Scanning through all the images from the trip for a second time, there were a few sets of panorama frames that I hadn’t stitched together on the first round and I found one set that I had skipped over pretty much out of hand, figuring that it just didn’t have anything that warranted spending the time to do so. But I decided to give it a try and use the Photoshop auto-fill feature (content aware) for the first time, to fill in the areas that are usually left blank after all the panels are pieced together in the photo merge. I never used it before and it worked out really well on the clouds in the sky, and so-so on the lower central area. But with a bit of work, it seems pretty real allowing for the frame to have a more familiar shape rather than the usual, very thin horizontal frame. The right edge ended up being cropped out anyway because the blend from the actual picture just didn’t look very good on closer inspection and my attempts at repairing didn’t help either. A few of the usual tweaks and some normal dodging and burning, and I had a decent image of the beautiful s-curve in the Yellowstone River through Hayden Valley that originally caused me to pull over to take the shot. Of course, as was usually the case, some late afternoon sunlight would have really helped. The reason of utilizing several panels of a panorama was to encompass the whole scene here while maintaining the significance of the mountains in the distance, whose size would have been diminished with the use of a very wide-angle lens, and the sweep of the bend’s surrounding broad valley would have been lost.
In the image above, since the herd of bison were pretty far off, in order to include the sky would have necessitated using a normal lens mounted horizontally. However, the herd would seem pretty miniscule, even smaller than seen here. Using a telephoto brought the animals a bit closer, keeping the proper perspective of the flats and mountains, and by mounting the camera vertically, I was able to include the top clouds that were lit by the sun as well. Stitching a few panels together kept the expanse of the scene in tact instead of only having a vertical slice.
Earlier in the day that I shot the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley, I traveled to Gibbon Falls with what was also a mostly cloudy sky, and tried to use High Dynamic Range to record on the scene, but was not completely satisfied with the results. So I tried using only one image of the bracket group and found that simply using Lightroom, I was able to bring out everything in the shadows and reduce the highlights in the sky into the manageable range.
The image on the left was the HDR, and while it gets more detail out of the tree trunks and some of the dark areas of the canyon, it also rendered the sky a bit strange with the color a bit off, looking somewhat artificial, while the single frame on the right seems a bit more accurate to what was there.
In the open meadows above Virginia Cascade, I found another s-curve that are prevelant throughout the many flats in Yellowstone, and was able to use it to form a path along which the viewer can travel into the scene. Without it, the scene would have lacked any sense of depth, especially with the flat lighting at the time. The fresh coating of snow added to the beauty of the yellow autumn grasses and evergreens creating more texture, while the clouds added more interest to the sky that if clear may have been a bit boring. But by this time in the trip, I might have welcomed boring since the sun may have added additional sculpting to the otherwise flatly lit tufts of grass. This is another image that I passed over at first, but managed to coax into respectiability with the help of Lightroom; but without all the additional elements that embellished the scene, it may have never been taken in the first place.
The image above was taken while some light snow was falling, so I used the umbrella holder again. However, patience did not seem to work waiting for a moment when most of the hot spring’s steam was blown out-of-the-way, opening up the view a bit more in the center. So I ended up blending two images to eliminate a large white blob of steam in the top left corner in this scene which had a rare clear center. It was somewhat difficult to balance the elements within the frame, as raising the camera any more would have included the bright gray clouds in the sky, and moving either right or left caused some other elements (trees) to creep into the edge of the photo as distractions. The option was to step back a few feet off to the right and shoot through some of those trees that surrounded this hot spring as a sort of frame through which to view the same basic scene. Not sure which of the two is better, but sometimes with the addition of framing, the original image becomes something completely different with the added depth, as in this case, when it creates a sense of discovery as it was when I came upon it that day.
This final image is of a type for which I am a sucker every time. I photographed a giant sequoia root system once many, many years ago and ever since, whenever I see a fallen tree with some interesting designs in the roots, I am almost compelled to record it. As is usually the case with these “close-ups”, keeping the image completely sharp throughout the frame can be a challenge, trading off small apertures for more depth of field. I suppose focus stacking would be the answer for that problem, and I took a few but have not ever tried that process yet.
As these images illustrate, we’re getting to the end of the line from this trip and I look forward to the next group of local photos to work on as I enjoy the processing as much as taking the photos in the first place. But I did want to mention again the importance of using the panorama technique when not necessarily looking to create a long, thin horizontal image, but to keep backgrounds in proper perspective and not have them recede into the distance. In addition, HDR is not always the answer when facing great differences in light as in the case of Gibbon Falls where the sky was very bright, yet the small canyon was in complete shade. And finally, just to bring out the idea of focus stacking, where several photos are focused at different depths within the frame and blended together afterwards. Just some things to keep in the back of your mind of what’s possible later on after the shot is taken.