Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
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Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes

with Ben Long

Video: Shooting a vertical panorama of trees

Whether it's winter or summer, when you're standing in a forest, a so, aperture priority, I'm going to stay at All right, so, I need to pick a focus point, now Okay, now this is nice.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
2h 27m Intermediate May 09, 2014

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Snow-covered landscapes introduce a variety of photographic opportunities and challenges. A blanket of brilliant white can do beautiful things with light, but it also complicates exposure. Crystal-blue winter skies are dramatic, but shooting in the cold can be cumbersome and hard on your gear.

In this course, photographer, author, and educator Ben Long takes a trip to Lake Tahoe to explore winter shooting at various times of the day. He also shows techniques for post-processing winter scenes to make them look their best.

Ben Long

Shooting a vertical panorama of trees

Whether it's winter or summer, when you're standing in a forest, a big part of what strikes you visually is, particularly a tall forest like this, is just the incredible lines going upwards, the trees are, just towering here and it's, it's just really pretty, especially right now. The light's been really nice. On some of the trees. It's a really uneven light. Some are lit up, some aren't, and so there's a real sense of depth, to the trees. And so, it's hard not to want to capture this particular scale, this vertical scale.

I've got a very wide lens. I'm shooting with my 5D now, which is a full frame sensor, and I've got a 16 millimeter lens on it, so that's a 16 millimeter equivalent. Since it's full frame. And even at 16 millimeters I can only get about this I, well I can only get this wide. So I, I've got a nice shot of the tops of the trees. But it's not, it's not the whole thing. So, I'm going to do a vertical panorama. We think of panoramas as being a way of. Capturing a wide horizontal swath of scenery.

But there's no reason I can't tilt vertically, and capture a wide stretch this way. So, I've chosen this particular location, because, I like the opening up there. So, I didn't notice it at first, but there's, around me there's this nice thing of trees. That's what caught my attention. But when I look straight up, they actually form a, a complete circle and I've got this one right behind me, that, kind of gives a nice compositional anchor. So I'm going to do this just the way I would any panorama.

I've put my camera in aperture priority mode, because I want to be sure. That the depth of the field does not change from shot to shot. Because I'm going to be shooting a series of images that will be stitched together. I am going to go to ISO 400 because, as I move up and down, I'm going to be getting into darker areas. And so, I want to be sure it's got enough ISO latitude, to now drop my shutter speed to low, that I have to worry about handheld shake. so, aperture priority, I'm going to stay at about F11, because on this camera that's going to give me a good, deep depth of field, without introducing any softening from defraction effects.

And then, I'm going to start at the top, so that my initial metering is the brightest part of the scene. It will get darker as I go down, but that's okay. I'll be able to brighten that up. I know that I'm protecting my highlights. So, I think I need to actually get down on the ground. To get the whole scene here, and this jacket is so long. All right, so, I need to pick a focus point, now the problem is, my focus is going to change, as I move down, because the tops of the trees are much farther away than the bottoms, so I may need to refocus for each shot.

I'm hoping that my depth of field is so deep, that critical focus isn't going to be. So, important. Okay, now this is nice. I had not noticed this before, I have this tree behind me, that's all in shadow and I've got one right in front of me, that's all lit up. Which is very cool. It's, it's making a nice symmetry, I think, it will make a nice symmetry across the frame. We'll see what happens. So, here's my first shot, and now I'm going to tilt the camera down, just like I would in a normal panorama. Now, I can't see what I'm doing anymore.

I'm going to auto focus again, take the next shot. Tilt the camera down, auto focus again, take the next, and down again. The reason I can't keep my eye on the viewfinder, is there's no way. I don't think I'm, wow! See, I can't even sit steady. There's no way I'm going to be able to. Manage the movement up, without really changing my framing. So, I'm just hoping that I'm getting it right. Now, when I shoot a horizontal panorama, I'm always careful not to pan like this, because at that point, I'm panning around an axis right here, instead of an axis right here.

I'm thinking the same thing. Vertically. I don't want to go like this. I want to pan the camera. So, it's kind of just dumb luck, whether I get this right or not. So, I'm going to, I'm going to play it safe and shoot this panorama several times just to be sure or just hoping that one of them's going to work. Now, I'm framed a little bit wider than I need to be. And that's because as I stitch the panorama, depending on how. Clean my pan has been, or my tilt has been, I will have more or less cropping that I need to do.

If I'm sloppy with my tilt, it's going to mean a whole bunch of extra imagery that needs to be cut away. So, if I pad the scene with a little bit of extra space, then I've got cropping room. So I'm just going to do this a few times. So, those are my images. They need to be stitched together, and obviously I can't do that without a computer, so I've gotta wait til I get home. Now, there could be a lot that went wrong with these. I could have bad exposure, because I couldn't see through the camera while I was doing it, to figure out where to expose. I could have bad tilt. I could have really uneven exposure.

I was not using my exposure lock, for this sequence of shots, partly because I just, there's, the, the whole mechanism was just, I didn't want to find another button to push and so on and so forth. But also, when I meter the top and bottom of the scene, they're only about a third stop apart. So, I don't think having exposure locked all the way through is going to make that big a difference. Stitching software again is very good today. It can deal with that exposure differential. And if it is darker at the bottom, I can just do a gradient levels adjustment, or a curves adjustment. And even all that out.

Now, I'm not using a tripod, and that's because, honestly, I never use a tripod when I'm shooting panoramas, because I've never found a need for one. Stitching software is so good today, that I find that I can manage perfectly fine panoramas, just by going hand held. Now, I'm not shooting total 360s that have to be stitched in a perfect way, because I'm going to make a VR environment about them. I'm usually doing, not even a full 180. And for that, I find as long as I'm careful about keeping the bottom of the camera level, and panning the camera. I get fine results.

In this case, because it's a vertical panorama, a tripod wouldn't have done me any good anyway, because I only have a ball head for my tripod, and there's no way to tilt a ball head, in any kind of controllable fashion. Because as soon as you loosen the ball, the camera falls and, then you gotta reset your shot, and all of that. So, it can take some practice, but I find that it's, it's just not worth the headache of carrying a tripod around, simply for the sake of panoramas, and I knew I wouldn't need one for anything else here today. So, I'm just going hand held. Now, I need to get home and stitch 'em.

I hope they work because I, I think this could really be a cool shot. I think I got a little bit lucky here. With the way some of this composition worked out. I didn't see it til I was looking through the camera and, very often that's how it goes.

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