Virtual Tours with Rogan’s New Hobby.

Scott Haefner Shows his Stuff

This semester I taught an Integrated Learning studio for Otis College of Art and Design.  I co-taught the class with Sandra de la Loza, an excellent Chicana artist working here in Los Angeles.  We brought a small group of students to Laton, a tiny rural town in the heart of the San Joaquin, about thirty miles south of Fresno.  The studio examined rural/urban relationships, environmental and water rights issues, and regional culture.  We looked at thousands of cows, acres of orchards and vineyards, and we developed photo-based art projects with a group of middle-school-aged youth.

The studio was generously funded by a Ford Foundation grant, and with some of that grant money we were able to bring in  guest speakers and outside talent.  This is how I met Scott Haefner, a talented Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) expert from San Francisco.  For weeks before the studio I had wanted to get a camera up into the sky to be able to photograph the landscape.  I brought Scott onto the project to solve this problem.

Photography as a medium attracts such wildly different kinds of artists.  You have photojournalists, pornographers, portraitists, landscape photographers, birders and wildlifers, ‘fine art’ photographers and revelers in postcard kitsch.  Since the inception of the camera obscura, photography has attracted a particular breed of technology-fetishist, and no matter how else Scott’s work might be described based on his choice in subjects, he is a definitive example of this sort of artist.  Scott loves making unique photographic images using unusual camera technology.  He hoists heavy camera equipment into the sky on giant rokkaku kites.  When there isn’t enough wind to lift his rigs, he brings out a 20′ long carbon fiber fishing pole which he has adapted to into a giant monopod.  He aims the camera and triggers the shutter by remote control.

Photo of Scott Haefner showing his Nikon KAP rig.

Photo of Scott Haefner showing his Nikon KAP rig.

Scott preparing to hoist his camera rig above a dry river bed.

Scott preparing to hoist his camera rig above a dry river bed.

Scotts rig aloft.

Scott's rig aloft.

Scott gets the drop on cows and feed at a Laton dairy farm.

Scott gets the drop on cows and feed at a Laton dairy farm.

Scott Haefner Photo, taken from pole.

Scott Haefner Photo, taken from pole.

A second Haefner photo taken from pole.

A second Haefner photo taken from pole.

On the day Scott worked with our studio, sporadic wind nearly sent his KAP rig into the dirt, so we wrapped things up and played with his other toys.  This is when Scott introduced me to his 360 degree panorama work, which most of us have seen in virtual real estate tours. These panoramas, often called QTVR’s (Quick Time Virtual Reality), are created by using software to stitch together a series of photos into a complete 360 degree environment.

As part of the studio we were recording examples of Laton’s unofficial culture.  Jimmy Gong, patriarch of Laton’s only family of Chinese ancestry, owns one of the town’s two convenience stores.  Jimmy Gong’s shop looks amazing, and is definitely a local landmark and example of unofficial culture.  Scott helped the studio develop an amazing spherical panorama of shop interior.  The image below was taken by Scott, and demonstrates what a spherical environmental panorama looks like when the multiple images have been stitched together:

Click image to see the Flash version of the QTVR

Click image to see the Flash version of the QTVR

Rogan Decides to Try Making Panoramas

Thanks Scott!

I’m a tool-fetishist as well, so once Scott demonstrated his wonderful toys, I knew that I would need to get my own.  Eventually I will get a KAP rig and a big pole, but I decided to start with the panorama equipment because I could use this stuff more often in more places.  So, when Susan went to visit her parents in Utah for a few days, I went ahead and ordered about $1000 worth of equipment, including a Spherical Panorama Head, some photo stitching software, and some other misc. stuff which I won’t mention here (because I am still keeping it a secret from Susan, though if she reads this and asks, I will spill the beans).  I started going out and experimenting.  What follows are my experiments.  Click on the images to see the big panoramic versions:

For my First Panorama I headed over to the Watts Towers.  As usual, they were being repaired.  I have only been to the towers once when they were not covered in scaffolding, which I don’t mind a bit, because I enjoy the contrast of the heavy rigid scaffolding against the willowy gymnastic sculptural forms.  I love how it all photographs.

This B&W combines nearlly 20 photos.  Click for Panorama.

This B&W combines nearlly 20 photos. Click for Panorama.

After photographing the towers, I headed over to the 110×105 Freeway interchange to document some unofficial sculpture.

A Panorama of the 105x110 Freeway Interchange

A Panorama of the 105x110 Freeway Interchange

The next day I dragged my panorama equipment down to the beach to photograph Dockweiler beach area, near El Segundo.  Dockweiler is a bit of a ghetto beach.  The 105 freeway bisects South Central, and hits Dockweiler at the ocean.  Shown in the image is the Los Angeles water treatment center, which fouls the air on the approach to the beach with a strong sewer smell.  The beach is also under the flight path of planes leaving LAX, and oil tankers and cargo ships continually troll its shores heading down to Long Beach.  Still, I find it all breathtakingly beautiful.

Dockweiler Beach, Los Angeles

Dockweiler Beach, Los Angeles

This last Saturday, Susan, Asa and I headed over to East Los to volunteer at Self Help Graphics making paper mache calaveras for the coming Dia de los Muertos.  After washing the paste off my arms, I tried to document the paper mache area.  This poor panorama demonstrates the problem of shooting a dynamic group of people in multiple photos.  They get cut up to bits and hover around the scene in ghostly parts!  Maybe ok for a Dia de los Muertos effort, but I will try again with a wider angle lens next weekend when we return to paint our work.

Making the calaveras for Dia de los Muertos.

Making the calaveras for Dia de los Muertos.

Finally, later in the evening (Saturday, Oct. 19) I tried to shoot some panoramas in the Target/HomeDepot/Army recruitment center in Inglewood, but the panoramas came out pretty badly, with lots of lens flare from extended exposure shots pointing at street lights.  On the way home I decided to stop by the corner of Florence and Normandie.  The extended exposures here create a ghostly empty street scape.  Cars’ lights show up as streaks through the frames.  I like the final shot, but I think I am going to retry it with a wider angle lens, so I can capture the scene in fewer shots and have greater control over how the extended exposure details get clipped in the shot.  Plus, I need enough resolution so that the gas prices show up, or what is the point?

00pm, Oct. 19, 2008.

Taken at the corner of Florence and Normandie, 11:00pm, Oct. 19, 2008.

I hope you have all enjoyed this virtual tour, in the name of jesus christ, amen.

14 responses to “Virtual Tours with Rogan’s New Hobby.”

  1. Wow, that Watts Towers panorama is pretty breathtaking.

    My friend Janis created a lovely panorama of lower Manhattan without high tech (or even a tripod), just by taking a lot of pictures and pasting them together. Something to be said for both methods I guess.

    Is the pole anchored by anything other than the photographer’s chest? Seems like it would sway a lot.

  2. Yes, it sways a bit, but not as much as you might think. Plus Scott is very good at what he does, and could probably join the circus. We switched to the pole when the KAP work wouldn’t work for lack of wind. I would think the pole would be too difficult to manage in a stiff breeze.

  3. Dave says:

    Rogan, those are amazing, both Scott’s photos and yours.

  4. Here’s another nice picture of the 110-105 interchange. Not as panorama-y but with notes.

  5. Scotty says:

    I love your backpack and shadow in the Watts Towers pic.

  6. 4. That is a great image of the interchange from above. I love coming over that interchange, in the HOV lane heading South and switching West to head toward LAX, Otis and Dockweiler. That particular HOV lane soars above everything, and on my motorcycle, with the views, it is the nearest thing I can imagine to taking off with my own personal jet pack.

    5. My shadow, and the shadow of the same backpack, are also features in the Dockweiler panorama.

  7. marcie B says:

    Hey Rogan –

    Enjoyed your post about Scott H and your LA pano shots – esp. the night shot of Florence and Normandie – has a ghostly presence.

    Also, check out this link to my brother’s gigpan pic of Boston – think you’d enjoy.


  8. Kate the Great says:

    Fascinating, Rogan. If I were Susan, I’d be surprised, but ultimately thrilled with imagining what kinds of places you could do.

    I’ve seen this 360 stuff before. Real Estate people use it to post their property online, I saw an art project somewhere online that did the 360 thing on different street corners around the world. I love how you can look up. Still, it’s fascinating. If I had an extra thousand bucks to spend, this sounds like a fun project.

  9. Mark says:

    Those are awesome photos.

    The one at Scattergood Steam Plant is pretty sweet, especially with the ghosting SUV. The one with the papier mache group is cool too, I like that you got the whole ceiling there, but I wish you could get more of the ground. I was hoping to look down and see your shoes.

    Your pictures have done with my favorite art always does, and that is to inspire me to create my own. Never actually works out, but I appreciate the inspiration.

  10. LT says:

    i really enjoyed these,especially as, living in los angeles, the freeways and intersections and cars start to look kind of ugly. you made them interesting again.

  11. Rogan says:

    9. Thanks Mark. In the post I mistake Scattergood for the water treatment center. My bad. When I am coming down Imperial, and I smell that sewer stank, that is the water treatment center, no? I have always heard that it was right around there, so when I have seen Scattergood I just assumed…

    And thanks also LT, Marcie, Kate, Scotty, Modesto and Dave.

  12. swells says:

    Didn’t get a chance yesterday to say how much I LOVED these–I never knew that you could go all the way up spherically with them. The Day of the Dead one is by far the most compelling to me. Love it!!

  13. Stella says:

    These are fab…I think it’s of interesting how we desire to capture these big world views and are compelled by them, besides their aesthetic appeal. It’s like the fascination of scale models of buildings and towns. We are tiny ants in the world, and the photography or model making puts us in a position of being giants looking down from a larger perspective on the world we inhabit.

  14. Beth W says:

    I love the panorama shots. The fancy freeway systems always remind me of these old Disney shows about southern California in the 50s or 60s, very tomorrowland.