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Oh I could see the length of the range all right, everything from Teton Pass to Ranger Peak, but to fit them onto my film, optical shenanigans shrank them so much they were transformed from towering peaks to a series of diminutive bumps in the center of my frame. Aha, that’s how they get ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bucket! Upon learning my lesson of optical chicanery, I had to learn how others had captured the “grand” of this landscape so impressively.
I have since learned a grand photo can be made by including less. Back in the film days I learned to compose to maximize the mountains instead of shrinking them, often shooting longer than normal focal length magnifying the peaks, if the sky isn’t decorated with magnificent clouds why include much of it? If I have a boring sky, I often compose to bring the peaks to near the top of the frame, extending at least into the upper third. Conversely, if there is a thunderstorm or other sky scape dynamics I will include as much sky as possible without transforming my mountains into mole hills.Today we have another tool – photo-stitching. Photo-stitching Image-stitching is the process of combining multiple photographic images with overlapping fields of view to produce a segmented panorama or high-resolution image. Photo stitching requires nearly exact overlaps between images and identical exposures to produce seamless results. Many of my, point and shoot, tour guests today have cameras with a panorama function that take a series of photos while they pan the camera, the camera’s computer assembles them together. There is an app for smart phones to do this also.
The serious photographer though has a different method used in post processing. Both allow the mountains to stand tall while including more linear landscape. Through the miracle of digital signal processing, our computers with the help post processing software like Photoshop (CS3 or later) can align our series of photos pixel by pixel and assemble the panoramas. Professional grade photo-stitch panoramas requires shooting a series of single photos the breadth of the landscape you wish to capture, then you put them together in post processing. Post processing is the work we do to our photos when we get them home to our computers, usually something often as simple as color correction but often include more laborious tasks like photo-stitching.For best photo-stitching results you need to shoot from a tripod, a leveling bubble is helpful because as you pan you need each photo to line up as perfectly as possible. Failing this, you lose image real estate kitty-corner from top to bottom mandating a cropping that results in a shorter and longer perspective.
Aspect ratio is the relationship of an image’s width to height, or its proportions. When shooting photo-stitch panoramas it is good to be cognizant of this. Yes, in post processing or hand panning we can make a tremendously long image but how will it print and how much will it cost to do so? Photo processors usually have predefined ration options the widest is usually one to 4. I usually will crop a pano to 4X1, 3X1, or a 2X1. To get as much resolution as possible into that ratio I usually shot my panoramas as verticals.
Merged panoramas can become a huge file that is good if you hope to print six-foot wide prints at 300 DPI, this is bad if you have a slow or old computer with a lack of RAM. If you have a large megapixel camera and a slow computer you may choose to shoot at a lower resolution.
To create a photomerge composition in Photoshop, choose File > Automate > Photomerge and then choose your source files and then specify layout and blending options. There are many tutorials on the Internet to Google up – learn it, use it.
Today my wide angles are still a valuable tool in my bag, I use them for shooting when I am very close to the mountains, or when I am shooting in a tight canyon. I love them for waterfalls because I can include the pebbles at my feet and the top of the falls. I love my 16-35mm for shooting the Milky Way. They have their purpose, but they are no longer the tool to capture an entire landscape like the Grand Tetons.