Friday, March 28, 2008

First Stitched Pano Attempt

During the same trip to the Cowiche Canyon, I tied shooting a series of images for a stitched panoramic. I wasn't as careful to keep the rotation angles even as I probabl should have been, but it still stitched quite well in Photoshop CS3. It stithced together surprisingly nicely.
For those that are interested in how I did it, here's some technical info:
I used a Nikon D80 with a 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens. I use a Really Right Stuff generic L-bracket for this camera, as it mates perfectly with my RRS clamps. The tripod is a Really Right Stuff groundpod, and the head is a suprisingly small RRS BH-40. I used an RRS panning clamp, and for a nodal slide I used my RRS macro focussing rail. I shot seven images.
To stitch the images together, I used the included action in Photoshop. The only post-stitch tweakig I did was a little bit of cropping and a little bit of levels adjustment to boost the constrast a bit.

Spring is Here

Our last photo safari was in Cowiche Canyon, near Yakima. Though it was raining when we left Seattle, and snowing in Snoqualmie Pass, the weather was petty nice when we arrived at Cowiche Canyon.
At the canyon we started on the ridge trail. Sagebrush surrounded us, and in the distance we could see the jagged, snow-capped Cascade mountains. Among the sagebrush was a fair variety of flowers, including the ones shown here.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a breeze. In the morning it was not too bad, and we were able to find flowers that were sheltered among the sagebrush and in depressions. Later in the afternoon, the wind picked up enough that even the sagebrush was quivering, making it very difficult to photograph the flowers.
I made this photograph of a pair of yellow bells around that time, during a brief lull in the wind. I would have liked to be able to shoot it again, with the flower on the left a bit more out of focus and not cut off, but with the wind being what it was, I didn't get another chance, and even this shot was a little bit rushed because of the wind. I am surprised that it turned out sharp; I was expecting some motion blur, but I supposed I was fortunate this time.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Setting Sun Over the Sea

We headed up to the Chuckanut Mountains just south of Bellingham for a winter hike. The weather was beautiful, surprisingly warm when we reached the trailhead. We began be heading up the Pacific Northwest Trail from the parking area one mile north of the Chuckanut Manor Inn. Our goal was Oyster Dome, and eight-mile loop hike with a 2000 foot elevation gain.

On the way out, we decided to take a detour for a scenic overlook. The view from there was gorgeous, and would probably make a stunning sunrise or sunset shot. We could see from the Cascades to the Olympics, though the cloud cover was enough to obscure Mount Rainier.

From there we tried following “Max’s Shortcut” to get back on the trail rather than going back the way we came. It wasn’t much of a shortcut though; it added a mile or more to our trip. It was also buried under three feet of snow for most of its length, making it rather slow going. When we got back onto the main trail we stopped for lunch alongside Lake Lilly.

After that we started heading back to the car along the route we left on. The downhill stretches were pretty tough going for a while, because the snow was packed down and slick, and carrying a 50-pound pack certainly didn’t help.

We missed the turnoff for the trail to Oyster Dome which was our primary goal, so we’ll have to go back for that. We did find the turnoff for the “Batcave” at least.
The Samish Overlook is about a mile from the trailhead. We reached it on the way back around half an hour before sunset, and after chatting with a couple that was sitting there watching the show when we arrived, we decided to stick around for a bit to see how the sunset went. I was reluctant to make my friend wait for an extra half an hour knowing that we were already out later than she’d hoped, but she’s a sweethart, and wait we did.

We passed the time for a bit watching some bald eagles circling overhead, and I gave my 200-500mm lens some excercise, but not with much success; I’m not that good at wildlife photography yet. Having autofocus helped though, it’s much easier to track birds in flight when you don’t have to focus on them manually at the same time :)

As the sun vanished behing the upper cloudband you see here, I set up the tripod and the 4xt with my 300mm Fujinon lens, and waited. I ended up shooting this at f/64, in the hopes of getting a bit of a sunstar from the resulting diffraction, and it worked better than I expected. I also got more of a reflection from the water than we could see, and it didn’t last long enough for bracketing, so I’m very glad that my first shot was properly metered and exposed.