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I'm writing a paper using the IEEEtran style, which uses two column per page.

At some point, I had to make some three big tables, so I used \sideways to rotate them.

The pages' height fill all available space, one of them fill on page alone, but two of them are thin, and I could (and should) put two of them in the same page. I'm defining my first table (the one that fills all page) like this:

\begin{table*}[h]
  \centering
  \caption{Performance of Second Based Operators applied to the clown image.}
  \label{tab:sodclown}  
  \begin{sideways}
      \begin{tabular}{ cccccccc }
      ...
      Sobel & \raisebox{-\totalheight}{\includegraphics[height=0.2\textwidth]{figs/colorbar2}}
            & \raisebox{-\totalheight}{\includegraphics[width=0.2\textwidth]{figs/Clown/MSE/Sobel}} 
      ...
  \end{tabular}
  \end{sideways}
\end{table*}

Which gives me this result (just part of it):

enter image description here

The two tables that are in the same page are defined like this:

\begin{table*}[h]
   \begin{minipage}{.5\textwidth}
      \centering
      \caption{Performance of Second Based Operators applied to the bike image.}
      \label{tab:sodbike}  
      \begin{sideways}
         \begin{tabular}{ cccccccc }
         ...
         \shortstack{Four-neighbor\\ Laplacian} 
         & \raisebox{-\totalheight}{\includegraphics[height=0.3\textwidth]{figs/colorbar2}} 
         & \raisebox{-\totalheight}{\includegraphics[width=0.3\textwidth]{figs/Clown/MSE/Laplacian1}} 
         ...
         \end{tabular}
      \end{sideways}
   \end{minipage}  
   \begin{minipage}{.5\textwidth}
      \centering
      \caption{Performance of Second Based Operators applied to the clown image.}
      \label{tab:sodclown}  
      \begin{sideways}
          \begin{tabular}{ cccccccc }
          ...
          \end{tabular}
      \end{sideways}
   \end{minipage}%
\end{table*}

Which gives the following result:

enter image description here

As can be seen, I got a considerable black space between my table lines and the images, which prevent my image to get bigger. I wondering what is causing this result I how can I get rid of it, so my useful space would get expanded, and, consequently, my images. The only difference is that I'm using \shortstack in the second table environment.

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