Creating 360 Degree Panoramic Photos

As you’ve hopefully noticed, features hundreds of Hawaii pictures including panoramic photos and virtual tours. We’ve literally taken thousands of photos of the islands (at least 10,000). Photographing Hawaii’s scenery is especially enjoyable and the biggest perk associated with working on a travel web site.

We’ve been asked about the process of creating a 360 degree picture. The most important component is the software used to “stitch” and blend the series of photos together. We use a package called Autopano.

For outdoors scenes one simply stands in one spot, rotating around and taking the photos, making sure that there is some overlap (maybe 20%) between each image so that the software can figure out how to “connect the dots.” The number of pictures one needs to rotate all the way around depends on your lens – typically it’s about 8. Autopano stitches the pictures together to create a single very large photo.

Movement in the scene, like a car driving past, will confuse the process because you’ll have a picture of a car in more than one photo in different locations. So scenes with little movement, like nature scenes, are the easiest. Otherwise you’ll have to use Photoshop to correct distortions.

You can take a 360 photo with any kind of digital camera, although using a DSLR is much preferred over a point and shoot digital camera because of the ease of use, speed of taking photos, ability to accurately frame the scene through the view finder, ability to use filters, and possibly an improvement in picture quality. Ken Rockwell maintains an excellent photography web site that will keep you busy for days.

For indoor 360 photos one would normally use a tripod with a special attachment called a pano head. The purpose is to ensure the camera swivels around a fixed point. You could just stand in place and rotate around as with outdoor scenes, but when the subject matter is so much closer to the camera the stitching software has a more difficult time putting it together and matching the scene – there’s less room for error. The use of the tripod and pano head improve the accuracy of the process.

There are other ways of taking 360 degree photos as well. For example, motorized pano heads, or special lens mirrors that take a 360 degree photo in one shot. Start by using whatever equipment you have and learning how to best use AutoPano before investing in new gear.

Hawaiian Beach

Hawaii Music Radio

In a previous article we talked about how purchasing Hawaiian art was an excellent way to take Hawaii home with you. For our U.S. readers we’ve discovered another great way to bring Hawaii into your home – internet radio.

The best internet radio station we’ve found is called Pandora. It’s more than a radio station though. You tell it what kind of music you like and then it starts selecting similar music, fine tuning the selection until after a few hours of listening you have a great radio station that plays mostly the music you like.

We’ve created our own Hawaii Radio station. We started by telling Pandora that we like the music of Israel ‘IZ’ Kamakawiwo’ole, Gabby Pahinui, and Sean Na’auao. From there it started playing related music and we gave a thumbs up whenever it played Hawaiian music.

Have a listen and see what you think, and do share any stations you create with us.

HawaiiGaga Radio

Airplane Health Tips

The last thing you want to do is get sick at the start of your vacation. Ironically many people get very stressed out just before a vacation. The boss doesn’t like that you’re going, you’re trying hard to get a lot of work done before you leave, and then there’s all that vacation planning to do. First of all, don’t worry about work – it will be there when you get back. Second, you’ve found so finding a nice place to stay is a snap. Finally, you’re going to Hawaii!

So, how to get there healthy?

  • Most importantly, get plenty of sleep the night before your trip.
  • No last minute packing, arrangements or stress. Take care of business well in advance.
  • Give yourself time to get the airport. Travel day should be boring. No rushing.
  • Airplane food is void of nutrition at best and dangerous at worst. Pack your own nutritious meals and skip all junk food. It’s better to eat light while traveling.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to carry and use a surgical mask on the plane.
  • A former flight attendent provides more interesting flying tips

    Hawaii Water Temperatures

    The temperature of the water around the Hawaiian islands doesn’t fluctuate very much between the summer and winter months. The National Oceanographic Data Center records water temperatures around the islands every day. Their monitoring station in Honolulu reports the following temperatures for the year:

    Hawaii Water Temperatures
    Hawaii Water Temperatures

    Beaches with mostly shallow water will have slightly warmer temperatures. In the winter the water may feel cool for people who lack “insulation”, especially on a cloudy day when the winds pick up. If you plan on doing a lot of snorkeling, investing in a wetsuit top is recommended. They cost about $75, but wait until you get to Hawaii to make the decision on whether you’ll need one.

    Hawaii’s Farmer’s Markets

    One of the benefits of staying in a vacation rental is the ability to prepare your own island inspired meals from local produce. Farmer’s markets are the best way to get your hands on fresh vegetables and sample some exotic fruits. The department of agriculture’s web site lists the schedules for all the markets in the state. Most rental accommodations also list this information in their information booklets.

    Mangosteen and Rambuttan - two of many interesting fruits found at a farmers market
    Mangosteen and Rambuttan - two of many interesting fruits found at a farmers market

    The rambuttan (spiky thing) is like a lychee, a very sweet fruit with a thick flesh similar in taste to a grape. Mangosteen’s are rare and fetch a premium. Their taste is exceptional and unique – worth a try.

    Not everybody selling at these markets are farmers, some are just resellers who may get their items from neighboring islands and other vendors. The best produce is from the organic farmers who also service the community. They’re fairly easy to spot.

    Make sure you’re on time. Locals are known to go crazy and snap up the best items quickly. Expect some very pushy soccer moms. It’s not customary to barter on prices.

    Box Jellyfish and the Full Moon

    The Box Jellyfish is a beautiful and delicate creature, but also one of the most venomous animals in the world. There are many species of Box Jellyfish. In Hawaii the species Carybdea alata is most common. These are smaller and less venomous than some of their deadly cousins like the Sea Wasp of Australia, but the sting is still excruciatingly painful and can bring even the most reputation-savvy surfer to tears. Although the stings are more dangerous than Portuguese-man-of-war stings, no one has died from a sting in Hawaii.

    Jellyfish are delicate creatures. Their venom must kill struggling prey quickly.
    Jellyfish are delicate creatures. Their venom must kill struggling prey quickly.

    The jellyfish are most common around the western shores of Oahu. They exhibit an interesting and predictable behavior. About 10 days after a full moon they come to shore to spawn. Then they disappear. No one knows where they go. So, avoiding the jellyfish is easy and tourist beaches will post signs when the swarm arrives. Even more interesting than the jellyfish’s breeding habit is the behavior of swimmers, who often chose to ignore the warnings and continue to swim. On a single day in July 2004, over 350 stings were recorded on the beaches of Oahu. This is a testament to the allure of Hawaii’s beaches on a warm summer’s day.

    Treatment for jellyfish stings is dousing them with white vinegar. One has to be very careful not to rub the sting which further disperses and lodges the poison. Tentacles must be carefully picked off with a stick. See our Hawaii health guide for more information about staying safe on your holiday.

    Hawaii Souvenirs

    Traveling back home after a trip to Hawaii can be very depressing, especially for those who fall in love with the Islands. A good remedy is to get a souvenir of your trip. A painting or piece of art makes for a particularly good reminder.

    A great web site that includes the work of many Hawaiian artists is The site features hawaiian prints, paintings, fish hooks, crafts, feather leis, lauhala weaving, sculptures and more.

    Waimanalo Bay by Patrick Ching soothes the Soul
    Waimanalo Bay by Patrick Ching soothes the Soul

    Tips for Beginner Surfing in Hawaii

    Surfing is a very popular tourist activity in Hawaii, particularly on Kauai and Oahu. Here are some tips for first time surfers:

    To take lessons or not?

    Taking a lesson is a must. Lessons cost about $75 per person for a group lesson and usually last 2-3 hours.  It takes at least 8 hours of surfing to catch up with someone who has had a lesson. Surfing is not an easy sport, but lessons reduce the learning curve. You’ll also get some valuable safety tips and intel on local surf spots.

    Selecting an Instructor

    Virtually all surfing instructors are expert surfers. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Having picked up surfing when they were grommets (kids), surfing and the ocean are second nature to them and they sometimes don’t appreciate how foreign an environment it is to land dwellers. Be very honest with your instructor about your comfort level and swimming ability. Don’t go into surf that you don’t feel comfortable with even if they tell you it’s safe.

    Selecting the right equipment

    Equipment is very important in surfing. That’s why you see some people heaping up so many surf boards on their car. The right equipment for a beginner surfer is a soft top long board. These boards have a hard foam top and plastic bottom and are generally bigger (wider, thicker and longer) than equivalent long boards. If you’re over 100 lbs go with a 10ft+ board, unless it’s too difficult to carry in which case a 9ft board will do. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these huge boards aren’t cool. They’re very versatile, paddle fast, stable, and simply the best choice. A smaller board is a complete waste of time for a beginner, no matter how athletic you are.

    Surf the white water

    In my experience women learn to surf faster than men. The reason: men select small boards and big waves – a recipe for looking good (out of the water) but catching nothing. Surfing the white water of small waves is the best place to start, just make sure the water is deep enough. Riding the white water is still super fun as you practice the mechanics of standing up and balancing.

    Don’t overdo it

    Surfing can be brutal on ones back, neck and shoulders. There’s nothing natural about the position you’re in while lying on a board. Paddling is hard work and you’ll be using new muscles. You’re probably going to want to surf again on your vacation, so stop when your muscles and back start feeling tired. If you feel any kind of tingling sensation in your lower back stop immediately! Your back is being pinched and blood isn’t flowing – a very serious situation if allowed to continue.

    Hawaii’s best beginner surfing beaches

    On Oahu Waikiki beach is the favored spot although there are many surfing locations on the North and West shores and instructors often move to where the best surf is that day. On Kauai, Hanalei Bay is a favorite. Kiahuna beach in Poipu and Kalapaki beach in Lihue are also popular. On Maui surfing lessons are often given in Lahaina and sometimes Kaanapali beach

    Safety Tips

    There are too many safety points to cover in a simple article, another reason a lesson is a good idea. Our ocean safety guide is recommended for anybody coming into contact with the ocean. In general the greatest danger to a responsible surfer is the surf board. When you fall the board with its knife like fins is going to go flying into the air. Protect your head and face, and be weary that you could be falling into shallow water. Be very careful about surfing into people around you, and be aware of other surfers. Including the leash, your surfing weapon extends for 20ft so you need a lot of room.

    Finally, you need to be curtious to everybody in the water and share the waves. Surfing is like a drug and people can get ugly when it comes to getting their fix.

    surfer shreds the waves in challenging conditions
    Shredding the waves

    Cheap Airfare to Hawaii

    We recently discovered this great tool from Yahoo to find the lowest priced airfare. There are many similar web sites, but this one seems to be the best as it searches all the other web site as well:

    Yahoo FareChase

    Hawaii Rainbows

    Rainbows are a frequent sight in Hawaii thanks to brief showers and plenty of sun shine. But one creature, the moonbow, or lunar rainbow, is especially rare. This type of rainbow is caused by the light of a full moon.

    We were lucky enough to get this photo of a double moonbow in Kauai. The colors of the rainbow were dim but clearly visible. Using a tripod with the shutter speed set to about 20 seconds the colors are brighter in the photo than they were with the naked eye. The camera also revealed the faint second rainbow. The picture was taken about 1.5 hours past sunset.

    Hawaii even gets rainbows at night.
    Hawaii even gets rainbows at night.