Creating panoramas

Seneca Lake Sunset

My last few outings have focused on improving my landscapes. I not only enjoy shooting these, I also plan to use landscapes to provide the context for many of my bird photographs. Just as the best bird photographs involve capturing the bird in an action situation, so with landscapes the trick is not only to pick the most aesthetic or dramatic scenes, you also need to take the shot when light and perhaps shadows really set the image off from the run of the mill scene.

Sunsets are always appealing, as they set off a burst of colors.  To take these one step further I thought it would be challenging to create a panorama.  The image above is a series of three photographs, each overlapping about 25%, taken with my Canon EOS 60D camera mounted on a tripod–level. I used the manual exposure setting ( f16 @ 1/15″ , ISO 100, EFS-15-85mm lens @ 15mm). This exposure is based on the center sunset photo.  To get this exposure, I increased exposure with shutter speed until the histogram’s right tail just touched the edge of the histogram’s window (i.e., exposed to the right, ETTR). By keeping the diaphram stopped down to f16 I was able to maximize the depth of field. I stitched the photos together using Photoshop Elements 8. I then brought the resulting .TIFF image back into Lightroom 4 for final image adjustments.  This process enabled me to capture a wide expanse of the largest of the Finger Lakes at Sunset. I included the barrier wall and people (my wife is sitting on the wall) to add depth and interest.

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about this process.

Chimney Bluffs, Lake Ontario

My wife and I were on vacation last week so we took a few day trips to capture some of the countryside. Two of these trips took us to Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wolcott, NY. These dramatic Bluffs were formed from drumlins, which in turn were created by glaciers in the last ice age. The erosive power of wind, rain, snow, and waves—both from above and below—has formed the landscape into razor-sharp pinnacles. Rapid erosion prevents any plant life from establishing on the Bluffs over the many millennia since the ice age.

View of a drumlin from the Northwest
View of a drumlin from the Northwest

We arrived about one-and-a-half hours before sunset hoping to catch a heightened reddish hue to the Bluffs’ faces. I used a circular polarizing filter to deepen the sky and sharpen the other colors.

View from the West

The last image was taken just as the sun passed behind a thin layer of cirrus clouds about 30 minutes before sunset.

Turning the camera to the West: view from the East

We plan to return to photograph some of the birds on their return migration via the Bluffs later this summer and into the fall. Perhaps you have been to Chimney Bluffs, or drumlin fields elsewhere. Please let us know.