Portland’s Pearl District

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Google’s new photo service, which offers unlimited photo storage and also spontaneously creates things out of the images you upload. My thinking was that this service could be particularly useful to travelers, travel photographers, and bloggers — or, people who take a lot of interesting pictures.

I’m still enjoying Google Photos — I’ve uploaded nearly 100 GB so far — but I’ve also discovered that it creates some very curious panoramas.

The Amazon, a couple of hours from Manaus:


This panorama was created from two photos taken on a section of the Amazon in the Manaus region. Here they are, side by side, unfiltered and appearing exactly how they came out of the point-and-shoot camera:


What’s impressive here is how Google not only stitched these photos together, but color corrected. (It looks like Google also included one of several photos that fit in between these two images.) And keep in mind that this was all automated; I never asked Google to do this.

Utah Valley:


That’s Utah Lake in the picture above, along with the mountains of the Wasatch Front. The spot where Laura is standing is about 30 minutes south of Salt Lake City.

But Google doesn’t just piece together pretty panoramas. It also gets trippy.

Haystack Rock, Oregon:

IMG_0746-PANOThis spectacular beach was given a vaguely Van Gogh-like treatment. While the stitching is fairly smooth, there’s also a noticeable dip in the ground. And on the right side of the image, Laura actually shows up twice.

That’s actually a recurring thing with Google Photos’ panoramas.

Goblin Valley, Utah:

This image was created from a handful of action shots I took during a visit to one of Utah’s best hidden treasures. Laura shows up three times, but the result is actually kind of cool. Google did something similar with the bicyclist image from Milan that I shared in my original post on Google Photos.

Vasquez Rocks, Los Angeles County:


Finally, this is Google crossing into true abstraction. Vasquez Rocks is a cool little area to hike and explore at the northern end of L.A. County. The panorama Google put together is notable for two reasons: First and most obviously, because Laura has been rendered as a kind of half-person; and second, because otherwise this pretty accurately captures what the area looks like.

If a human made this, we might call it “art” and ask why they choose to render the person that way. As it is, I guess we can just marvel at the power of Google’s algorithms.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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