The Panorama Addiction Continues

Sunset — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Sunset — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Late in the afternoon on the day after  my son’s birthday, we noticed that some light clouds were beginning to build a little in the west on an otherwise cloudless day, so he and I ran out the door and hurried off to nearby Jordan Lake to see if anything would materialize. He had just gotten a new camera the day before and was anxious to try it out “in the field”. We arrived just as the sun hit the horizon and we scrambled to get into position, but the best light was a little after sunset when the clouds really took on that beautiful pink color. The winds were calm so the water reflected the sky beautifully. He managed to get a few pretty good shots before the sun disappeared since I sent him off before I got my gear together. I had a bit of a tough time trying to get a good composition with the few minutes I had before we lost the color and settled on this panorama. A single shot just didn’t seem to work since I wanted to include the fallen tree as a nice lead into the scene and would therefore not include much of the color from the sky and reflection. I felt the tall tree on the right needed to be included for a bit of framing and to balance out the brighter sky on the left side. Shooting directly to where the sun had just set was unusually bright, almost white so it would have been a contrast nightmare plus the log would have been across the bottom of the image and rendered black against the bright sky. Facing in this direction, northwesterly, it seemed there were more layers leading toward the horizon that added more depth to the scene as well. Shooting towards the sunset location would have lacked this sense of distance within the frame.

This time of year confronts us with a dilemma about where along the lake we settle on to photograph. The sun is setting near 6pm…the same time the park closes and the gates close leaving us with only a few options that allow us to stay beyond the sunset when the colors really come out. We were lucky we didn’t catch one more traffic light to get there or we would have missed this beautiful light.



White Orchids — Orchid Trail - Morrisville, NC  © jj raia

White Orchids — Orchid Trail   © jj raia

Several members of a club to which I belong were fortunate enough to get special permission to photograph orchids at a local greenhouse – The Orchid Trail. I hadn’t thought of it before, but the organizer mentioned backgrounds as one of the items to bring along as a tool for photographing the flowers. In order to have one, I took a photo of an image I had hanging on the wall shot wide open (f/1.8) and focused at the closest setting on the lens to create a blurred image. I then used Lightroom to change the hues and created about 6 different color combinations, three of which are shown below.

Background No. 1

Background No. 1

Background No. 2

Background No. 2

Background No. 3

Background No. 3

I printed one out on mat paper so there would be as little reflection as possible and taped it to a piece of foam core, the back of which I thought I could use as a reflector if I needed one. With there being so many plants literally squeezed right next to one another, it was difficult to blur the background enough (by using an aperture near wide open) to obliterate the clutter and thereby losing detail in the subject flower itself. The good part about using the blurred “manufactured” background is that it is already blurred and you can use a smaller aperture and longer shutter speed to keep the flower(s) more in focus.

The only bad part is that I should have done this myself, but didn’t until the very end when I came to that realization. The background I printed was on 13 X 19 paper but would have liked to use 17 X 22 but didn’t have any mat paper in that size. It would have reduced the number of shots that had the white foam core in it since I couldn’t actually see through the finder of the camera and hold the background in place at the same time. I was using a 70-200mm lens and self-timer of 10 seconds to get into position before the shutter tripped. So it was hit or miss. One lucky thing resulted though, by having some shots that included the white foam core, it forced me to try to repair them in Photoshop and was able to do a decent job using the clone stamp tool to extend the background to the border! One final thing I discovered by using the background is that a soft shadow might fall on it and create a greater sense of depth within the image. So all in all a good learning experience from the outing.

Purple Orchid — The Orchid Trail  © jj raia

Purple Orchid — The Orchid Trail © jj raia

Yellow Orchids — The Orchid Trail  © jj raia

Yellow Orchids — The Orchid Trail © jj raia



White Orchid No.5 — The Orchid Trail  © jj raia

White Orchid No.5 — The Orchid Trail © jj raia



Trying New Things

General Thoughts
Raleigh Skyline at Dusk —  © jj raia

Raleigh Skyline at Dusk — © jj raia

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the folks I met on the trip out west got me interested in panorama images where several frames are stitched together to make a larger image, or to make the same image that could have been captured in a single frame, one of greater detail and resolution than could have otherwise been achieved with one. From these, huge prints can be made while still maintaining a crisp, sharp image. The Waters Edge was just a practice lesson in trying out the process of making a panorama although I had been hoping for a spectacular sunset.

Waters Edge  — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Waters Edge — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Before this image, I tried another panorama looking back into the forest to get all the detail of some interesting growth that occurs but is hardly noticed. With all the added detail, there is so much more to appreciate and explore, but since I did not do a very good job of leveling my tripod, a lot of the image was lost or distorted.

Jordan Lake Woods in WInter — © jj raia

Jordan Lake Woods in Winter — © jj raia

I’ve also spent time looking over some images from this past year that I haven’t had time to fully express and have recently worked on to reach the initial intent of the image. The image below is one of many detail abstracts of a Louise Nevelson sculpture near the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. There are almost limitless possibilities because of the variety of shapes and how shadows fall on various parts of the sculpture. And these will constantly change throughout the day and throughout the year as the angle of the sun changes. Different lighting (overcast vs. sunny or shadow) will also change its appearance.

Sculpture Abstract — NYC  © jj raia

Sculpture Abstract — NYC  © jj raia

Expanding the subjects to photograph has at times, actually created the same immersion I find when photographing the landscape, although I do not feel the same connection to the surroundings. It is much more a specificity of that which is in the frame and not it’s relationship to everything else. I spent some time at the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh that has among others, gravestones for fallen Confederate soldiers dating back to the Civil War, and although I enjoyed the experience, did not connect to the ancient past as I do with the landscape.

Memorial Chapel — Historic Oakwood Cemetary, Raleigh, NC  © jj raia

Memorial Chapel — Historic Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, NC © jj raia

It is that feeling of witnessing something unique in one particular instant of time that really creates an inner sense of joy that can last forever; something that cannot be revisited or recaptured at a later date. The stories that can be derived from man made objects are different from those from the landscape, one being rooted much deeper in the past that may be almost beyond our comprehension. Seeing something that is a few hundred, or even a few thousand years old cannot compete with something that involves a history that measures in millions of years.

Mausoleum Detail — Oakwood Cemetery - Raleigh, NC  © jj raia

Mausoleum Detail — Oakwood Cemetery – Raleigh, NC   © jj raia

Flaming Sunset — Jordan Lake, NC  © jj raia

Flaming Sunset — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

The Raleigh Skyline at the top of the post was a spur of the moment decision to attempt. I had heard of a bridge that had one of the best views of the skyline, and after looking on the Photographer’s Ephemeris, saw that it appeared the western sky might reflect off the building windows onto the bridge. In addition, there would be a full moon rising, and although it might not line up well, it may be an added element that sets the image apart from the usual. The skyline is a 4 panel panorama, not using a special “nodal point” head, but rather my usual tripod using a longer zoom set a 70mm and the camera mounted vertically. I don’t believe you need all the specialized, expensive gear unless you’re shooting close at hand and using a less than “normal” lens for your particular camera. The “Flaming Sunset” above was only a 3 panel image made at 35mm, but shot horizontally. For the most part, everything lined up well but not as well as the skyline. The skyline needed almost no fill in on the edges which illustrates just how well things can be put together digitally without the specialized head and with almost no information lost because of poor splicing and poor leveling.

It’s been fun trying new things and at different times during the day, but for me there is no thrill like watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset unfold before you at a magnificently inspiring landscape.