Panoramic Digital Pictures
Using a number of freeware programs, you can combine a number of digital pictures into a panoramic picture. The easiest way to start is place a copy of the pictures you want to combine in their own directory. Make sure all the filenames are in the same order as the picture - hugin seems to get confused when they aren't. If you take the pictures in order this shouldn't be a problem. Then download and run autopano.exe from a command prompt. To make life easier, I put autopano.exe in my windows directory so I can run it from anywhere.
Autopano will create a file called panorama0.oto. The oto files contains a mapping of control points - places in the pictures that are in common. Autopano takes a number of parameters, but I've never need to use them. Next, download and install hugin and enblend. Hugin is a full GUI that uses enblend as a plugin. Hugin takes the control points and original pictures and creates the panorama. Enblend removes the 'seams' between the different pictures, gradually changing the colors between them. Without enblend, the sky would have lines where one picture ended and the other started. It doesn't matter where you put enblend.exe, but you'll need to tell hugin where you put it.
After you've installed and run hugin, select file, then open to open the oto file you created with autopano. Using the version 0.5 release candidate 1 of hugin, I've always received an error message when I've loaded the oto file, but it doesn't seem to hurt anything.
The first time you run hugin, you'll need to set preferences. Select File, then Preferences, then the enblend tab. Tell it where you placed the enblend.exe file, uncheck delete remapped tiff files, then close the Preferences window.
If you have a full 360 degree panorama, you need to tell hugin how to deal with this. Divide 360 by the number pictures you've taken, and round to an easy number. For example, I had 14 pictures of the Eiger, so I used 25 degrees. In the Images tab of hugin, select each picture after the 0 image, then enter a cumulative yaw setting (image 0 = 0, image 1 = 25, image 2 = 50, etc). This procedure is nicely documented in the FAQ.
In the control points tab, you can see the control points used to 'stitch' the pictures together. Select an image in the right side, then another image on the left side, using the numbered tabs, to see the control points. Very cool.
In the optimizer tab, I've been selecting Optimize Everything, then Optimize now! then applying the changes.
Select View, then Preview Window. If everything has been successful so far, you should see a small image of the panorama in the preview window. Select Center to center and hopefully resize it. You'll notice the sky, and perhaps everything else, is probably different colors since your fully automatic camera took pictures using different settings as you turned around to take the panorama. Close the Preview Window.
Select the Stitcher tab. You'll see the field of view and default panorama image size that Hugin has determined. You can change the panorama image size. Note that as you make the output size bigger, the amount of RAM and time necessary to create the panorama increases exponentially. An older PC will have problems creating any panoramas. Change the output image file options to create a TIFF file, then select soft blending.
Now select Stitch Now! If everything works right, first hugin will create several tiff files, then it will call enblend to blend the tiff files into one. You can use another piece of software like Irfanview to change it to a JPG, rotate it (if necessary), crop it, and resize it, in that order.