Tag Archives: panorama
September 10, 2010

Niagara Falls Panorama

Niagara Falls Panorama

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Oksana and I were in North Carolina when we decided to go to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon.  Since we were on our way to Florida at the time, it was a little out of our way, but I was seduced by the lure of an internet add for a 4-star hotel with a “Fallsview” room.

Once we got there, we discovered the Sheraton was about three blocks uphill from the falls themselves.  So, while it was true we had a Fallsview room, we also had a Casinoview room and a ParkingGarageview room… At no extra cost!

We drove into Canada the night before and didn’t see the famous falls until the next morning.  Then we took a wrong turn, walking down the street from our hotel, so we ended up approaching the falls from its headwaters.  I actually enjoyed that, seeing it revealed in bits and pieces, rather than coming up from the downstream side.

We battled our way to the railing, shoulder to shoulder with all the other tourists.  Both of us took some photos and shot some video.  As we continued downstream, I finally found a spot that had a good view in both direction and wasn’t too crowded.  I snapped a quick series of photos, intending to use them as a panorama later.

If I had been more patient, I could have waited for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds.  When the mist was just right, and the sun was just right, rainbows would arc out in front of us.  But if I would have waited for that, I would have also had to wait for one of the Maid of the Mist boats to be perfectly centered under the rainbow and, well, I’d probably still be there now.

This one’ll do me just fine.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Date: 17 August 2010; 1:25pm
Focal Length: 45mm
Shutter: 1/640 second
Aperture: F/8
ISO: 100
Photoshop: 9 images stitched together with Autostitch, increased saturation, cloned in some plants in lower left to allow for long crop, cloned out cement railing on extreme right.

June 18, 2009

The Devil’s Throat

The Devil's Throat, Panorama, Iguazú, Argentina

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La Garganta del Diablo: The Devil’s Throat.

To get to the highlight of Iguazú, you have to take a short train ride through the upper reaches of the park.  Above the waterfalls, the jungle gives way to long flat stretches of river.  Even though the water spreads almost as far as the eye can see in every direction, the mind can’t reconcile the raging torrents of the waterfalls below with the calm expanses of the water above.

A metal catwalk stretches just over a kilometer from the end of the train tracks to the platform above their featured attraction.  Oksana and I let our fellow train passengers rush past us while we took pictures of butterflies and birds.  We were in no rush and we realized that if we didn’t have to catch the very next train back, we could have the end platform almost to ourselves before the next gaggle of tourists arrived.

The view, when you finally reach it, answers any questions you might have about the naming of “The Devil’s Throat.”  Water comes out of the jungle from three directions, finds every edge of the semi-circular cliff, and plunges over the edge.  Clouds of water vapor periodically explode out of the white abyss, forming rainbows in their wake.  Tiny swifts flit everywhere, in and out of their nests in the small caves hidden away below.  The railing is perched right on the edge; in certain places you can lean out and look straight down into the maelstrom.

Oksana and I made the trip out to La Garganta twice, making a mental note to visit in the late afternoon after the sun fell behind our backs (and our camera lens).

We must have taken dozens (if not hundreds) of photos from different areas on the platform.  This one is, again, a stitched panorama from about 15 actual photos.  Some of the rainbows we captured were much more vibrant, but of course that was because the mist was in full effect and obscuring the waterfalls.

The building hidden in the trees on the other side of the falls, only a few hundred yards away, is a part of Iguaçu, the Brazilian side of the park.  In the full-resolution version, you can actually make out the swifts in the mist.  Also, I cropped a significant portion of the panorama out, but I left in just a tiny piece of water cascading over the edge in the lower left-hand corner.  It’s an almost subliminal hint of just how close to the edge we were.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 13 November 2008
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/1000 second
Aperture: F/7.1
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Stitched 15 photos in Autostitch, cropped, cloned out arm and water bottle from railing

Just for fun, I’ve included the un-retouched version of what I cropped out after the jump, plus a bookmark in Google Maps for a sense of scale… (more…)

January 31, 2008

Australia: The Blue Mountains

Dont know what happened, but I like the jaunty angle!

In planning our trip to Australia, it didn’t take a lot of brain power to realize we were not going to be able to see everything in three weeks. Australia is huge. Imagine if someone asked you for a three-week itinerary for all the points of interest in the United States. Planning a visit to a continent is like that.

After much discussion, Oksana and I decided to constrict our movement to just two locations: Sydney and its surroundings and Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. Of course, three weeks is barely enough to explore either spot in depth, never mind splitting our time between the two. It worked for us, however. I only wish we could have made the trip out to Uluru.

While in Sydney, we managed to plan a quick jaunt out to the Blue Mountains. While still pretty close to the city – a couple hours by train – it was far enough away to almost be considered a third stop on our trip. If nothing else, the rugged landscape would be a nice change of pace from the city and ocean.

Everything I knew about the Blue Mountains came from a book I’d read years before called In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Two facts stood out in my memory. The first, that the “blue” in the Blue Mountains was actually a visible blue haze in the air from all the eucalyptus trees’ exuded oil. Second, that the mountain range was considered impassible by every explorer to make the attempt for the first 100 years or so after Australia’s colonization. I suppose the reason I remembered each was because I had trouble believing both.

As our train left the city behind and the Sydney suburbs gave way to forests, I found myself peering out the window, looking for a gap in the hillside large enough for a view to the horizon. Was the famous blue haze only visible when the weather was just right? Worse yet, could it be seasonal? I tried to convince myself that the tiny bit of haze I could see beyond the trees was actually blue.


November 12, 2007

Australia: Day One

Darling Harbour Panorama

Well, we made it to Sydney.

The 14-hour flight from San Francisco wasn’t so bad. While the Qantas jet didn’t have any more legroom than the Alaska Airlines flights before it, they made up for it with many small amenities. We each had LCD monitors with movies, TV shows, and video games available. Thicker pillows and larger blankets were distributed alongside little pouches with a toothbrush, socks, and a card outlining our meal options.

Oksana struck up a conversation with the passenger next to her, Mary Lou, an Australian working in the travel industry. She gave us all sorts of tips on where to go, what to see, and how to get around. Very helpful.

Just before dinner, I took two Advil PM and then fought off sleep as long as I could. At around 12:30am, I flipped out the head rest’s “wings” and closed my eyes. Sleep with fitful, what with the occasional crying baby or bumped chair, but I essentially slept for the next 9.5 hours. A new Arlo record for in-flight rest!

We arrived at the airport on Sunday morning. Traveling overnight and crossing the International Date Line screwed me up so bad I had no idea what time it was back home.

We figured out the metro/train system, paid our $14 each, and caught the next ride into Sydney. Our stop was only two blocks away from the hotel.

Unfortunately, we were about five hours early for check-in. They offered to hold our bags for us, though, so after Oksana freshened up a bit, we hit the pavement.

Sydney is empty on Sundays – there’s hardly more people and cars than in Juneau, Alaska. It was a pleasant introduction to a big city. Our first stop was near our hotel, Hyde Park. The biggest structure there was a war memorial; we decided to walk through it. It was November 11th, Australia’s Veterans day, and “on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” they have a nationwide moment of silence. It was a little after 10am.

From the park, we headed west, to Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour is tourist central with its Imax theater, aquarium, naval museum, boat rides, art exhibitions, and parks. Everything was outrageously expensive, but the walk along the docks was quite pleasant. Oksana and I took a bunch of pictures, sat in the sun and the shade, and let the time pass us by. More than anything, we wanted to get back to our hotel at take a shower.

At around 2pm, we finally made it back. Our room turned out to be small, but full of niceties. A microwave and mini-fridge helped make up for the lack of internet access.

It was 3:30pm by the time we were done with our showers; we decided to take a nap. Oksana asked, “Should we set an alarm?” Nah. We’re on vacation!

Well… The first time I woke up was at 11:30pm. So much for dinner! We slept on, though by 3:30am, I was more than rested. We finally got up at 6:30am the next day – 15 hours later!

While flipping through a newspaper, I noticed the 5-day weather forecast. Two days of “Sunny” followed by three more days of “Mostly Fine.” That sums up our first day in Sydney quite well: Mostly fine.

March 9, 2007

Kalahaku Overlook

Haleakala Crater from Kalahaku Overlook

I have a new theory.  The time I spend playing with a picture in Photoshop is inversely proportional to the quality of the original image.  On the face of it, that seems obvious, right?  If the photo sucks, you’re really going to have to work it over in the digital darkroom.  But then, if the picture is good, Photoshop work is more like play, and I can spend hours playing…  Okay, so maybe my new theory doesn’t have a proof.

This is a stitched panorama of the immense Haleakala Crater on Maui Island, Hawaii.  I believe it’s taken from the Kalahaku Overlook, but because Oksana and I stumbled upon this scenic view, I could be mistaken.  I wrote a bit about that day.

The view is awesome, of course, in the true sense of the word.  We spent at least 45 minutes hanging out at the railing, took countless pictures and even a time-lapse video of the clouds boiling below.  And though I like the panoramic photo you see here, I don’t think it’s one of my better pictures.  I wish I could put my thumb on why.

Is there too much sky?  Maybe, but if I crop it out the panorama becomes too thin.  Is it that the depth of the valley doesn’t translate?  We were practically standing on a vertical cliff, but here it looks like you could almost along the dip in the middle until you reached the crater floor below.

I tried a dozen variations of cropping, trying to make things right.  I lightened up some of the foreground elements, trying to create a sense of depth.  I even spent some time cloning out a huge foreground handrail in the lower right corner.  I know the scene is good; I just can’t seem to make the photo do it justice. 

But that doesn’t mean I can’t post it on my blog, now, does it?

It’s hard to see in the small version of this panorama, but the black lava flows and red cinder cones make for some attractive (also in the true sense of the word!) scenery.  I wish we had planned an excursion down into that crater.  As it was, we were only on Haleakala for the sunrise — we didn’t think to bring the hiking gear, extra water, maps, and cabin reservations that would have made a hike down Sliding Sands Trail really worthwhile.  Maybe next time.

Canon Digital Rebet XT
Date: 12 August 2005
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/1000 second
Aperture: F/5
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Stitched with Autostitch, cropped, cloned extra rock on right, dodged foreground rocks, auto color adjustment

Continue reading to see the actual detail in the final panorama…


January 5, 2007

Thomas Basin

Thomas Basin, Ketchikan, Alaska

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Just after I managed to sell a framed print of one of my panoramas, I seriously thought about upgrading my digital camera.  By that point, I’d left hand-stitching in Photoshop behind because Autostich made assembling panoramas so much easier.  If I could iron out the work-flow, I deluded myself, I might be able to crank out salable photography on a regular basis!   I’d been shooting for years on a Canon PowerShot s30, and it was great for what it was: a tiny point-and-shoot with a tiny lens.  I longed for the days of SLR focusyness, but definitely didn’t want to go back to the 35mm work-flow.

Those were the thoughts in the back my head when we took a trip to Ketchikan.  Oksana and I made a point of getting out on a sunny day and hitting some photogenic spots.  We did Creek Street and Totem Bight, of course, but later I realized something.  My first panorama of the Mendenhall Glacier was an anomaly; it’s actually pretty damn hard to find a good panorama subject!  Creek street bowed out toward the camera (artifacts of perspective; I was too close to my subject) and the only position where I could fit the whole of Totem Bight’s park into frame ended up with the lodge dominating the shot.

At least cruise season hadn’t yet begun.  The docks downtown were completely empty.  We walked out to the end of one and I snapped off a row of pictures facing toward iconic Deer Mountain and Thomas Basin.  It was a great day for photographs.  The sun was at my back and even the normally gray Ketchikan sky decided to cooperate by sending up some puffy white clouds to fill in that expansive blue void.

When I first saw the completed picture, I worried about that radio tower in front of the mountain.  I thought about cloning it out, but anyone from Ketchikan would be quick to notice.  I see a few other imperfections (snow’s a bit overexposed, I’m not sold on the building in the left foreground, and I wish there were at least one more cloud to fill the upper right), but overall I really like this photo.

You know, tourists are rewarded with this exact view when they step off the cruise ships.  I’ll bet one or two might consider buying a print.  Some gallery owner in Ketchikan should hook me up.

Canon Powershot s30
Date: 17 April 2005
Focal Length: 10mm
Shutter: 1/318 second
Aperture: F/6.3
Photoshop:  Stitching of 9 images, Minor color correction

This is one of the last panoramas I shot on my s30 before I convinced Oksana that we should upgrade to a Canon XT.


August 31, 2006

Alpine Lake Panorama

Alpine Lake Panorama

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Last year Oksana and I observed Memorial Day with a few of our friends on the bank of the Taku River . It was a great weekend spent hiking, canoeing, and hiding in the cabin from bloodthirsty mosquitoes. My toy for the weekend was a new digital SLR that arrived in the mail just hours before our departure; I barely had enough time to charge the battery. I put it through its paces that weekend, though, coming close to filing the 1GB card.

On our second day there, our group decided to hike up the side of a mountain. Our goal was to have lunch on the shore of a beautiful lake where we would reward ourselves for navigating the steep, pathless trail alongside some raging river. It became a murderous death march of a hike that only gets worse with each retelling.

The mosquitoes denied us any rest breaks and the lake was still so full of snowmelt that there was no accessible shoreline — the water came right up to the trunks of the encroaching trees. After that legendary climb, new camera in hand, I wouldn’t be denied. While everyone else helped construct a tiny, smoky fire to keep the mosquitoes at bay, I fought my way down to the edge of the water and sacrificed a dry hiking boot so that I could step out onto a partially submerged rock.

I quickly set my exposure and focus points and started taking pictures. It took 40 frames to cover the entire lake, and if the mosquitoes hadn’t found my near-motionless arms and face around shot #10, I probably wouldn’t have missed the extra coverage on the bottom right. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see the results when I stitched all 40 photos into a panorama.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 28 May 2005
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/640 second
Aperture: F/5.6
Photoshop: Autostitch for stitching, cloning in upper left to fill in tree branches

More on the software I used after the jump: