Jul 23, 2013

Greener Grass

You know that the grass is always greener on the other of the fence, right? "If only I could go to Yellowstone, then I could make some great pictures! Or the Grand Canyon! Oh, and Europe would really free me to create..."

Well, those places are wonderful, and I could doubtless find some wonderful (if commonplace) pictures. But I find that when I get out locally and really try to find inspiration on my side of the fence, those are the times that I find pictures that are not so commonplace and much more valuable to me. 

For this picture my family and a friend headed to the beach to beat the heat in Lake Oswego...little did we know that there was no heat at the coast. The air was 60, and the water was 50 (my elbows were numb, but I gotta take advantage!) and there was mist and clouds and beach fires adding a little something more to the atmosphere. All day long I couldn't take my eyes off of this tree at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park (which is one of the most beautiful places in the USA). It seemed like one standing on it's own and not suffering for it.

Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.4 lens, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 400, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. From Lake Oswego, it's only an hour or so to Ecola State Park.
Now for the geek speak.

This image is a much wider field of view than you could possibly get in a single frame with a DSLR and a 50mm lens, and that's on purpose. I know that my 50mm is wide enough to get everything in, but it's the perfect lens for landscape work because it's clear and sharp and has no distortion. In order to maximize these things, I shot this as a panorama-like image.

First, I found an exposure that let me have a little detail in the clouds and nice enough detail in the dark areas, too, and set those settings in manual mode. I chose f/8 for an aperture because I wanted to make sure that I had all the important things in focus, and f/8 on 50mm focussed that far away lets practically the whole world fall within the depth of field. So I focussed on the top of the tree (with the clouds as a backdrop I was sure it was focussed on the main tree and not something else) and switched to manual focus so it wouldn't change. Ideally, I'd have the camera on a tripod, but I was going light and fast and handheld, so I used a higher ISO to allow a fast shutter speed to freeze my shake.

I then turned the camera vertical and shot three frames along the bottom of the scene, overlapping 25%, then shot three more in a row for the middle, overlapping 25%, and one more row on top. In Lightroom I made adjustments to white balance and contrast to the center image, as well as color toning, then applied those same settings to all the other images in the grid (one click with the sync button). Then I selected all the images, and chose to merge them to a panorama in Photoshop. I made sure to click the vignette control option and pressed go. A few minutes later, after PS worked its magic, I had the composite. I hit save and cropped it in Lightroom, then opened it in Nik Silver Efex for the black and white conversion. Back in Lightroom I used my special Grape Dreamcicle toning for the slight bit of color you see. (let me know and I'll share the recipe). 

Today I just got a Gigapan Epic Pro, and it makes this sort of picture automatically and I can't wait to try it!

I sure enjoyed making it. It came out just as I envisioned while being pounded by the frigid surf.

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