Thomas A. Germer Photography

Thomas A. Germer Photography Blog

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Hanging Panoramic Polyhedra

I am working hard to get ready for a show I have in the Fall of 2018 at the Delaplaine Arts Center in Frederick, MD. My plan is to hang some of my polyhedra in the center of the room. But, in order to do that, I need material and a little engineering. I designed a hanging system that requires a 1/4″ hole drilled at the top of each solid and a 1″ hole drilled at the bottom. A 1/16″ braided steel cable hangs from the ceiling, passes through the 1/4″ hole and attaches to a piece on the bottom that holds the solid from the bottom. In this way, there is no stress applied to the top of the solid, which might pull it apart, and it is discrete. I designed pieces 3D printed from nylon to act as a collet for the 1/4″ hole and a hanger at the bottom.

The first piece was taken in the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. It is mapped onto a cuboctahedron. [“Old Faithful Inn (Cuboctahedron)”]

Old Faithful Inn, Cuboctahedron, Spherical Panorama, Photographic Sculpture

The second is was taken at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, in front of the grave for the family of Henri Poincare, a famous mathematician. The panorama is mapped onto a rhombic dodecahedron. [“Poincare (Rhombic Dodecahedron)”]

Poincare, Montparnasse Cemetery, Spherical Panorama, Photographic Sculpture

The third is not a photograph, per se, but a visual representation of the Julia set, a fractal structure related to the Mandelbrot set. It is mapped onto a tridiminished icosahedron. [“Fractal (Tridiminished Icosahedron)”]

Julia Set, Spherical Panorama,

This video shows all three rotating on their cable:
Video Link


Old Faithful Inn (Cuboctahedron)

My latest photographic sculpture is this cuboctahedron with the panorama taken in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. A cuboctahedron (see Wikipedia page) has six squares and eight equilateral triangles.  You can think of it as a truncated cube, where you flatten each of the corners until they intersect. Or, you can think of it as the intersection of a cube and a octahedron. Either way, it is pretty cool!

This piece will be on display at the Art League of Germantown’s Winter Glow 2017 show at BlackRock Center for the Arts, November 1 – 5, 2017.

Materials: Photographic prints, medium density fiberboard, epoxy, and decoupage medium.

)Old Faithful Inn (Cuboctahedron)

Old Faithful Inn (Cuboctahedron

Old Faithful Inn

In August, I had the opportunity to travel to Yellowstone National Park to participate in a field study with a group of astronomers and astrobiologists. In the search for life in the Universe, scientists look for certain signatures that are considered to be general indications of life. One of those signatures is homochirality, the tendency for the molecules (amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates, etc.) making up living organisms to have a specific handedness and for that specific handedness to be replicated throughout the planet. For example, our DNA spirals in a particular way, whether you are human, a tree, or a mushroom. On other planets, we cannot make the assumption that life is the same as that here on Earth, but we can assume that it consists of complex molecular structures that self-replicate their handedness.  We were studying how circular polarization of light can indicate homochirality in microbial mats living in extreme environments at Yellowstone, in hopes that we can eventually use the method in a telescope or a planetary lander to sense life elsewhere.

In any case, our group of nine scientists took the opportunity to have dinner at the Old Faithful Inn. The Inn, originally opened in 1908, is a very large log cabin, one of the largest log buildings in the world.  I had my panoramic gear with me on this trip, and what better place for doing 360° panoramas! I used 28 different shots, each with 3 exposures, to capture this location. The reason for taking so many shots was that there were many people walking about. As I like to say, I shoot them all and remove the bodies later.

Photos taken with a Canon 7D, Sigma 10 mm 1:2.8 DC Fisheye HSM, Panosaurus tripod head, 1/13 s, 1/50 s, 1/3 s, at f/4.0, ISO 800. Stitched with PTGui. High dynamic range processing with Photomatix Pro. Mapping onto polyhedron with personally written code.


Old Faithful Inn (Rhombic Dodecahedron)
Old Faithful Inn (Rhombic Dodecahedron)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 1)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 1)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 2)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 2)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 3)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 3)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 4)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 4)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 5)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 5)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 6)

Old Faithful Inn (Stereo 6)

Forward, Backward, Up, Down

My show, Forward, Backward, Up, Down, opened February 11, 2017 at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland, with a Meet the Artist reception from 2-4 pm. Also opening were shows by photographer Joshua Dunn and a juried printmaking exhibition. All of these shows will continue through March 11, 2017. Be sure to walk upstairs to the Terrace Gallery to see the two photography exhibitions.

The works that I am showing are both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. They are spherical panoramas, created by taking many photographs from a single point in space, stitching them together digitally, and projecting the sphere of data onto a surface or creating a solid sculpture. Each panorama is shown in the gallery as a sculpture, around which the gallery visitor can view the entire scene. These sculptures, in themselves, are a unique way to display a spherical panorama. On the walls there are contrasting stereographic projections created from each panorama. These projections are highly distorted, as they are not simple rectilinear projections as a camera would normally capture, but have fields of view much larger than physically possible with even a fisheye lens. Each of the projections highlights an aspect of the scene that may, in many cases, be originally so minor as to be ignored or have a geometric form that surprises the viewer that it is even created by photography. By combining the two-dimensional and three-dimensional works in this way, I challenge the viewer to make sense of the different images and to leave the gallery learning that the world as we normally perceive it is only one of the many views we could have.

Five of the sculptures are cubes, aligned so that opposing corners represent the scene’s zenith and nadir. My latest piece, “Under the Arch,” is a truncated triangle trapezohedron, also known as a Dürer’s Solid, after Albrecht Dürer, who depicted one in his engraving “Melancholia I” in 1514. The 360 degree panorama was taken under the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris.

Terrace Gallery with Thomas Germer's show Forward, Backward, Up, Down

Under the Arch, a 360 degree panorama mapped onto a Duerer's solid (truncated triangle trapezohedron, taken under the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Institut de France

I was headed to the Musée D’Orsay, when I passed the Institut de France. Since I was headed to the museum, I did not have my tripod, so this panorama was shot freehand.

Insitut de France (Flattened Cube)
Institut de France (Flattened Cube), Spherical panorama, cubic sculpture proof

Insitut de France (Stereo 1)
Institut de France (Stereo 1), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 2)
Institut de France (Stereo 2), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 3)
Institut de France (Stereo 3), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 4)
Institut de France (Stereo 4), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 5)
Institut de France (Stereo 5), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 6)
Institut de France (Stereo 6), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Insitut de France (Stereo 7)
Institut de France (Stereo 7), Spherical panorama, stereographic projection

Salle des Fêtes

I tried to shoot this room freehand, without a tripod, in February 2015. I found that I had made an error on how I should do these freehand shots, and the stitching did not come out well at all. So, when I returned to Paris in July 2015, I made a point of going back to the Musee D’Orsay and finding this room, the Salle des Fêtes. This time, I did a better job of holding the camera in a constant location as I took all the shots. People were walking in and out, and some people practically insisted that they stand as close to me as possible. There are stitching errors in this series, but they are minor.

ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/50 s, 8 mm focal length on 8-16 mm Sigma f/4.5-5.6 HSM on Canon 7D.

Salle des Fêtes (Flattened Cube):
Salle des Fêtes (Flattened Cube)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 1):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 1)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 2):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 2)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 3):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 3)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 4):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 4)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 5):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 5)

Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 6):
Salle des Fêtes (Stereo 6)


Poincaré Cube
Poincaré Cube

This set is the first in a series taken at the Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris. Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) was a famous mathematician, who contributed many things to a wide number of fields of mathematics. One of them is very important to the field of optical polarimetry. Polarization is a property that light has, because, as an electromagnetic field, the electric and magnetic fields must each be perpendicular to each other and to the direction of propagation. The electric field can be in a single plane containing the propagation direction, in which case it is called linearly polarized, or it can be rotating one way or another, in which case it is called circularly polarized.

In my day job, I am a physicist, and I use the polarization behavior of how materials scatter light to identify and differentiate different sources of scatter. Polarization states are often represented by a point on a unit sphere, referred to as the Poincaré  sphere. Points along the equator correspond to linear polarization states, with the longitude corresponding to half the angle of the electric field, while those at the north and south poles correspond to right- and left-circular polarizations, respectively. Points inside the sphere correspond to various degrees of depolarization, with the very center of the sphere being completely unpolarized, random light. So, the Poincaré sphere represents the topology of the statistics of the electromagnetic fields.

In any case, when I arrived at the cemetery, I made a bee line for Poincaré’s family grave, which is easy to find, since it is very close to the Avenue Thierry entrance and right up against the outside wall.  All of the stereographic projections are thus titled “Poincaré Sphere (Stereo n),” while the cube is titled “Poincaré Cube.”

See the entire Poincaré collection here or enjoy them below. Enjoy!

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 6)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 6)

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 1)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 1)

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 2)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 2)

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 4)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 4)

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 3)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 3)

Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 5)
Poincaré Sphere (Stereo 5)

Virtual Modeling of Panoramic Cubes

I am experimenting with using SketchUp to render simulations of what my cubes might look like in a larger environment. At this time, I have only made 10″x10″x10″ cubes, to keep my costs and storage requirements reasonable. However, I have received some interest in larger cubes. My supplier of MetalPrints can make sides up to 40″x40″. Here are some examples of what such a cube would look like:

40x40x40 Panoramic photographic sculpture modeled in a gallery

40x40x40 Panoramic photographic sculpture modeled in a gallery

I am also experimenting with using the program to create virtual cubes to replace or augment my flattened cubes as proofs. The program allows me to virtually construct the cubes and see how they work in that format:

“Chairs at Luxembourg”

The panorama “Chairs at Luxembourg” was taken on a fall morning in 2015 at the Palace of Luxembourg in Paris. It was early, few were enjoying the gardens, so none of the chairs set out were occupied. With only a small amount of rearrangement, I configured my panoramic tripod to be as low as possible, and I shot this panorama among a group of chairs, with the palace in the background.

This piece will be included in my exhibit “Cubic Visions” at Glenview Mansion Art Gallery in Rockville, Maryland, June 5 – 20, 2016. I will be showing five cubes, and each cube will have two associated 2D projections, as shown here.

Chairs at Luxembourg
“Chairs at Luxembourg,” Photographic Sculpture, 1/1, 2016, $1250

“Chairs at Luxembourg (Stereo 1),” Metal Print Digital Photograph, 1/1, 2016, $450

“Chairs at Luxembourg (Stereo 4),” Metal Print Digital Photograph, 1/1, 2016, $450

Maryland Federation of Art: Focal Point Exhibition

My piece “Secret Garden” will be showing at the Maryland Federation of Art Circle Gallery in Annapolis, MD from January 29-February 27, 2016. This panoramic cube was chosen by juror Richard Olsenius as one of 79 photographs out of over 700 submitted to be shown in their Focal Point exhibit. A reception, which I will not be able to attend, will be held February 14, 2016 from 3-5 p.m.

The Circle Gallery is located across the street from the Maryland State House at 18 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401. The gallery is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the words of the juror, “In picking the final selection for the Focal Point exhibition, I was impressed with the scope and quality of the work. Out of 700 plus images I was drawn to over 200 that made the final choices for the show extremely difficult. From landscapes to images of complex design came personal visions in images that gave either a strong sense of place or reflected the sensitivities of the photographer’s art-making.”

This particular piece was shot in May 2015 in the Azalea Garden of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. A spherical panorama, it was stitched together from 54 photos shot in 18 different directions and 3 different exposures. Each of the six sides of the cube were generated from the combined panorama as 90°x90° rectilinear projections in the appropriate directions. They were then printed on aluminum sheet before being assembled into the cube. The clear stand is acrylic.