Aerial Wisconsin Autumn

One of the things to which I’ve been looking forward this autumn is a view from above of southern Wisconsin and especially the Baraboo Hills. I absolutely love getting out in the fall to walk through the colorful prairies and forests around here and take in the many beautiful sights. There are so many quiet and entreating locations in the Baraboo Hills – Parfrey’s Glen; Devil’s Lake State Park; Gibraltar Rock; Honey Creek State Natural Area; Baxter Hollow; and a whole host of others.

Rather than write a whole lot on the subject, I’ll just let the photographs do the talking.  This collection was taken earlier this week, close to the peak of our fall colors. I was able to fly over Epic Systems and Madison for a few minutes before heading to the Baraboo Hills and back.

Enjoy the show! Remember, you may “click” on the slideshow to view it full screen.

N914VX, signing off!

 

 

 

Posted in Aerial Photography, Baraboo Hills, Flying, Wisconsin

Denali Aerial

Description: Aerial view of Denali

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

The person responsible for updating my blog site is hopelessly deficient. Yes, he’s quite busy taking beautiful photographs, but he’s also busy with other things, too, like running a household and family…

However, he has, of late, been busy as of late editing photographs of the family trip to Alaska this past July. This is a long and slow process – a couple of thousand photographs to go through, choose, edit, edit again, keyword and finally upload. But, the Alaska gallery is beginning!

I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about these photographs, other than the following. On our third day in Alaska, the weather was spectacular, so we opted to take a sightseeing flight from Talkeetna to Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley), which is about sixty miles away. Talkeetna is the nearest small airport to Denali (I think) and home to several different flightseeing tour companies. The flight from Talkeetna to Denali only takes about thirty minutes, and we spent about an hour flying around Denali and landing on the Ruth Glacier for maybe thirty minutes. We left at a decent time (8:00 am?) and were back in Talkeetna in time for an early lunch. But, we were breathless from the beauty! This was one of the best things that we did during our couple of weeks in Alaska. I’m glad that I wasn’t flying so that I could enjoy the spectacular views.

This is a large gallery, but well worth it, particularly if you’ve been to Alaska or thinking about going. There are several photographs that appear a couple of times in the gallery, once as color images and another time as black & white images (and, my preference for these duplicates in the B&W version). So, enjoy!! And, remember to view the slideshow at the full screen setting!

 

Posted in alaska, denali, Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley Tagged , , , , , |

Door County Flight

Cave Point

Description: Cave Point

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

 

 

I don’t intend to write a lot in this piece, as a picture is worth a thousand words.  As I’ve been “spreading my wings” these past few weeks, I’ve been taking longer and longer flights – weather permitting. One of the places over to which I’ve wanted to fly is Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is a very scenic place from the ground, but it’s even more spectacular from the air.

Without further adieu, here’s a link to the photo slide show that I’ve created, followed by a video tour. During the video capture, my GoPro decided to turn itself off while I was approaching one of my favorite locations in Door County – Cave Point County Park – so there’s a “hole” in the video that I really wanted to create. And, the battery in the GoPro was exhausted just after leaving the “tip” of Door County. Also, in various portions of the video, I’ve “sped up” the video to move through it all faster – and so the flight looks a bit rougher than in reality.

Enjoy!

N914VX, signing off!

 

 

Posted in Door County, Flying Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Lake O’Hara

Description: Beautiful Lake O'Hara

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

 

 

This past July, we were able to spend a wonderful couple of weeks wandering around the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks. This trip had been on our “to do” list for some time and we finally made it happen. It took about four days to drive there and it was well worth it!

 

While performing our research on places to visit, particularly places with great hikes and photographic possibilities, one of the places about which we learned was Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. The Canadian Rockies remind me somewhat of the American Rockies, but there are differences. The mountains aren’t quite as tall, but they seem more stark and impressive. Since the latitude is further north, this area is a bit cooler and wetter, and these slight differences in climate make for a wonderful improvement in your experience. While we were frequently warm from our hiking, we never really felt hot and drained like we can expect in the American Rockies. At night, the temps were cool and the humidity was higher than if we were further south.  But, I’ve digressed.

 

Lake O’Hara reminds me of just a few places that I’ve experienced while traipsing around the world. It’s indescribably beautiful *and* the powers that be limit access to it, very similar to how access is limited for visits to The Wave or The Milford Track. Parks Canada allows about fifty people a day to visit Lake O’Hara (but, don’t quote me on that figure). You can obtain a day hiking permit, a permit to camp in the single, modest campground, or you might stay at the Lake O’Hara Lodge (only ~$300 per person per night). We were able to score a camping spot for a couple of nights, which required me to be on the phone to the Parks Canada reservations system exactly three months before we wanted to be there to try to claim a spot. To enter the area of Lake O’Hara it is necessary to ride a school bus from the parking lot just off of Canadian Highway 1 a few kilometers east of the town of Field, British Columbia. The bus slowly drives you eleven kilometers up the one-lane gravel road to the campground. Once there, y0u’re welcomed by the ranger and given a brief introduction to camping at Lake O’Hara and then turned loose to find your tenting spot. There are no significant amenities at the Lake O’Hara campground – a pleasant composting toilet, water from a solar pump, bear lockers, and picnic tables. The only amenity of note are the totally awesome views!

 

There are numerous hiking trails in the area for a variety of skill levels.  A basic starter hike around Lake O’Hara is about an hour or two and it’s relatively flat, and this is the hike that we did on our first afternoon. The weather was a bit iffy for us over our two nights at Lake O’Hara, but never really terrible. Okay, it did rain a fair amount on our first evening and that made making supper a bit of a challenge, but there are small shelters there that you get to share with all of your newly made friends. Unfortunately, since there had been so many wildfires in the Canadian Rockies and the firefighting resources were stretched thin, we weren’t allowed to have open fires at Lake O’Hara, not even in the wood stoves in these cooking shelters.

 

Winter in July...

Winter in July…

During our single, full day at Lake O’Hara we took off on one of the more popular routes for the day and it was very easy to see why. We started our hike around Lake O’Hara as we had done the day before, but then started hiking uphill for a few kilometers. By late morning, we were sitting in a beautiful glacial bowl overlooking spectacular Lake Oesa. It was a wonderful backdrop for a well-earned lunch. The day that we were there was overcast, but still very pleasant and beautiful. We next took a slightly wrong route to hike the Yukness Ledges over to Opabin Lake. If you have the opportunity to take this route, make certain to look back to Lake Oesa after you’ve left as the view is even more stunning! From Opabin Lake, the hike back to camp was another hour or so, downhill, and we were entertained by a few hoary marmots along the way. This was one of our best hiking days ever. We were tired by the time that we got back to camp and enjoyed a nice warm supper, followed by the coldest night of our whole trip – the next morning, it snowed on us (OK, it wasn’t that much snow, but it was still snow in July).

 

Lake O’Hara is one of the few places in the world to which I’d like to return – not because I dislike everywhere else, but because there’s so much of the world to see. But, there are some things that I’d do differently. Since we “assumed” that we were headed to some type of a backcountry campground on this bus, which was true, we carried most all of our gear in backpacks – a reasonable decision when we were planning. However, since we didn’t really backpack in to the site, we would have been smarter to carry our gear in duffel bags or something similar, just as we saw the more experienced Lake O’Hara campers do. And, I’d likely desire to bring something more to drink than water.

 

Enjoy the slideshow!

 

 

Signing off (to plan my next awesome adventure!)…

 

 

Posted in Canada, Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Isle Royale

Description: Sunrise, Lane Cove, Isle Royale

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

 

A few years ago, back when I was in gradual school, there was an article in National Geographic magazine (April, 1985) about a place called Isle Royale. I had never heard of it before then, but was quite taken by the story and photographs. My friend Kent and I even talked about heading up there to go backpacking, but it never came to fruition before we graduated. Every once in awhile over the years, I’d look at a map of the Great Lakes and see Isle Royale there, think about it again and tell myself that I’ve got to get there someday.

Over the winter when I found that I’d have several days available in late May (Ačiū, mano meile!) with the opportunity for some travel and adventure I obviously started to think about heading to the southwestern deserts. Since we were planning on going to Utah in April, it just didn’t seem quite right to head back there again so soon (that’s an almost unbelievable thought for me). Somewhere out of the dark recesses of my brain crawled the memory of Isle Royal National Park and it stuck! Oh yeah!

ISRO Map

Map of Lake Superior with Isle Royale circled (click to view a larger image)

Most people to whom I mention Isle Royale National Park have never heard of it and that’s not surprising. Isle Royale is one of the least visited national parks in the United States even though it’s not too far from many populations centers in the Midwest. The problem is that it’s an island in northern Lake Superior and your only options for getting there are your own boat, ferry service from Houghton or Copper Harbor, Michigan or Grand Portage, Minnesota, or a seaplane flight out of Houghton. The National Park Service estimates that were ~15,000 people who visited Isle Royale in 2014; there have been a little over a million visitors to Isle Royale since it was established in 1940. Just for a little contrast, Yellowstone National Park had about 3.5 million visitors in 2014, or about 9500 visitors/day, Grand Canyon hosted 4.7 million visitors last year (12,880 visitors/day), Yosemite enjoyed about 3.9 million visitors, and Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska welcomed just 12,700 visitors last year. Isle Royale National Park is most famous for secluded backpacking over its forty mile length, many harbors and coves for boaters, and for the dynamic population of moose and wolves on the island. Unfortunately, it’s now estimated that there are only three wolves left on Isle Royale due to a lack of genetic diversity from inbreeding, and this loss of wolves is creating a quandary for the National Park Service and others who are fretting over whether they should intervene and introduce more wolves. (I’m in the camp of let it be; wolves will eventually repopulate the island again, and this likely isn’t the first time over the past few millennia that the wolf population has crashed due to inbreeding.)

I started preparing for my solo backpacking trip in late winter by carrying a fifty pound load through the neighborhood. The first few times were tortuous, but I slowly grew stronger, a bit faster and more comfortable with the whole idea. While I’ve been on a few backpacking trips before, these trips were always with friends with whom I could share the load of food, tent, stove and so on, but that wasn’t the case this time.  I also wanted to carry my camera gear, so my load added up quickly.

Over Memorial Day weekend I was off, driving north to Houghton and its airport for my relatively quick flight to the Rock Harbor Visitor Center on the eastern end of Isle Royale. I arrived there late on Friday afternoon, had a quick orientation with the ranger, and was then off to Three Mile Campground. There, I thought that I’d be relatively alone until Amy (from Madison!) showed up with her bum knee that she had injured a day before. (Yes, Amy made it safely home and the big, bad wolves didn’t catch her.) The second day, it was a couple of hour “jaunt” to Daisy Farm Campground and a relatively warm and pleasant afternoon and evening. It seems that Amy had it a bit rougher at Daisy Farm a few days before because it snowed on her. Daisy Farm-0447On my third day, I humped it over the ridge to the other side of the island at Lane Cove when it was quite warm; the bad news is that my water filter broke when I needed it and I stumbled into Lane Cove quite parched. I spent a couple of hours boiling water after that. The last day of hiking saw some cold and rain, and I made it back to Rock Harbor, where I spent most of the afternoon in my sleeping bag, keeping warm and reading a book. All in all, it wasn’t that adventurous of a trip, but it was so nice to get away to the seclusion of Isle Royale – us introverts are into that kind of thing. From the time that I left Rock Harbor until I returned, about three days, I ran into maybe sixteen people. And, I can’t wait to do something like this again – but where?

Finally, here’s my requisite gallery – enjoy!

 

 

Another happy camper, signing off…

 

Posted in Isle Royale, Lake Superior Tagged , , , , , , , |

Slot Canyons

Zebra Slot

Description: Zebra Slot Canyon - beautiful!!!

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

 

 

This post will be much shorter than my last few. Or, it may be longer – a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Slot canyons are incredibly beautiful natural sandstone carvings. As the name implies, these are “canyons,” and they’re typically found in desert regions where there’s lots of sandstone and an occasional thunderstorm.  Over millions of years, the abrasive nature of flowing water, sand and rocks carves narrow canyons through the sandstone. A slot canyon is usually deeper than it is wide and some can be EXTREMELY narrow. Since these slot canyons are typically in desert environments they also are frequently dry and it is relatively easy to visit these vertical, inside-out sculpture gardens. Danger does exist in slot canyons. Since desert soils don’t absorb much rainwater, if there’s a rainstorm in the vicinity (or, even miles upstream in the water basin), the runoff can rip and roar through a slot canyon and pound everything in it to pemmican. When walking over sandstone, it would sometimes be possible to walk over a slot canyon and not really notice it other than you’re walking over a dark crack, although most slot canyons are at least a few feet wide at their tops.

One of the most famous slot canyons in the world is Petra, Jordan. It’s on my bucket list to visit someday. Closer to my home, there’s a slot canyon, or something close to it in the form of Pewits Nest near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

But, some of the most beautiful slot canyons are found in Arizona and Utah. I’ve been fortunate to visit several of these slot canyons and I’m always in awe and inspired by them. Each slot canyon has it’s own character, even though one slot canyon can be just a few hundred meters from another slot canyon.

One of the most accessible and visited slot canyons is Antelope Canyon just east of Page, Arizona. If you visit, there are two major choices (or, simply choose both): Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. You can hire a Navajo guide to take you to and through the canyon of your choice, or you might be able to wander freely if you visit Lower Antelope Canyon. One of the good things about the Antelope Canyon system is that it’s very well protected and monitored for precipitation in the area. About twenty years ago, a group of tourists was exploring Lower Antelope Canyon and were caught in a flash flood, never to be seen again. Since that time, the Navajo Nation has instituted better security and limited site access to reduce the likelihood of these accidents. The first gallery below is from my most recent visit to Lower Antelope Canyon in June, 2012. Antelope Canyon is very beautiful and you won’t be disappointed with a visit there. My kids still talk about it! The colors and smooth carvings are entrancing, and it’s relatively easy to move about.

South of Escalante, Utah, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, there are several accessible slot canyons, but it takes a little doing to get to them. They’re many miles in the wilderness, on rough gravel roads, and then there’s a mile or two or three hike to get to these slot canyons. But, the hikes are worth it (particularly if you take the shorter routes…).  We visited Spooky and Peek-a-boo Slot Canyons in one day, which are located in Upper Coyote Gulch. Spooky was VERY narrow – I barely could squeeze through in several sections and there were many visitors on the day we were there, creating traffic jams in the slot. I don’t have any good photographs from it because of how narrow and crowded it was. Nearby is a totally different looking slot canyon – Peek-a-boo. It is slightly wider and has a few arches overhead that give it quite a different feel.

A day later, we were back in the National Monument and visited Tunnel Slot Canyon and Zebra Slot Canyon; they are found to the side of Harris Wash. (If you want to find these slot canyons for yourself, just google them or check out the photographs on Google Earth; or, just write to me!). Parking for the hike to these two slots is just off of Hole in the Rock Road; however, if you’ve mismanaged your research, you also can drive to a different location in Harris Wash and then make a MUCH longer hike to them (not recommended, particularly if your family is along). Tunnel Slot is a relatively short slot canyon, narrow and dark. It’s so narrow at the top that not a whole lot of light gets down into it. Much of the light comes from the ends, which makes for some difficult photography.

About a mile northwest of Tunnel Slot is Zebra Slot. This is a narrow slot canyon and very different from Tunnel Slot – it’s open and well lit. The sidewalls show beautifully variegated sandstone layers with moqui marble inclusions. Similar to the Antelope Canyon system, it is just enthralling to be there and to think about the geology and how long it has taken to carve this fantastic place.

From here on, I’ll just let the photographs speak for themselves – enjoy.

 

 

 

I’m signing off…
 

 

Posted in Arizona, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, slot canyon, Utah Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

The Wave

The Wave

Description: Panoramic view of The Wave in all its glory!

Photographer: Tim Mulholland

Please click on the photo to see more!

 

 

I’ve always been interested in science and the natural world, as well as reading. One day, likely in the mid-1970s, I opened a book and found a photograph of this amazing geological formation somewhere in the American southwest. I was mesmerized by this photograph. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of information on the location of this sandstone formation or how to get there – life before the internet. But, that image was burned into my memory.
 

 
At some later point in my life, as well as with the growth of the internet, my consciousness came back to this sandstone beauty. I found that it was called “The Wave,” and that it was somewhere in the middle of nowhere in northern Arizona. The more that I searched about The Wave, learned about it and viewed more photographs of it, it became sort of an obsession, which is typical of a nature and landscape photographer. We all have these lists of places that we must visit and photograph. The internet and various travel guides have increased awareness of The Wave to the point that obtaining a permit is even more difficult than it was ten years ago (and, yes, I’m contributing to that difficulty by writing this piece).
 

 
And, dreams do turn into realities. The dream of visiting and the result of all of this research is eventually getting to see The Wave and a host of other beautiful, natural locations. I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit “The Wave” on three different occasions.
 

 
The Wave is a natural formation of folded sandstone that used to be wind-blown sand dunes. The sand eventually was cemented into place and natural geological forces folded and eroded the sandstone into the beautiful shapes that we see today. The Wave is also a relatively small geological feature situated in an area called North Coyote Buttes that offers a great many opportunities for hiking, photography and amazement.
 

 
In a break with my usual style, I’m placing two slideshows here for your enjoyment. If you’re inclined to learn more about how to obtain a permit to visit The Wave, then by all means, keep reading! The first slideshow is from my 2013 visit, while the second slideshow is our most recent 2015 visit.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to The Wave is not difficult, but it’s definitely not easy. The most difficult and frustrating part of seeing The Wave is getting a permit from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Wave is found in an area called the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area of southern Utah and northern Arizona. The Wave is also extremely fragile, as you might guess, so the BLM limits the number of daily visitors to reduce the wear and tear on this spectacular site, as well as to provide visitors an outstanding wilderness experience. While many folks like to visit large crowded cities on their vacations, it’s also nice to have remote, quiet and intimate wilderness opportunities for the rest of us.
 

 
Let’s get back to that difficult part of getting a permit. The BLM allows up to twenty people per day to visit North Coyote Buttes and The Wave. There are two ways to obtain these highly prized and difficult to procure permits. The “easier” way is to apply to the BLM’s online lottery. This way is easier because you can do it from home in front of your computer. You apply for your permits about five months in advance of when you hope to visit The Wave. For example, if you want to visit in April, then you apply during the previous December. The BLM holds a lottery on the first day of the fourth month before you’d like to visit; in my example, the lottery would be held on January 1st and you’ll be notified by email whether you received a permit or not. Through the online lottery, BLM distributes ten of the twenty permits it offers. The advantage of this system to you is that you’ll know in advance whether you’ve been extremely lucky to obtain a permit. The bad news is that for these ten daily permits, there are typically 200 or more requests for those few permits, which means that your chances of getting one of those permits is about 1% or less – yeah, not great odds. You’re permitted to request up to three different days in your lottery entry, so that might seem to increase your odds, but then, everyone gets to pick three days. I’ve also heard of some “tricks” to increase your chances of winning a permit, but the odds are still stacked against you. I’ve only known one or two people who have earned a permit through the online lottery; I’ve applied to the online lottery four or five times and never earned a permit in this way.
 

 
The other way to obtain a permit is to enter the “in-person” lottery that is now held at the BLM’s Interagency Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah. To be clear, the BLM distributes the remaining ten permits through this process and these permits are good for the following day (i.e., tomorrow, not the day of the lottery). The first time that I attempted to visit The Wave, this lottery was held at a different location (the BLM’s Paria Contact Station). My wife and I entered the lottery and didn’t receive permits, but the BLM staff kindly told us that there were still permits available to visit a similarly beautiful area known as South Coyote Buttes, so we went there. (Permits for South Coyote Buttes are now becoming increasingly difficult to obtain through the same two lotteries; the information that I’m providing for North Coyote Buttes/The Wave lotteries also apply to the South Coyote Buttes permit lotteries.) When we applied at the in-person lottery, there were maybe fifteen to twenty total people requesting permits. The second time that I planned a Utah/Arizona trip with the hope of visiting The Wave (June, 2010), I applied online for a permit (no luck) and then entered the in-person lottery. Again, there were fifteen to twenty applicants and I scored! The weather was extremely pleasant and this was truly a happy moment in my life.
 

 
On my attempt to visit The Wave in November, 2013, I applied online (again, no luck), and then entered the in-person lottery in Kanab. I again drew a permit in the lottery, but this time there must have been thirty or forty applicants, so I felt very lucky. I also savored the experience even more because I did more research about the area and found some other gems in the vicinity of The Wave, like Top Rock Arch.
 

 
My latest visit to The Wave was also the luckiest. Again, no luck with the online lottery, but that wasn’t surprising. We visited southern Utah during Spring Break, 2015. Unfortunately for us, Utah’s schools were also on spring break at the same time. Places that I had visited in the past where I was all alone were “swarming” with people (OK, in my case, swarming means that there were twenty to thirty people). We entered the in-person lottery at Kanab on two successive days, because that’s all the time that we had for visiting the area. The first day the BLM’s “lottery room” was full and overflowing. We heard that there had been requests for ~170 permits a day or two before, and the first day that we applied, there were about sixty requests applications requesting about 150 permits (you’re permitted to request up to four permits on a single lottery application, I believe). Yes, the odds were terrible and we weren’t too disappointed when we didn’t get a permit. But, it was exciting to see a mother and daughter squeal with delight when they earned their first permits after learning that this was about their tenth application to the in-person lottery! When you participate in the in-person lottery you really have to set your goals low (as in, I’ll not receive a permit) and also enjoy the good luck of others when they receive their permits.
 

 
We applied again on the following day. Our odds were slightly better, as there were “only” about forty applications for about 130 permit requests. What was interesting about this trip to the lottery is that the BLM does seem to be very strict about it’s policy of allowing one application per group of applicants. It wasn’t apparent on our first visit to the lottery, but on our second attempt the woman running the lottery was clearly reviewing the applications and she disqualified two groups of applicants who had two applications each. That meant that our odds increased – if only slightly. And, after watching one permit be awarded, then two more permits, and then two more permits, we knew that our likelihood of getting our four permits with our draw was pretty low – but we did! ELATION!
 

 
So, here’s one “trick” that I can offer for improving your odds at The Wave lottery – apply for yourself only, whether in-person or online. Plan on a solo visit. It might seem a little odd, but there are quite a few applications who are requesting multiple permits. Once the first five, six, seven permits have been awarded, then the multi-permit applications are less likely to take their permit(s) if they are lucky in the lottery. Why? Because the participants with a multi-permit application want to go as a group so that all or none can enjoy the experience. Yes, those multi-permit, in-person applications might choose to take the remaining permits and figure out how to distribute them amongst themselves, but more often it seems that they decline to take their permits – all or none. So, after those first few in-person permits have been awarded, your chances for an individual request increase because the multi-permit applicants will decline their opportunity. I know, it ‘s not a lot of solace, but it’s some. And, the same logic applies to the online lottery – if there are only three permits remaining, then an application for four permits can’t win.
 

 
After you’ve finally won the lottery celebrate and then continue your planning and preparation. And, here’s a bit of help to get you prepared before you get there. This site has quite a bit of good information on The Wave and the general area of the Colorado Plateau = TheWave.Info
 

 
With the popularity of The Wave increasing, the number of unprepared visitors is also increasing. The Wave is a wilderness area. It’s about an hour drive from either Kanab, Utah or Page, Arizona. There are basically no services nearby, once you leave these main towns. The road to The Wave, House Rock Valley Road, is rough, rutted, and rocky, and passable by most vehicles when it’s dry. If it’s wet, the clay can become quite slippery. During our last visit at the lottery, we heard one group’s amazement that you couldn’t drive right up to The Wave! No, this is a desert wilderness and you’ll need to hike and be prepared for many eventualities. In the summer of 2013, an older couple hiked to The Wave and didn’t return – it was very hot, they likely didn’t have enough water, became disoriented and died. On our way out from our visit, a family of five was walking in to visit The Wave. They had heard about while vacationing in Kanab, didn’t realize that you needed permits (or, face a $500 citation if you’re caught without one), didn’t have maps and didn’t have nearly enough water for all of them – including their three year old twins. The route to The Wave is not marked – again, it’s wilderness. Be prepared. Bring a GPS or map and compass and know how to use them. I’m not providing directions here because the BLM will give them to you or there are much better resources on the internet.
 

 
But, once you get there, you’ll be amazed with what you see. My favorite part of my most recent visit was watching my family’s reaction when they entered the main amphitheater – priceless. And, on this trip, I found Melody Arch, which was spectacular, The Alcove and the Second Wave – there’s always something to discover in this area.
 

 
I hope that you enjoy your trip when you can finally get a permit!!! Please let me know when you get to visit!!!
 

 
OK, I’m signing off…
 

 

Posted in Arizona, desert, North Coyote Buttes, panorama, The Wave, Vermillion Cliffs Tagged , , , , , , |

Tutorial: How to Create a Digital Panoramic Photograph (Part III of III)

Von River Valley, Otago, New Zealand

Von River Valley, Otago, New Zealand

 

So far, I’ve taken you through my process of using my camera to take photographs that I will use to create a panoramic photograph (Part I), and then the editing workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop (PS) that I utilize (Part II). If you’ve been following along, I hope that this has made sense so far and that you’ve been able to successfully implement the workflow for yourself. If you’re still on board and now want to learn how to make the process a bit easier, particularly if you want to produce many panoramic photographs at the same time, then keep on reading!

 

Creating Multiple Panoramas: I have one more tool in my quiver for making panoramic images and it’s a wonderful time saver. With the help of others, I have created/modified a PS “script” so that PS will run Photomerge without any further assistance from me. I can set up dozens of potential panoramic images to be merged overnight or at any other convenient time for me. I have created hundreds of panoramic photographs in this manner since I started using this script and it is one of the best things that I’ve done for my panoramic photography workflow over the past few years.

 

To implement this approach, you’ll first need to have the Panorama script, have it in its proper form, and properly inserted into PS. WordPress won’t allow me to attach the java script file for security reasons, so if you wish to pursue this avenue, you’ll have to do a bit of work on your own.  First, you’ll need to download the Adobe Extend Script Editor (if you don’t have it already) through the following link:  Adobe Extend Script Editor (download)

 

Once you’ve downloaded the Extend Script Editor and have it open, now “click” on the following “Panorama”.jsx link.  This will open a separate page that has the java script on it. Simply copy everything on the Panorama script page into your Extend Script Editor window.

Panorama.jsx

 

After you’ve copied the script text into the Extend Script Editor window, save the file with the name Panorama.jsx into your Script folder in Photoshop. In my Mac computer, the path is Applications>Adobe Photoshop CC 2014>Presets>Scripts. The next time that you open PS, you should find the Panorama script under File>Scripts. Here are some tips regarding the script that you’ve just created. The script as provided will run Photomerge just as I’ve described it in Part II of this Panoramic Photograph Tutorial.  That is, it will merge files to create panoramic images with Auto Layout, Blend Images Together, Geometric Distortion Correction and Vignette Removal. I’m not going to go into the details, as they’re beyond the scope of this Tutorial, but if you’ve gotten this far I hope that you can edit your Panorama.jsx file to run the Photomerge script differently, if you wish. Again, experiment to your heart’s desire!

 

Path: where to insert the Panorama.jsx file

Path: where to insert the Panorama.jsx file

 

The process of using the Panorama script for your benefit is fairly similar to what I’ve already described but with some minor modifications. When I choose the series of files that I want to turn into a panoramic photograph I will “copy” those files into a new folder. For example, after my recent Peru trip, I created a “Panoramas” folder under my Peru folder. Within that Panoramas folder, I then created a “Machu Picchu 1” folder and copied in my first series of files. For every panoramic photograph that I want to create I then create a new subfolder under Panoramas and name that subfolder according to the subject and order (i.e., Machu Picchu 2, Machu Picchu 3, Cusco 1, and so on). (FYI, I created >75 panoramas after my Peru trip using my Panorama script and saved myself countless hours of sitting in front of my computer and waiting for the merged photos to come out of PS.)

 

After I’ve created and filled as many subfolders as I need, I’ll open PS. Once PS is running, I’ll pull down the File menu and go to Scripts and then click on the Panorama script (File>Scrips>Panorama):

 

To start the Panorama script, go to File on the top menu, then Scripts and then Panorama

To start the Panorama script, go to File on the top menu, then Scripts and then Panorama

 

When you start the Panorama script, it will open a dialogue box. In that dialogue box you need to direct PS where to find your Panoramas folder that you’ve recently created that contains all of the subfolders with your multiple image files. In the case that I’m illustrating below, on a separate hard drive I have a folder for all of the photograph files from my Peru trip, and then have created a new subfolder called “Panoramas.” Within the Panoramas subfolder are several subfolders that I’ve created just for illustration:

 

Photoshop Dialogue Box: Selecting the Panorama script starting point

Photoshop Dialogue Box: Selecting the Panorama script starting point

 

When you’ve found your Panoramas subfolder simply click on the OK button. The next thing to do is to grab a cup of tea, a glass of wine, forty winks or whatever. The script will work its way through each of the subfolders under Panoramas and create a new panoramic photograph, flatten the image and then save that file with the name “completed.psd”. Again, due to the size of my files and the number of panoramic photographs that I might create this process can take a few hours for my computer.

 

Sunrise, Point Sublime, Grand Canyon National Park

 

As a warning, you can run into problems with this method if the files that you’ve collected for your pans won’t work to create a good image, just as if you were running the Photomerge script on your own. The script will “hang up” and stop, but you should have a good idea of what has failed and why. If you correct your mistake, make certain that you remove the panoramic photograph subfolders that have successfully worked before restarting.

 

When PS has created all of the panoramic images that it can, you’ll now need to open each of the “completed.psd” files in PS. My first step usually is to save the file with the correct file name – i.e., Machu Picchu Pan 1.psd and so on – and I’ll usually save it under my Panoramas folder so that I know that it has been completed (less confusing). From there, I’ll edit the panoramic photograph using the Warp tool to fix any distortions, as I detailed in Part II. From that point on, it’s up to you how you want to edit and improve on your new masterpiece!

 

Hopefully, this script will save you time and effort, and make your creation of beautiful panoramic photographs easier and more enjoyable.

 

‘Til next time, this is 43 N MSN/Illuminata signing off…

 

 

Posted in Lightroom, Panoramic Photography, Photoshop Tagged , , , , |

Tutorial: How to Create a Digital Panoramic Photograph (Part II of III)

 

Panoramic view of Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Panoramic view of Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

 

In Part I of this Tutorial, I explored and explained how I create beautiful panoramic photographs with my camera – lenses, overlapping, compensating for movement and such. While the first part focuses on the mechanical and optical aspects of the camera and the shooting process, this second part addresses how I manage my individual frames to create the final panoramic image.

 

My studio workflow relies on Adobe Lightroom 5 (LR) and Photoshop 2014 (PS) (as of this writing). To me, these are two indispensable tools for my work. There are other software tools available, but I’m only familiar with the Adobe offerings. Most of my panoramic photo editing relies on Photoshop, so it’s readily possible to implement my workflow without using Lightroom.

 

Selecting Files in Finder or PS: If you’re not an LR user, then you can open the several image files that you want to turn into a panorama in PS either by opening the images in PS (Cmd-O on a Mac) or by selecting the image files in Mac’s Finder and then opening them into PS (Illustration 1)(you may “click” on the image to see a larger version in a separate window).

 

Opening files from the Finder into Photoshop

Illustration 1: Opening files from the Finder into Photoshop

 

Once the files are opened in PS, then go to the File menu, choose Automate and then Photomerge (File>Automate>Photomerge; see Illustration 2).

 

Opening Photomerge in Photoshop

Illustration 2: Opening Photomerge in Photoshop

 

The next window to pop open will look like this:

 

Illustration 3: The Photomerge dialogue box

Illustration 3: The Photomerge dialogue box

 

The files that you want to include in this panorama are already open, so now click on the “Add Open Files” button, and you’ll next see:

 

PanoBlog-11

Illustration 4: The Photomerge dialogue box, filled with files to be merged

 

From this point, if you’re NOT using LR, the workflow is the same starting at Photomerge (Illustration 6) below.

 

Selecting Files in LR: Since I’m using LR, after I download my image files from my camera card to a new and unique folder on my computer, I import that new folder into LR. In LR I pick out the series of files that represent my potential panoramic photograph. This is where consistently shooting left-to-right in the field is helpful because it’s easier for me to pick out these left-to-right series in LR’s viewer. When I’ve identified a series of images that I want to turn into panoramic photograph, I will color code each file in that series, typically with a blue tag. I sometimes have image series right after each other and in that case the first series might be tagged blue, the next series tagged green, the third series back to blue and so on, so that I can readily distinguish between those series.

 

If I’m creating just a few panoramic photographs I will select (Cmd-A on a Mac) a series of images in LR. In the Library or Develop module I will then select from the top menu: Photo>Edit In>Merge to Panorama in Photoshop (Illustration 5a). More frequently, I will simply find this menu option by right clicking the selection with my mouse button while my mouse pointer is sitting above the files that I want to merge (Illustration 5b).

 

Illustration 5b: Merge to Panorama in Photoshop, starting from the top menu

Illustration 5a: Merge to Panorama in Photoshop, starting from the top menu

 

 

Illustration 5b: Merging to Panorama in Photoshop using a "right click" on your mouse

Illustration 5b: Merge to Panorama in Photoshop using a “right click” on your mouse

 

Photomerge: After selecting my files in LR and choosing Edit>Merge to Photomerge in Photoshop, Photoshop opens and soon the Photomerge menu screen appears:

 

Illustration 6: The Photomerge dialogue box, ready to start

Illustration 6: The Photomerge dialogue box, ready to start

 

Based on my workflow, I set the Layout to Auto and turn on the options for Blend Images Together, Vignette Removal, and Geometric Distortion Correction. When I use a wide-angle lens, there’s always the possibility for vignetting and lens distortion, so these Photomerge options are very helpful. After all of these boxes are checked I click on the OK button and let ‘er rip. In my case, it usually requires several minutes to create a panoramic file because I’m working with large image files.

 

As an aside, if I find that my final panoramic image doesn’t look good, then I may choose a different Layout option and create a second panoramic photo. Again, experiment to see what works well for you. There also are times when Photoshop seems to be unable to create a panorama with the files that I’ve chosen. If I feel that my images should work, then I’ll try again. Frequently, though, I’ll find that I’ve included a file on one end of the series that shouldn’t be there and that’s why Photoshop wasn’t able to create a panorama.

 

Below is a final result (Illustration 7):

 

Illustration 7: The merged panorama

Illustration 7: The merged panorama

 

In the lower right of this screen capture you can see that the panoramic photograph is composed of pieces of the individual frames that have been selectively masked by Photoshop. If you feel the need to still work on each frame, you can now save (Cmd-S on a Mac) your new file as a .PSD file (or, .PSB if it’s very large).

 

However, if you haven’t determined whether significant editing might be necessary to the individual frames (and, it is very likely that no further editing will be necessary; you can always regenerate the layered panoramic file by starting this process again), then it’s time to “flatten” your panoramic photo. To do this, you can either click on the drop down menu to the right of the Layers window in PS (circled in red in Illustration 8a) to reveal the Flatten Image command (Illustration 8b) or you can simply right click with your mouse when your pointer is over the list of layers in the Layers window (Illustration 9) to reveal the Flatten Image command:

 

Illustration 8a: where to find the dialogue box button on the Layers menu

Illustration 8a: where to find the dialogue box button on the Layers menu

 

Illustration 8b: The "Flatten Image" command on the Layers dropdown menu

Illustration 8b: The “Flatten Image” command on the Layers dropdown menu

 

Illustration 9: The "Flatten Image" command using the right button on your mouse

Illustration 9: The “Flatten Image” command using the right button on your mouse

 

After the image is flattened, I prefer to save the panoramic photo and give it an appropriate name that includes the phrase “Pan” (e.g., Machu_Picchu_Pan1.tif) in a new subfolder labeled “Panoramas.”

 

Since I started this process in LR, this new panoramic photograph now appears in LR. (If you’ve saved the file to a new Panoramas subfolder, make certain to import that folder into LR!) I can then do my normal edits in LR, or can do further edits in PS which will appear in LR when I save the edited file. You will note that the final image that appears in Illustration 7 (above) obviously needs cropping to eliminate white edges and this cropping can be done either in PS or LR.

 

The example panorama that appears in Illustration 7 was created using a telephoto lens with the camera on my tripod. It has come out fairly level and requires only typical editing – color, temperature, contrast, etc.

 

However, many of the panoramic photographs that I create utilize my wide-angle lenses. When I run a series of files through Photomerge that were captured with the wide-angle lens, the result is quite different. Check out Illustration 10:

 

Illustration 10: A completed pan exhibiting "arcing"

Illustration 10: A completed pan exhibiting “arcing”

 

Quite distorted, eh? Now we get to the reason for my workflow. If I had photographed this series of images on a special panorama attachment for my tripod, this panorama might look better, but not likely.

 

After I’ve flattened this strange looking panorama I’ll apply some PS “magic” – I’ll use the Warp tool to straighten the image and get it to looking great!

 

The first thing that I’ve learned to do is to reduce the size of my image in PS by using the Cmd-[-] command (i.e., the “command” or Apple key along with the minus key, on a Mac). To do this, I’ll “select” my image (Cmd-A on a Mac) and you’ll see the marching ants running around the image border. From here, I’ll to the Edit menu and then down to Transform and then Warp (Edit>Transform>Warp).

 

Illustration 11: The Warp Transformation

Illustration 11: The Warp Transformation

 

Once I click on Warp, a grid appears over my image with some “point” handles:

 

Illustration 12: Image with Warp ready to be applied

Illustration 12: Image with Warp ready to be applied

 

The fun begins as I have to warp this image to return it to its proper appearance. Using my mouse pointer, I can point to anywhere in the image and then hold down my mouse button to “grab” that point and move, bend and stretch the image to the desired shape. (I encourage you to stop reading and open PS with any image of yours and play with the Warp tool for a few minutes so that you get a feel for what I’m trying to explain.)

 

In Illustration 13 I’ve tried to demonstrate where I’ve “grabbed” the initial image (seen in Illustration 12) and then the general direction that I’ve warped the image from that particular point using the red arrows. As you can see, there are only five places in this image that I’ve needed to warp to get the image to its final shape. When I’m content with the image’s shape, I hit the “enter” key to commit to the warp transformation that I’ve created. (At this point, I might also crop the image in PS to remove any areas that don’t contribute to my final image, like the remaining bit of white in the lower right.) Finally, I’ll save the file and this will be the version of the panoramic photograph on which I’ll now perform my final edits.

 

Illustration 13: After the Warp has been applied; red arrows show where the image has been warped.

Illustration 13: After the Warp has been applied; red arrows show where the image has been warped.

 

In different panoramic photographs that I need to warp, it may be necessary to warp the image in numerous places. It’s also important to review your warp transformation when you think you’re finished, looking for instances where buildings or people appear skewed or distorted. You may need to go back and fine tune some of your transformations.

 

Cordillera Urupampa, Peru

Cordillera Urupampa, Peru

 

Quality Assurance: And, you’re still not quite finished. Again, you’ll need to apply your final editing – color temperature, lightness/darkness, contrast, luminance, saturation, etc. My “final” step, which I may perform before or after the editing steps that I just mentioned, is to review the panoramic photograph at 100% enlargement or larger. I typically work left to right over the whole of the image looking for obvious seams where the merging/masking was poor (not very frequent) or where an individual frame(s) is blurred from camera shake (more frequent than I wish). The camera shake issue is a big bugaboo and I can’t emphasize enough how necessary it is to review the quality of the panoramic photograph. I will also will empathize with you if you’ve gone through all of these steps only to find that your final pan is crap – it’s happened to me too many times. Yes, I could thoroughly examine each individual frame at 100% in LR before I merge the frames, but as frustrating as it is to find the problem at the end rather than the beginning, it is easier, in my view, to select the frames that I want for a panoramic photograph and go through the whole of the merging process and then do my image quality assurance. Since I’ve overlapped my images a fair amount during the capture phase, I’ll go back into LR, figure out which frame(s) is the problematic one and then determine if I feel that there’s sufficient overlap in the remaining images to run Photomerge again, and that’s usually the case.

 

A final QA issue that I’ll consider if I’m examining a pan that I’ve created that contains moving objects is whether those objects are distorted by the merging (i.e., the overlap occurred at a critical juncture) or whether a very noticeable object (car, person) appears in the image multiple times. If I discover a problem like these, then I’ll rerun Photomerge on the individual frames. But, before I flatten the image, I’ll work with the individual masked layers and determine if I can mask out the problem through hand editing and sometimes it’s possible.

 

In both of these major QA issues (blurring, movement) where I detect problems, before I rerun the Photomerge I’ll step back from the panoramic photo and honestly ask myself if it’s worth the effort to run it again – and sometimes, it’s not!

 

Again, there you have it. Once you start to implement this workflow (or something similar that meets your needs), all of these steps will “flow” for you and make more sense. It’s a lot to take in at one time so be patient and work through it. Feel free to ask questions, too!

 

In the final exciting installment of this tutorial, Part III, I’ll share with you one of my prize “possessions” for making panoramic photographs and making them more easily. Stay tuned!

 

‘Til next time, this is 43 N MSN/Illuminata signing off…

 

 

Posted in Lightroom, panorama, Panoramic Photography, Photoshop, technique, warp Tagged , , , , , , , |

Tutorial: How to Create a Digital Panoramic Photograph (Part I of III)

Eggshell Arch, Arizona

Eggshell Arch, Arizona

 

 

Panoramic photographs are my favorite way of expressing my photographic vision because this is how I tend to see the world – in these long, horizontal panoramic strips of scenery. There are so many places that I visit where I have a broad vista in front of me and there’s no way to really express the awe-inspiring beauty well in a standard, “small” rectangle of an image. I frequently use a wide-angle lens in my work, but I often get more sky or background or foreground in my image than I really want. While I could take my wide-angle images and crop them to create a panoramic image, the final image size is still relatively small and I (and my clients) can’t print it to such a size that it creates the impression that I (and we) want.

 

Many simple digital and cell phone cameras have a sweep panoramic mode built into them and they can create some truly remarkable photographs! My older son has outdone me on more than a few occasions with his phone while I’m using my digital camera. But, he isn’t able to print a great big photograph, so that’s the benefit of my approach.

 

A panoramic image is, by definition, a picture that has a minimum dimensional ratio of at least three to one (3:1). That is, the width is at least three times the height. Thus, for example, for a 36” wide image to be considered panoramic, then it’s maximum height would be ~12” and it could be less than 12”. When I first started creating panoramic photographs, I used a Fuji 617 film camera and the negatives that this camera created were 6 cm tall and 17 cm wide (yes, not quite 3:1). That camera was a bit of a bear with which to work as it was large, moderately heavy and slightly unwieldy. That camera also limited me to that 3:1 ratio and it wasn’t readily possible to make a wider panoramic image. I sold this camera several years ago because it became easier, more flexible and cheaper to create panoramic images with my digital cameras, but there was a learning curve involved. I hope that this tutorial will help you to reduce your learning curve.

 

First of all, there are several different ways to go about this process. I’ll try to be flexible in my description, but I’ve honed my process to be most successful with my workflow. That is, from beginning to end, all of these steps contribute to my creation of a digital panoramic photograph. The process that I’m going to describe requires that you:

  • are competent user of a DSLR;
  • have a tripod; and,
  • have at least a modest understanding of Photoshop.

While it may well be possible to use my approach without using Photoshop, I can’t describe those steps because I am not familiar with them. For example, there are other photography software programs available that can be used to create panoramic images (e.g., PTGUI, AutoStitch), but I’m not sufficiently familiar with them to be of much help to you. The camera process that I describe may work well for you if you modify it to fit with your photography software editing process.

 

My typical equipment starting point is my digital camera and my tripod. My second consideration is my lens choice, which also is extremely important. My primary lens for making panoramic photographs is a wide-angle lens. My main digital camera for panoramic photos is a Pentax 645D, and I like to use an older Pentax 67 55mm f/4 lens. This lens is equivalent to about a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, so it’s considered a moderate wide-angle lens. It’s also one of my sharpest lenses. Another consideration here is that since this is a wide-angle lens it is easier for me to hand-hold the camera and shoot decent images (but not always). I also use an even wider angle lens (Pentax 645 35mm, equivalent to a 21 mm lens), but I get more image distortion if I use this lens. I also like to use normal and telephoto lenses for subjects that are further away, but these lenses of have the problem of shaking if not handled well, which results in blurred frames that make for an unusable panoramic photograph.

 

Starting with the camera, lens and tripod, my shooting process is pretty basic – the K.I.S.S. principal in action. I’ll first evaluate my situation with my eyes to determine what I think should be the left and right margins of the subject for my panoramic photo. I might also heft my camera and look through the view finder to get a sense of what the camera will see with that particularly lens and move the camera from left to right on my expected scene. Composition is as important with a panoramic photograph as it is with any photograph. At this stage, I’m also checking the shutter speed on my camera so that I can consider how the shutter speed will affect my image, and whether I can shoot the scene handheld. Usually, though, I have my tripod available and will use it. Through experience (i.e., mistakes, rushing myself), I know that I’m less likely to create a decent photograph of any kind if I hand hold my camera. And, I’ll level my camera in my hands or on the tripod.

 

Camera Orientation: Here’s one of my specific issues – I shoot the large majority of my panoramic photographs with my camera in a vertical orientation. I do this because it gives the greatest possible height in my final image since that is a limiting factor. Why? The great majority of my panoramic photographs are crafted from a single row of individual images. Second, I can always shoot as many photographs as I want from left to right to create my panorama, but the height of my panorama is limited to the angle of view of my particular lens. The exception to this is if my lens is unable to take in everything that I want and then I’ll shoot two or three rows of images. And in these situations, I know that the likelihood of creating a successful panoramic image is greatly reduced – more variables and chances of error are being introduced.

 

Frame Overlapping: The other major issue that has to be considered at this point is how I overlap my individual images to create a decent final image. There are a few schools of thought on this issue, but the minimum overlap that is usually suggested is at least 25%. If I’m shooting from left to right, then my second frame overlaps my first frame by at least 25%, and each subsequent frame you do similarly. In this approach you’re only capturing about half of the frame with the subject, while the left and right quarters represent the overlap.  (You may “click” on the following image to for a larger view in a separate window.)

 

Frame overlap example

Frame overlap example

 

In practice, though, I overlap my frames by at least 50% and sometimes more. With digital cameras and cards, I have a practically unlimited supply of “film.” And, from experience, I know that some of my individual frames might not work. There might be evidence camera shake (blur) in the photo if I’m hand holding and I’ve too frequently shaken my camera even when it’s on my tripod. The more that I overlap my frames, then the better chance that I can eliminate a bad frame(s) and still create a decent panorama. Most of my panoramas are created with a minimum of eight individual frames in a single row, and I commonly create panoramas from twenty and thirty frames. My limiting factor in the number of frames is the slow write speed of my camera to the memory card (after about fifteen frames my memory buffer is overwhelmed) and the fact that really wide, narrow panoramic photographs (e.g., 10:1 width to height ratio) are less appealing to me than 3:1 to 6:1 panoramas.

 

So, that’s the basic, straight-forward approach. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.

 

The Kawarau River Valley from the Crown Range Road at the Zig Zags, near Queenstown, NZ

The Kawarau River Valley from the Crown Range Road at the Zig Zags, near Queenstown, NZ

 

Movement/Motion: One problem with blending multiple images into a single final image is how subjects might move between those individual frames – people walking, cars moving, trees and flowers blowing. In those situations, it’s hit and miss. I usually try to gauge the “flow” of objects in my scene and work to photograph the scene in the opposite direction so that I know that something moving in or through the scene is captured at least once in the middle of a frame. So, if people are mostly walking from left to right in my scene, I’m more likely to shoot my scene from right to left so that an individual is less likely to appear in subsequent frames. Or, if I’m shooting a landscape on a windy day (not an ideal situation) and there’s a tree in a particular part of the scene, then I’ll make certain that that tree is centered in at least one frame. Panoramic scenes with movement are not easy to successfully create, but it is possible. I have successfully created panoramic photographs that involve waves and moving water at the shore, but it’s not common. You have to experiment to understand the limits of your technique so that you know when and where to best use it.

 

Light Variation: Another major issue with creating panoramic images is how light changes across your scene. A scene that encompasses 90 to 180 degrees of your field of view can have a significant variation in the amount of light from one edge to the other. If you’ve used a wide-angle lens then you should have experienced this issue. With a panoramic photograph, light variation/gradation can be further magnified. This is not an impossible situation with which to work, but it does take some care and practice to overcome it.

 

To accommodate light variability across your scene, you need to wisely choose your camera mode. Most digital panoramic photo tutorials will recommend that you shoot in manual mode (i.e., strictly setting the aperture and shutter speed and leaving them set). In this approach, I try to choose a middle area of my subject and use my camera’s light meter to determine the shutter speed. (If I have my hand-held light meter available, then I prefer to use it, but I seldom carry it any more.) From there, I’ll manually set my aperture and shutter speed, and then shoot all of my frames across my panorama with the same manual setting. This approach works, but it takes more thinking and patience, and I’m not convinced that it’s more effective. You can still see significant light variation across your final image that will need to be fixed in Photoshop with grad filters.

 

My typical approach is to set my camera mode to aperture priority and then let the chips fall where they may. There is a method to this madness, though. First, it’s easy – K.I.S.S. Shooting in aperture priority mode my shutter speed is likely to change across the frames and scene, and I will see some light variation across my individual frames. However, since I’m overlapping my frames by quite a bit, I feel that the light variation is less noticeable in my final panoramic photograph. This is because in the Photoshop Photomerge stage (see Part II of this tutorial), Photoshop is choosing relatively narrow sections of each frame, so the light levels across all of the frames is fairly consistent.

 

Polarizers: If you’d like to intentionally introduce light variation and “banding” into a panoramic photograph then use a polarizer, particularly on a wide-angle lens. Polarizing filters can be used to create a panoramic photograph, but they must be carefully and judiciously used. If you create your digital panorama with a wide-angle lens, then using a polarizing filter will greatly reduce the likelihood of obtaining a satisfactory final image. A polarizing filter on a wide-angle lens nearly always yields significant light variation across the frame, particularly if you’re photographing a clear sky. It’s best to NOT use a polarizing filter with a wide-angle lens when you’re creating digital panoramas. It is possible to use a polarizing filter with normal and telephoto lenses, especially if you overlap your frames by more than the minimum and the subject represents a relatively small portion of your normal frame of view. But, using a polarizer is one more way to reduce the likelihood of creating a satisfactory digital panorama. Thus, I rarely will use a polarizer on my wide-angle panoramas and may use a polarizer with my normal and telephoto panoramas.

 

Levelers and other tripod attachments: If you have experience creating panoramic images or have performed some research on the issue, then you’ll likely notice that I’m not using special adapters on my tripod to level my camera or keep it from creating an arcing image. Again, K.I.S.S. and the whole of my work flow. However, if you aren’t going to employ the whole of my panoramic workflow with Photoshop, then these devices may well be worth it to you. You’ll just have to keep reading to make that decision.

 

So, there you have it – my initial camera workflow for creating a digital panoramic photograph. In summary:

 

  • Keep it simple;
  • Wide-angle lens to telephoto lens;
  • Vertical camera;
  • Tripod;
  • Lots of overlap; and,
  • Aperture Priority.

 

In the second part of this tutorial, I take you through my steps with Photoshop to yield the final digital panorama, so I hope that you’ll keep reading.

 

 

‘Til next time, this is 43 N MSN/Illuminata signing off…

 

 

Posted in camera, panorama, Panoramic Photography, technique Tagged , , , , , |