The following is a gallery of linear and cubic panoramas of the Blue Mountains region of NSW in Australia.
Rather than delay the HTML5 upgrade in 2011, the site went live with all the VR panoramas disabled.
Where approrpriate, I have instead provided a JPEG of the original VR scene.
The reason for the delay is that I need time to experiment with different HTML5 VR playback options. Many solutions are currently limited to iPods/ iPads, or else they only work in Firefox but not in Webkit, or vice-versa.
I plan to re-enable the VR content… eventually =)
Three Sisters Katoomba
(Jan 2005) • 465.7 KB • GPS: 33:44:06S, 150:18:54E
At the head of the "Giant Staircase" beside the "Three Sisters" rock formation at Echo Point, near Katoomba.
They weren't kidding when they called the stairs "Giant", as it's 900 steps to the valley below. Hard enough going down, a real heart-stopper on the way up. This no doubt explains the huffing and puffing you hear on the soundtrack.
Until a few years ago rock-climbers were allowed to scale the "sister" closest the camera, but this has been banned due to extensive erosion and deterioration of the rock-face.
This scene was featured on the international <panoramas.dk> site in March 2005, as Panorama of the Week #12 .
Martins Lookout, Springwood
(Jun 2004) • 659 KB • GPS: 33:43:58S, 150:34:57E
Sunset at Martins Lookout, near the lower mountains township of Springwood. This was taken at the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains National Park , 190m above Glenbrook Creek.
Definitely a scene which tested my patience. First I had to wait 1½ hours for the sun to reappear from behind the clouds. Then for the sound recording, I had to wait for a Cesna + a couple of blowflies to make things more interesting (the bush was incredibly silent that day!).
The scene was my contribution to the Berkeley WWP — June Solstice 2004 project . A screen-capture was also used by Apple Computer to headline their 23/7 edition of the QuickTime News in July 2004 .
Marguerite Cascade, Federal Pass
(Jan 2005) • 649.5 KB • GPS: 33:43:50S, 150:19:16E
In the Jamison Valley near Katoomba, 600m below the Leura Cascades. These tiny waterfalls are a few minutes walk from the Leura Forest picnic grounds, which in turn are twenty minutes from the bottom of the Grand Staircase at Echo point.
Listen carefully to the soundtrack — notice how the birds are actually "duelling" with each other (!)
Knapsack Gully Viaduct
(Jun 2008) • 602.6 KB • GPS: 33:45:33S, 150:38:25E
The Viaduct was built in 1865 as part of the initial rail-line between Emu Plains and Glenbrook, up the eastern escarpment of the Blue Mountains . Due to funding difficulties the original line was not a straight-through track, but rather a zig-zag switch-back .
When a proper rail-line was finally completed in 1913, the Viaduct was left unused until 1926, when it then became part of the Great Western Highway. In 1992 the Viaduct was again closed when the M4 motorway opened , so today it is mainly used for bushwalking and sightseeing . BTW the "pinging" sound you hear is the birdsong of a large colony of bellbirds which live in the lantana weeds overgrowing the gully.
Old Glenbrook Tunnel, eastern portal
(Feb 2009) • 716.2 KB • GPS: 33:46:04S, 150:38:05E
Glenbrook tunnel was excavated in 1892 as part of the second rail-line between Emu Plains and Glenbrook . Its construction was captured by Arthur Streeton in his famous "Fire's On" painting in 1891 . Owing to funding difficulties it was poorly ventillated and had only a single track, quickly earning it a nickname of "The Rat-Hole". Due to the steep gradient and slippery rails from water seepage, trains would often get stuck mid-way through, resulting in them having to back out and try again . In 1913 the tunnel was sealed and abandoned when a new rail-line was built further south in Glenbrook Gorge.
During WWII the tunnel was secretly used to store mustard gas munitions, while today it is used to grow mushrooms . Due to nutrients leeching out of the tunnel for fifty years, the adjacent railway cutting has become an almost impenetrable swamp. BTW the traffic you can hear on the audio is from the Great Western Highway, 60m away on the other side of the ridge .
Lennox Bridge & Brookdale Creek
(Jun 2008) • 578.1 KB • GPS: 33:45:15S, 150:37:57E
Lennox Bridge is the oldest bridge on the Australian mainland (the oldest is in Tasmania) . Built in 1833 by — of course — convicts, it was part of the main route through the Blue Mountains at Mitchell's Pass. In 1962 the bridge was closed due to damage and disrepair, but in 1982, after extensive restoration, it was reopened to cater for lighter traffic loads .
(Jan 2005) • 452.4 KB • GPS: 33:43:44S, 150:22:23E
So there I was lining up a shot of the National Pass and Valley of Waters at Wentworth falls, when a trio of German tourists came by.
We got to talking. One removed her T-shirt, the others posed glamourously by the handrail and… proof yet again that the Leica is a a chick-magnet =)
Warrimoo Bushfire aftermath
(Dec 2001) • 696.8 KB • GPS: 33:43:31S, 150:36:26E
For nearly two weeks during the 2001 Christmas / New Year period, a series of major bushfires swept through the lower mountains. On December 26th and 27th, the fires burnt in and around the township of Warrimoo, where I live.
After sunrise on the 29th, I walked into the bush behind my property and captured this view of the burnt-out forest, approx. 200m from my house. To give you an rough idea of the fires' impact, the scrub and undergrowth used to be at least 2m tall, and so thick you couldn't move through it. BTW the fire was big enough to even warrant a visit from The Duke  !
The Huey helicopter(s) on the soundtrack (and visible through the trees) were water-bombing fires still burning in the National Park, a kilometre to the west .
(Jan 2005) • 434.8 KB • GPS: 33:28:17S, 150:11:22E
Located only a few kilometres from Lithgow, the Zig Zag Railway is a working museum featuring 40-60 year old steam and diesel locomotives . It is run and maintained by volunteers, and has been open since the early 1970's. A popular tourist
trap attraction, on weekends it is crammed with parents + their quiet& well-behaved toddlers.
The shot was taken while the steam loco was being decoupled at
Top Points Station. The way the zig-zag works is that the train is driven to a way-point, the engine is swapped to the other end, and then the journey continues until the next way-point. They can't physically turn the whole train, and the loco must always be at the front when travelling down the steep gradient, otherwise the breaks won't work.
Why not use a funicular rail? Because nineteenth century Australian colonials lacked both the money and practical engineering nous for a more elegant solution =)
Valley Heights Loco Museum
(Apr 2005) • 477.9 KB • GPS: 33:42:10S, 150:34:47E
This is a view of the roundhouse interior at the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum .
The depot was originally built in 1900 to provide "pusher" locomotives for the trip up the mountains.
The 4601 electric locomotive shown here was made by Vickers in England in 1956 . You should see its interior — talk about clunky, it looks like it was made by using hammers and tire-levers!
The museum itself was created in 1990 in response to plans to demolish the rail depot. Like the Zig Zag railway (see below), it is run and maintained by volunteers.
Antique bookstore, Leura
(Jan 2005) • 479.2 KB • GPS: 33:42:49S, 150:19:52E
La Maison du Livre is a Leura Mall bookshop which specialises in fine art books, prints and rare first editions . It opened in the late 1970s, and its owner Claude-Henri Dany is a bit of a character. The monologue on the soundtrack is actually a French News webcast being listened to by Mr Dany while I did the shoot:
Well, you wanted to record some sound didn't you?…
Lawson GWH heritage shops
(Oct 2006) • 1.3 MB • GPS: 33:43:10S, 150:25:47E
A linear panorama of the Lawson shopping strip, a 250m section of highway from the Honour Avenue bus-stop until the Lawson Public school at the corner of Staples street.
These buildings were marked for demolition as part of the RTA four-lane widening of the Great Western Highway in 2009 . The associated BMCC re-development  attracted a lot of controversy, mainly because it would result in the destruction of heritage buildings like the Blue Mountains Hotel  and Lawson Rees Butcher shop.
Despite the controversy, the shops were finally demolished at the end of 2010 .
The master panorama is a seamless photo-montage of 80 stills taken with a standard DLSR, and measures 52000 × 3300 pixels. The buildings were photographed from the opposite side of the road, approximately 20m away. Since the GWH is a major arterial highway, I had to dodge hundreds of vehicles while taking the shots. The really hard part however was spending 100+ hours in Photoshop joining the images together and correcting for colour, parallax, pedestrians and power-lines. Maybe one day linear-stitching software will make things a little easier …
Lawson Hotel demolition
(Dec 2008) • 154.9 KB • GPS: 33:43:10S, 150:25:48E
In Q4 2008 demolition work started. This is the partially demolished corner of the Blue Mountains hotel, with the exposed remains of the public lounge.
(Dec 2008) • 151.5 KB • GPS: 33:43:13S, 150:25:47E
The rear-end of a one of the grading machines used to re-landscape the area behind the GWH shopping strip.
(Dec 2008) • 210.9 KB • GPS: 33:43:12S, 150:25:46E
Putting the "new" in New Street. The exposed brick wall in the background shows where the Funeral Parlour used to be.
(Dec 2008) • 167.6 KB • GPS: 33:43:13S, 150:25:45E
Escavator machines draw closer to the rear of Rees Butcher shop.
(Dec 2008) • 168.2 KB • GPS: 33:43:12S, 150:25:46E
A troika of escavating machines behind the GWH shopping strip.
BM Grammar Autumn Fair
(Apr 2005) • 402.5 KB • GPS: 33:42:31S, 150:22:09E
The Blue Mountains Grammar School held an Autumn fair in April, on their school grounds at Wentworth Falls .
The London bus was a surprise (we're a l-o-n-g way from Trafalgar Square), as was suspicious questioning by fretting parents:
Who are you taking pictures for again?… It's because of this that I didn't shoot nearer the actual school buildings, where most of the families were.
The brick building in the background, just visible to the left of the bus, is called "Coorah". It was built in 1889 and currently houses the school's administration.
Springwood Foundation Day
(Apr 2005) • 387.5 KB • GPS: 33:41:57S, 150:33:59E
Food, face-painting and balloon-folding stalls along Macquarie Road, late on a Saturday afternoon, during celebrations for Springwood's foundation day.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult VRs I have ever done. The girls beside the camera got spooked and left before I could capture the final image in the sequence, so I had to rebuild their legs + shadows in Photoshop. Then I had to fix the shadows of all the people walking along the road; fix the sun's flare; seamlessly blend the clear blue sky; cope with the ten-stop brightness range… Sheesh.
Then again, if this stuff was easy then everyone would be doing it, right =)
Warrimoo Tsunami relief
(Jan 2005) • 491.5 KB • GPS: 33:43:13S, 150:36:23E
On Jan 29th, Warrimoo residents held a street fair to raise money for victims of the Boxing Day Asian Tsunami. All the merchandise was donated by local residents, and the whole event raised something like $AUD 5000.
Notice the Baptist church. A street away there's a Seventh Day Adventist chapel, whilst across the highway there's a Jehovah's Witness hall… Clearly the 'Moo is a Hotbed Of Serious Religious Dissent.