General Thoughts
Sunset Panorama — Capital Reef National Park, UT © jj raia

Sunset Panorama — Capital Reef National Park, UT © jj raia

Rummaging through and trashing many photos from a 2014 trip out west to clear up hard drive space, I came across a sequence of images that were intended to become a panorama, but had never gotten around to processing them. They had subsequently been forgotten as the days passed, quietly remaining hidden among the thousands of images residing on my hard drive. As time went on, more and more photos were taken and processed, sending them even further from memory, until I happened upon them yesterday, almost four years later. They turned out to be difficult to merge together as I had just begun to take panoramas at the insistence of a photographer I met in Canyonlands National Park a few days earlier, and probably didn’t take a sufficient numbers of overlapped panels moving across the scene. There were only three images when I should have taken more, and subsequently, the software merged only two, leaving the third image of the right side out altogether! So I tried to merge the two with the third for a second time, and although the software did merge them, the sky was horrible at the  seam where they were “blended” together. But through the magic of Photoshop’s clone tool (it’s inventor should be canonized) and quite a bit of perseverance, the sky was finally blended seamlessly.

The reason why the scene called for a panorama was that even though I could use a very wide angle lens (17mm), it was still unable to incorporate the tree and the entire sky since I couldn’t back up much further because of a drop-off. In addition, the cliff on the right would appear more distant, with less prominence and not be the supporting element needed within the scene to help balance the tree on the left connected by the blazing clouds. By zooming in a bit to 26mm for the three panels, it brought the cliffs closer, appearing more as they were.

Afternoon Light – Capitol Reef NP, UT © jj raia

I remember the day distinctly. I saw the dead snag earlier in the late afternoon and opted to explore the view a distance away looking east, in the opposite direction, until the sun began to set and I raced on foot to get back to the tree just as it dipped below the horizon. I was happy I had “discovered” the tree and had it all to myself, enjoying the sunset and photographing it as the colors kept getting better and better. However, I suppose this tree was not really a “find” as an entire workshop of photographers began lumbering up toward my location and plopped right beside me (elbow to elbow) and began shooting away. So much for my solitude! It seems that this particular tree was on the list of locations for the group to shoot, but had arrived a bit late, being held up by a slow motorist ahead of their caravan. Sometimes, when that magic light occurs, those few minutes can make a world of difference in getting the shot, or just missing it.

We all chatted a while afterward in the gathering darkness, comparing notes and reveling in our good fortune to have witnessed a pretty spectacular sunset. After they left, since my car was nearby, I prepared and ate my dinner right there, enjoying my solitude again, with no place in particular to go having been shut out of any camping spot in the morning earlier that day. But all was not lost, I stuck around well after dinner, searched the sky for the Milky Way and shot the same tree with the stars shining down from millions of miles away. There really is nothing else that illustrates how incredibly tiny we as individuals are in comparison to the universe, as watching the day end across miles of awesome desert landscape until the stars come out and shed their light down on you. It is so quiet there that a gentle breeze whistles around your ear telling you its secrets, hoping one of those will be where to spend the night.

Milky Way and Snag - Capital Reef National Park, UT © jj raia

Milky Way and Snag – Capital Reef National Park, UT © jj raia


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