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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Trip of a lifetime remembered

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In the early spring of 2010, Sam and I had a chance to make the trip of a lifetime to California, and more specifically, Death Valley National Park and the incredibly scenic Highway 395 which runs from south to north at the foot of the majestic and snow-capped Eastern Sierra mountains.

We were fortunate to see Death Valley at a time when Mother Nature was doing her transitional thing, flooding the lower elevations of the park to create rare and spectacular conditions. We enjoyed the contrast of warm, desert temperatures and then the sub-freezing landscape in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra. From the Owens Valley we watched the sun rise and illuminate Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, we heard coyotes yelping along the shores of Mono Lake, and we were genuinely awed as we gazed up from the salt pans at Badwater (242 feet below sea level) toward Telescope Peak towering 11,049 feet above.

Lots of great memories made, and here’s a little slideshow I put together when we got back. As you will notice, the soundtrack is definitely original.