium. Very often, the vantage point allows for spectacular shots of the surrounding cityscape.

These images are the prime ingredient for aerial panoramas. Just as with the creation of any panoramic image, several successive images may need to be blended or stitched together. The same challenges of overcoming visual distortion must be overcome. Advancements in digital photography and image processing make creating unique aerial panoramas easier and more visually pleasing.

Overhead views of their favorite sports stadium or cityscape are very popular. Ironically, even with the availability of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, the humble blimp is still a popular choice as a photographic platform. Folks looking for high quality aerial panoramas have turned to online shopping as a source with images available from all over the world.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a short article writer for the popular framed panorama site: http://www.framedpanoramas.com. He provides informative advice on purchasing quality framed panoramas and photoramics.
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