Thinking outside the box…

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… that is the camera viewfinder. So many iconic views are of broad, sweeping vistas, but when trying to capture this type of landscape within the frame of a camera viewfinder, much of the impact can be lost, especially if using a wide-angle lens. One solution to this problem is to shoot in panoramic format – either using a dedicated panoramic camera – or by using the magic of digital photography to get in a little tighter and then merge (stitch) several photographs together. Stitching multiple images allows you to go as wide as – if not wider – than your lens allows, yet still maintain the relevance of important elements within the composition. The result is a larger file with greater detail, and with that, an enhanced ability to print big. Most importantly, you also get to capture that expansive view in all of its entirety without being limited by the constraints of the camera viewfinder.

11-13-14 Zabriskie wide

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean… these are both from the Zabriskie Point overlook in Death Valley National Park, California, and were made on 7/30/07 at about 4pm local time in what were admittedly far from epic lighting conditions. The first photograph is a single shot – shot at f11, 1/160 sec, iso 100 using a 17-40mm lens at 17mm (generally considered pretty wide) – the resulting tiff file is 23.4 megapixels and at 200 ppi, I can squeeze a 17 inch x 11 inch print out of this one.

11-13-14 Zabriskie Panorama

In the panoramic image above, I used a total of 12 separate images – each shot in vertical orientation at f11, 1/160 sec, iso 100 using a 17-40mm lens, this time at a focal length of 40mm – the resulting tiff file is 88.1 megapixels and at 200 ppi, I could squeeze a 46 inch x 16 inch print out of this one. I used to have to manually and tediously “stitch” panoramics like this together by manipulating Photoshop layers and masks, but luckily many post-processing software options now automate that task quite easily. Like I said, there’s a significant difference in the quality of the larger file… the detail is sharper, the view is wider in scope, and the printed file is literally much bigger in size!

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A delicate and beautiful arch

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As winter’s grip tightens here in Maine, I’m sure like many cold-hatin’ photographers do, I recently went mining in the archives for memories of warmer times and photographs that had not yet been processed. Delicate Arch is one of 2,000 naturally preserved sandstone arches that can be found in the small, but incredibly interesting and aptly named “Arches” National Park. Located just outside the funky little town of Moab in Utah, I had the good fortune of exploring and enjoying this little gem of a place a few years back when I was attending a work-related conference out west with my buddy Steve.

I remember making the 1.5 mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch on a warm summer evening, huffing and puffing as we tried to reach the 52 ft tall icon before the sun had set. I also recall being absolutely mesmerized by the red sandstone landscape, and even though this is one of those picture postcards that many other people have photographed, I still got quite a buzz from being there in person and seeing it for myself – hiking back down the trail in the dark was also a pretty neat experience. Those are the La Sal Mountains in the background, rising higher than 12,000 feet along the eastern edge of the Utah state line and above the Colorado Plateau, and it never ceases to amaze me how “open” and “big” this landscape is.

The third photograph in this post was made on a different day… actually in late morning light, and from another trail and angle across a deep canyon. If you look closely, you can see a person standing under the arch, perhaps giving you a sense of just how big this structure actually is. It’s always good to explore new places, and I have to admit, the slickrock and surrounding landscape of this unique area made a huge impression on me.