New Strategies

In photography like many other professions, we sometimes need to embrace new styles and techniques. It can open doors to a lot of things.  I'll admit there are still plenty of things I myself am stubborn to jump on board with.  However in this case this is something I can jump on board with.  It is a new way I am experimenting with in landscape photography in order to get bigger shots, more flexibility and composition, and higher resolution photos.  Before we get into that though, lets go over a standard workflow/shot creation example.

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This is a scene I took out on the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington.  It is a single shot taken at 30mm, f9, and 1/60s.  It has be edited in Adobe Camera RAW adding color, balancing lighting and a few other targeted edits.  Pretty standard process. after working on the photo in RAW I'll move it into into Photoshop where again I'll do lighting and color edits, some targeted edits, dodge & burn, and finish off with a vignette and Orton effect.  The end result is the photo below.

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So this is a pretty standard workflow. The result is great as well, plenty of things to be happy with about this shot.  Good color, dramatic lighting, compelling subject and sunset, decent detail the works.  One this its missing....foreground.  Yes there are some rocks you can see in the water but overall the first thing in the scene really is the sea stack. Foregrounds are crucial to landscape as they give depth to the photo and help give more size perspective for the scene as a whole.  The problem is with this scene I could not achieve a good composition I felt in incorporate the foreground, and still keeping the back ground relevant.  So, I attempted a new strategy, one I have attempted before but more as a fun experiment not in and attempt to get an actual shot. The strategy I decided to use was instead of using a single frame to get the shot, I would use multiple shots.  Essentially, a panorama, but not stitched in a line rather as a normal shot.

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My plan was to take 4-6 shots of the same scene at the same settings and eventually stitch those shots together in post production.  Now I had never done this before with a tripod and wasn't sure the perspective effects it would have on the shot so I did do it free hand.  Which meant shorter shutter and as you can see a darker photo but still salvageable. The above shot was the combination of those 6 shots,  shot at 26mm, f9 and 1/80s shutter.  The shot about is those 6 shots merged together.  Most people think when using merging software they have to go laterally or vertically as you would for a normal panorama.  Camera Raw however doesn't care, you can go any direction so long as you have enough similar data between the shots that is can recognize the scene.  As long as you have that., you can select the images you want to merge, and let Camera Raw do its work as it normally would. Easy!  And once everything is merged, you can continue on like you always do in your workflow just as I did.     

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The above shot is after being processed in Camera Raw.  As you can see there is way more foreground than in the original shot. It adds depth to the photo and yet the stacks still are plenty big and make an obvious subject for the photo.  However, now with the lighting up, you can see the one drawback of the photo stitching process and that is perspective control.  You can see to the right how the scene appears to be stretched. This occurs when the photos you merge together cover too wide an area to render properly.  The merged photo basically covers a wider area than the human eye can naturally see. Now this can be avoided by using some elaborate panorama equipment. However unless you at taking pano shots regularly as a profession I would just say try to avoid the effect as much as possible and just crop out what cant be avoided.  Another this that can be done to avoid it is how you stitch the shots together. Camera Raw for example as three different styles of merging, spherical, perspective and cylindrical.  Each one will change the perspective of how the photos merge and you can change it with a simple button click.  However outside of these techniques or limiting how much area you cover in your shots, there is not much else you can do, thanks optical physics. The good news is, since we stitched so many photos together, we can crop and still retain good composition and image resolution.  This file alone is over 30MB. I always crop as my last step unless I add a vignette which was the case for this photo.  So after all the scouting, waiting, shooting, merging, and finally editing you get this....

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So this was the final result.  To recap, this is 6 photos with identical times, location and settings stitched together using panorama stitching in Adobe Camera Raw.  It is a super easy process to do, but and incredibly difficult process to do right.  And I will be the first to admit that I did not do this right.  I could have taken more time with my initial shots on settings and framing them better for easier stitching. I could have taken more time with the stitching to make sure they fit better.  For a first real attempt at this photo taking strategy however, I am more than pleased and so excited for the potential it holds in future shots.  Hope this was helpful for you if not at least an interesting read.  And maybe someday may be an extra trick in the bag for you next time you are out shooting.  Feel free to leave comments/ questions below.  You can also email me or find me on Instagram and I will try to respond as soon as possible. Enjoy yourselves out there guys, and keep on shooting.

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