For a little while now I've been looking for some good panoramic stitching software. Panorama tools has always been my first choice but I couldn't find a suitable front end for it. That is until now. I've found a really good open source frontend called Hugin. I use this combined with Panotools and Photoshop to produce the panoramas. If you want to dabble in panoramic photography just follow the guidelines on what to do in the download section of the Hugin website. They have a pretty good summary of what other tools you'll need. Then you just blend any seams between panoramas using Photoshop and these guidelines.
I got interested in Panorama photography in my final year of Uni for my Honours project, titled "Panoramic Video Imaging", whereby my task was to control a pan/tilt unit to take a series of photographs of background scenery and stitch these images together to form a panorama (1). This image was then to be used to aid in motion detection to subtract from the current scene the background information at that pan/tilt position and weed out the interesting data. I never got it finished, although I did mathematically derive and code by myself routines that warped images onto a spherical manifold according to the provided pan and tilt position. I could also perform a reverse transform too (is all this sounding pretty technical now?!? ;-) I was pretty chuffed about that at the time because I thought I'd never get that far. Apparently one of the people who continued on with the project the next year didn't like my stuff. So I went to that year's engineering expo, looked at what he had done and listened to him bag the guy who did panoramic stuff in the previous year. He didn't realise that I was that guy though. I was feeding him questions on stuff I knew I didn't have enough time to complete the previous year and then I let him run with that. I had a good chuckle. Good on ya mate.
I've updated flickr with a panoramic picture taken as we were heading out of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It's a big picture for those on dialup internets connections. There are still some things I have to fix with this panorama. I did stitch it pretty quickly though without much time spent to tweaking. Firstly there is a bit of blurriness in the middle of the picture. Secondly the clouds near the horizon look washed out from overexposure, although this wasn't present in the initial pictures. If Panotools was able to handle High Dynamic Range photos and I was able to take such pictures reliably, I wouldn't have that overexposure problem. Ah well.
(1) Hats off to my fellow team members on that project: Mark Norman and Phil Galbraith who worked on the hardware and Guy Blucher who did some pretty snazzy motion detection stuff. Also big kudos to Matt Fettke our guide through the whole ordeal, and of course Matt Goldberg, who kept on annoying us from the next room over (jks).