Nearly everyone is fascinated by old photographs, even if they don't know anyone in them or have never been to the locations they show. Panoramic photos, which gained popularity in the early 1900s, do a better job than simple snapshots in providing a broader view of the people and places that came before us.
Now, thousands of those photos are available, courtesy of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which has begun putting its collection online.
Of about 4,000 images that have been put on its website so far, 57 are from Oregon. And maybe it's no surprise that seven of those are from the first Pendleton Roundup in 1911, and another five feature the ever-magical but little-changing Crater Lake from 1909 to 1913.
Of the Library of Congress photos, the ones nearest Lane County are three 1915 views of the steamships Adeline Smith, Nann Smith and Redondo, loading cargo at C.A. Smith Lumber and Manufacturing Co. in Marshfield, which was renamed Coos Bay in 1944.
A little farther afield, a 1909 view of Klamath Falls offers an intriguing look at that city's early development. Astoria, Tillamook, Seaside and Portland also captured the interest of the state's early panoramic photographers.
Among the Library of Congress collection are 18 panoramic views of beauty contests from around the country; 51 cityscapes; 727 images of various groups, from athletic teams to newspaper publishers; 144 natural or man-made disasters; and many other categories, taken between 1851 and 1991.
It turns out, though, that at least a few local panoramic photos do exist, thanks to the sleuthing of Register-Guard photographer Chris Pietsch, who besides researching old panoramas also has turned his attention to making his own modern panoramic photographs that offer a three-dimensional, 360-degree view of the subject.
Pietsch paid a visit to the Lane County Historical Museum, where for a $5 fee volunteers will search the archives for subjects to see what might be available.
His five-dollar bill turned up several historical panoramic photos of the city of Eugene, taken from the top of Skinner Butte over a span of decades.
The one he chose, from 1902, uses one of several methods of creating a super-wide format picture, by shooting images separately and then lining them up exactly to create one vista.
By definition, traditional panoramic photos are at least twice as wide as they are tall, and often much wider than that.
Another method of panoramic photography that became widely used during the heyday of the genre involved a camera mounted on a tripod topped by a set of gears that physically turned the camera from one edge of the scene to the other.
If the picture showed a large group people standing in rows, those in the front row had to move into a semicircle with each of them the same distance from the camera lens, in order to make the photo look like the subjects were in a straight line.
Nowadays, of course, everything is different and computerized. Not surprisingly, there already are computer "apps" that turn smart-phones into instant panoramic cameras.
Longitudinal panoramas are still popular, but some cameras now use a 180-degree fisheye lens that pans a 360-degree circle around the camera, snapping a photo every 60 degrees, plus one straight up and one straight down.
The software used to process these panoramas identifies where the pictures overlap. It then puts the eight images together, giving the viewer the sensation of standing inside a sphere with the image displayed all around its inside, a huge leap from the more primitive method of showing a super-wide format view.
For an example of one of Pietsch's three-dimensional panoramas, go to "Big Old Trees" at www2.registerguard.com/mm/index.php/panoramas/comments/old-growth-forest/
SEND US AN ORIGINAL PANORAMA
What: Whatever method you choose, create your own panorama and send the finished version to us. We'll feature our favorites in a future Oregon Life section.
Deadline: 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16
How to send: E-mail to email@example.com; put "panorama" in subject line