Inside the Trailer, Doing a 360

A panorama, that is.

Given the pitiful wages that postdocs and adjunct faculty earn, the debt accrued through grad school for two, the further problems that my medical issues have caused to our finances, and the rapidly rising cost of living, we need to sell our trailer so we can take down some of the debt. In order to further that cause, we gave the interior a thorough cleaning in preparation for taking pictures. My previous experimentation with the Hugin panorama tool made me confident that I could do a 360 degree panorama to show most of the stuff in the trailer. And here is the first one:

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And another, with the beds raised:

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And another, configured for cargo (“toy”) hauling:

tr bikes pano crop

Hand-holding the camera for panorama stitching wasn’t completely satisfactory, so I looked into panorama heads. These are devices that allow you to mount a camera and lens such that the whole apparatus rotates around an axis that passes through the nodal point of the lens. When that happens, things that were in alignment in foreground and background remain in alignment. Unfortunately, panorama heads start at about $80 and quickly run up to a couple of grand. The device at the low end of the scale, the Panosaurus, seems reasonably engineered. There are, of course, things one doesn’t get that the more expensive heads deliver. However, even $80 is out of my budget at the moment. In making my online searches, though, I came across a cheaper alternative: do-it-yourself. I spec’d out the materials, and my father-in-law Sam sprang for the parts: 48″ of 1×4″ oak, 1/4-20 insert nuts, washers, and wingnuts. From that $16 purchase, I’m putting together two homemade panorama heads and will ship one to Sam.

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The homemade job doesn’t offer adjustments like the commercial heads do, but if one is careful in measuring where the lens nodal point lies and physical dimensions involving the camera/lens combination, one can get good performance out of the setup. The trailer panorama was made with the homemade head, and Hugin reported a mean alignment error of 0.6 pixels, maximum 20.6 pixels, and pronounced the fit “very good”. There were a total of 19 pictures aligned and stitched to make that panorama. I also used the Qtpfsgui HDR software, so each of the 19 pictures is actually derived from three separate bracketed exposures that were tonemapped using the same settings. The one thing that I didn’t nail down that I should have was the white balance used; you can see that the auto white balance thought the cabinets on one side of the trailer were slightly different in color from those on the other side.

Now, on the slim chance that anybody reading this is looking for a trailer, here’s the summary. The trailer is a 2006 model Northwood Desert Fox SW-21. That’s a 21-foot “toy hauler” model bumper-pull trailer, total length of about 25′ from hitch to rear end. It has a bathroom with shower and tiny tub, refrigerator (propane and electric, with automatic switchover), gas oven and range, microwave oven, two beds with electric lift, 4 kilowatt Onan generator, gas tank and pump, central heat and air-conditioning, and completely enclosed tanks for water and wastewater. Besides the two queen-sized bed mattresses, the dinette bench seats fold to make another bed, and the couch seat folds to make another. This model has insulation and the tank enclosure for all-weather use; if the heater is run to keep the interior warm, it also keeps the plumbing from freezing. Diane got this model trailer in order to have a place in the field in Wyoming where she was doing research back in February through April, 2006, and it worked fine through the cold weather there. We’ve used the trailer as a guest room for company and an emergency shelter for times when the electricity has gone out at the house we’re renting in addition to trips to places where we’ve dry-camped. For those unfamiliar with the toy-hauler concept, this trailer’s basic reason for being was to transport one or two “toys”: motorcycles, dune buggy, ATVs, etc., to a place where the toy could be used in the great outdoors, and while on the spot, provide a place to sleep and cook meals. The back of the trailer is a large ramp that folds down, permitting the “toy” to be loaded in and taken out. One reason I like this design is that it has a high roof; I don’t feel like I’m going to bump the top of my 6′ 3″ frame into the ceiling while moving around inside. We don’t have “toys” of the sort that the trailer was intended to carry, but the floor comes equipped with a number of internal tie-down points for securing a load from shifting around. We use a 2005 Ford E-350 one-ton van to tow the trailer, which it does fine with a weight-distributing hitch. We’d consider selling the van and trailer as a complete package. We’re looking to get Blue Book value on the trailer or both. We’ll toss in the macerator pump with the trailer; that’s a handy device for being able to dump the blackwater tank through an ordinary garden hose to either a distant dump station or septic system standpipe. [Other features that I missed initially: indoor/outdoor stereo system with AM/FM radio and CD player, bedside light and stereo power switches, roll-up awning, 6 gallon capacity propane gas water heater, kitchen sink, bathroom sink, carries two propane tanks, two 12V deep discharge batteries, exterior light with switch by electrical and water hookups, outside shower, and space for a bar-be-que. We never got the bar-be-que, but I’m sure that could be high on someone else’s list of amenities to acquire.]

Having the van and trailer got us to a campsite in the Smoky Mountains where I could get this picture of Ritka:

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And here are a couple of pictures of the rig on the road.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “Inside the Trailer, Doing a 360

  • 2008/09/18 at 1:38 pm
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    Sorry to hear you have to sell the trailer. But I can testify that it’s a really comfortable place to sleep!

  • 2008/09/24 at 11:18 am
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    Thanks for the link to the home made pano head.

    I’ve been toying with buying one but couldn’t see forking out the cash that it would take.

  • 2008/09/24 at 1:34 pm
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    If you are reasonably handy with wood-working, the basics won’t take very long. The right-angle join will likely be secured with wood glue, so that takes a day to set.

    I had to add gluing a piece of sandpaper to the arm the camera is attached to so that there is increased friction at the attachment to the vertical upright piece. Otherwise, it would slide downwards. The fact that I’m loading it with a Nikon D2Xs with a Sigma 12-24mm lens has something to do with that.

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