The other day I e-biked to the very nice sightseeing viewpoint vista on Mingus Mountain, then further up to a cliff that also has a magnificent view of Cottonwood below. Officially, this was a trash disposal run and, not having slung my Pentax over my shoulder, I pressed my old iPhone 4s into service to take a shot. I’d never used the “PANO” setting, which allows you to press the shutter and sweep the camera horizontally to take in a wide panoramic shot. I’d never bothered, because on the few occasions where I wanted a wide shot, I’d simply take a series of exposures with the Pentax and then let Photoshop Elements stitch them all together. Trim off the edges to suit, and the result is a long ribbon of vista.
Once back in the camper with my bunny slippers on, I transferred the snaps to my laptop and took a look. Uh-oh.
This isn’t a panorama so much as a fisheye lens view. The sweep distance between the two trees is actually quite a span, and the image is much narrower than I expected for its height, being close to a widescreen movie format. No likee. It would be a fab way to shoot confined spaces like the camper interior, but outdoors, it reduces a broad, eye-filling valley to resemble a ravine.
At the cliff area, which looked like an exciting way to kill yourself if you were a stumbler, the result was much the same.
Bizarre. It looks so narrow! Why isn’t this 3 times wider than it is? However, I took a normal backup shot just in case something stunk about Plan A.
By the way, both of the shots above were taken from the same vantage point (I didn’t move an inch). The vertical smashing is what makes me think of a fisheye or wide-angle lens. A real pano doesn’t do that, and doesn’t smash in the width, either. It’s a little more like OmniTheater 360, but not wrapping around quite so far. A few of these, strung across, stitched edge to edge and corrected for distortion, give a very different result.
And here it is:
No, wait, here it isn’t. My ancient copy of Photoshop Elements that allowed automatically stitching together images, is on my big iMac back at Rancho Begley. But even it doesn’t work any more, the victim of a recent operating system upgrade. I don’t use panorama shots enough to make an update worthwhile, particularly not for $85, since I dropped all other interest in Elements once Aperture came along. For serious photography, Aperture is like a handmade hunting knife as opposed to Elements being more like a Leatherman utility tool. Aperture does just one thing, but does it intuitively and excellently, with a minimum of effort. Elements is a Jack of all trades if you’re willing to fight out the processes needed and not injure yourself with it. It’s like an affordable version of Photoshop, which is the icon of Feature Bloat.
Unfortunately for me, Apple discontinued Aperture some time ago, saying that its new Photos program was just as good, and was built in as an app for iPhones and iPads, too! I tried it, and it would not do, not at all. If something happens to the original photo or drive such that Photo can no longer locate it, it’s gone even when a backup or copy is lurking about somewhere. There’s a blank image there that can’t be fixed or filled. Aperture signals a problem and at least gives you a chance to locate and hook back up to the duplicate as a matter of course. It is built with the assumption that, given enough time, hard drives are going to crap out and the computer’s working environment is going to change in some way. Aperture is also designed for use on a desktop computer, and takes advantage of the extra screen real estate to make tunneling down through menus and sub-menus unnecessary. The options are still available on a laptop, but the size of the image being displayed suffers for it. In contrast, Photo seems to be designed for use on an iPhone across the board, cleaned up and Spartan to the point of not indicating what if any tasks can be done to adjust or edit photos. When you have to be told what the trick is to something, that means it’s not intuitive. Its barebones appearance on the screen is pretty much a waste on a 27″ UltraHD monitor, since it follows the iPhone mantra of hiding everything it can. Lots of Clean Screen.
Using Photo for a couple of hours made me so exasperated that I began to research some magical way of getting Aperture to work again on my updated operating system. Fortunately for me, I found it. it seems that before consigning Aperture to the trash heap, Apple made one last update to it that allowed it to keep working under the most recent “family” of OS versions. All I needed was that Aperture update. But the App Store, the program that controls what should and can be updated, was not seeing Aperture on my iMac, perhaps because I’d bought it on CD when I purchased my desktop in 2009. I contacted the App Store online, who promptly shuffled me off to Applecare Professional Support in order to get some kinda mystery code I could feed into the App Store to let it know I legitimately had Aperture and needed to download the latest update of it. The manager of Pro Support talked me through it, it worked like a charm, and Aperture started working again on my desktop. Joy!
Just before the call ended, I was asked why I preferred hoary old Aperture to the new whiz-bang Photo, and I managed to keep it down to the main two issues: what’s clean and easy on an iPhone is not the necessarily the best interface to use on a big monitor, where hiding everything away is a Bad Thing, and that when reality strikes, Photo will only ever show grey holes, where Aperture can be steered to recover what’s gone missing. That’s Professional. Off the record, Photo is for dabblers who, if they lose photos, often say, “Oh well, I wonder what they were. I’ll make more.” When photographs are an income source, losing them or making their replacement arduous costs time and therefore money. Losing the edits previously made to the original does the same.
To my surprise, the next time I yanked out my laptop, Aperture was also waiting to be installed on it, even though it had never been on it. So, I’m a happy camper. Thank you, Apple, even though you’re trading away serious usability for trendy features and appearances. You kept me able to use your “obsolete” program.
I might not again update my operating system, in order to ensure that Aperture keeps rolling. See, sooner or later, there will be a new series of OS updates that once again make programs incompatible with them. I was able to get along okay on my original operating system just fine until last year, when certain other programs really benefited from an update that could only run on a newer OS. Maybe I’ll be able to retain Aperture for a good long while further. Besides, the latest version of the operating system I’m using now has scores and scores of wonderful-I’m-sure new features and abilities that I’ll never have any use for. Between hackers and government misuse, I can’t bring myself to use The Cloud and, even if I could, don’t have even a fraction of the cellular data rental needed to use it anyway. I’ll bet using Siri to open programs and stuff is nice, but every question and command uses Internet data. I do what I do, and that’s not complex. I don’t need to “Express yourself in fun new ways. Send a huge emoji. Respond back with a heart or a thumbs-up on a friend’s message bubble. And play videos and preview links right in the conversation.” Getting my work done more quickly or simply impresses me a great deal. Using the PANO option on the iPhone is admittedly a heap easier and faster than stitching together separate photos in a third-party program, but as with many things that say they make things faster and easier, there’s a trade-off: Control over the qualities of what you get.