As a followup to my previous post on panoramas, I shot this in Copenhagen last Saturday. This is stitched in PTgui from 9 handheld vertical shots – click to see full size:
I call this shot a wet season sunset pano due to the amount of rain we’re getting and the almost tropical cloudscape in this shot. I shot it vertically to include more of the huge glowing clouds dwarfing the city, and then I just cropped the bottom of the image (I find that you have to stick the horizon in the middle when shooting panos, makes the images easier to stitch – you can always crop later).
…By the way this wet season Danish summer would be severely depressing if it wasn’t for the fact that in exactly 3 weeks I’m on a Qantas flight bound for Australia 😀 I will shoot heaps of panoramas, so stay tuned!
The Big Picture
I am a big fan of panorama photography, there’s something about a wide panorama view of a landscape or cityscape that speaks to me. Some people notice the small things and will photograph lots of detail that I would never notice. I’m the complete opposite I usually notice the wide angle view, the big picture so to speak and only notice the details if I accidentally step on them. My head is in the clouds. That is of course why I love landscapes and cityscapes, and panoramas were made for this sort of photography. I recently created a new gallery on Pbase of all my panoramas, click on the thumbnail to the right to go to the gallery.
I would call anything wider than about 2:1 a panorama. It doesn’t have to be shot with a panorama camera or stitched to be called a panorama in my mind. I have many panoramas shot at 17 or 24 mm (I use the Canon 5D and it’s full frame, so 17mm is actually 17mm, no crop factor here) and then cropped in post production. Shooting these ‘cropped panos’ I will compose the picture with a panorama in mind knowing that I am going to crop it later.
Sometimes you don’t want a 17mm view though. Sometimes you want a 50mm view but still want a wide panorama. What to do? Stitch it is what to do! Digital photography has made it very easy to shoot impressive panoramas, shoot a lot of single images covering the entire scene and then stitch the shots in pano software like the incredible PTgui. It’s a bit more work but the results can be absolutely mindblowing and rival the shots of medium format pano cameras.
Lately I have really been bitten by the stitching pano bug and here’s a recent example I shot in Copenhagen, shot handheld and stitched in PTgui from 5 shots (original is 8000 pixels wide). Click to see full size and use the scroll bar at the bottom of your screen to see the entire image:
True panorama cameras
Digital stitching is phenomenal and watching software like PTgui stitching aligning and blending is magic but I do often still wish for an actual panorama camera. Sometimes digital stitching is not really possible and it still is quite a bit more work than being able to shoot the scene directly with a panorama camera. It’s hard to bordering on impossible to shoot a good digitally stitched pano in scenes with lots of movement, like waves hitting a beach or cars in traffic. Composing can be tricky as well because you can’t see the end result.
Master landscape photographers like Peter Lik will often use a medium format panorama camera to create images of amazing quality and detail on 6x17cm film. These cameras cost a fortune though and you need a small truck to lug it around with you but who wouldn’t want to own the Linhof Technorama 617 shown on the left!
Hasselblad did a great 35mm pano camera years ago, shown on the right. It uses two 35mm frames to create a pano and if I find a used one at a fair price I am getting this – even better would be if Hasselblad produced a digital X-pan!
For the fifth and final shot in my blog film strip image header above all I needed to do to get this shot was go to work…oh that and always bring my camera! That’s the way to get great shots…always always always bring a camera. Spontaneous shots are by their very nature just a bit hard to plan, so you will miss heaps of great shots if you don’t have your camera. Great light means less if you can’t capture it.
Well I always do. Have my camera with me that is (my shoulder and neck hates me, the Canon 5D + L quality lenses are not featherweight). Getting shots like this is the reward though (click to see full size):
This is probably the most photographed place in Copenhagen – Nyhavn. Directly translated it means New Harbor and Hans Christian Andersen lived here for some years but it is now the mother of all touristy places in Copenhagen. No matter, it still is a lovely setting in the right light!
The shot above is from a very cold Winter morning on my way to work. The most amazing sunrise was playing in Sky Theater and since I always bring my camera it was an easy (but cold) feat to ride my bike past Nyhavn and shoot this. I am guilty of shooting too much wide angle (I love the sky too much) so I chose to zoom in for a change and completely fill the frame with the wonderful light of the sunrise and the buildings and boats of Nyhavn. In this shot it adds to the visual tension since there isn’t a lot of blank space and your eye can dance along the rooftops of the colourful Nyhavn houses.
I’m quite happy with the result and the fact that I actually got a result – thanks to the most important rule in photography: Bring your camera. Always!
To shoot the fourth picture in my image blog header (4th from the left) you have to go to the very remote Cape York in Queensland Australia and drive to the northernmost point of Australia – simply called “The Tip”. Click here for a google map of Cape York.
At the very tip there’s a lovely bay (just DON’T go in the water – heaps of crocs!) on your left and at low tide I shot this lone mangrove tree – click to see full size:
The colours of Australia, the deep blue sky and the golden yellow and red sand and a classic composition come together and create a simple but striking landscape. Most of the work here was done by Mother Nature, I simply captured the scene as is and worked the RAW file to recreate it. I tend to “break” the rules of composition a lot but here I went with the classic “thirds” composition.
Half the fun in shots like these is getting there. You can fly to Bamaga (close to the tip) from Cairns, but where’s the fun and adventure in that! No mate, do it the real way so you experience the real Cape York. Cape York is the size of Britain but with only about 20,000 inhabitants. Do a 4WD trip up the ole’ telegraph track with Wilderness Challenge from Cairns to The very Tip to experience the proper Cape York! This is without a doubt the most fun and also the roughest and bumpiest corrugated dirt road I have ever done in Australia (and I have done heaps of them, including the telegraph track on the south coast). There’s a reason these roads are called ‘washers’ it truly is like driving on a mega washboard! Highly recommended and the reward is gorgeous bays, beaches and landscapes – just watch out for those crocs!
Part III of the stories behind my blog header film strip is the middle one…yes it was the middle one (sorry, bit of Monty Python there). This is shot about 3 kilometers from my flat and is Lake Peblinge and Søtorvet in Copenhagen, Denmark:
Doing travel photography is great fun, but often you don’t have the luxury of revisiting and reshooting a setting again and again so you may end up doing some of your best work back home. This is certainly true here, if you are familiar with my work you will see that this very spot is my favourite place in Copenhagen and a perfect place to shoot the setting sun.
I have hundreds of shots from exactly this spot, but this is the best so far in my opinion. It was shot in October last year, and all the elements seem to come together: the autumn colours, the clouds, the last bit of sunshine hitting the buildings just right and the water level in Lake Peblinge being very low after a warm dry summer (diametrical to this years summer!) Even people that live in Copenhagen cannot always place this shot having never seen it in this light or really paid attention to how beautiful the setting is. When you see something everyday your brain tends to filter out the familiar and I like it when people can’t actually tell that this is Copenhagen – I like reminding them how beautiful their own back yard can be.
If you live near a beautiful setting like this then shoot the same scene over and over as much as you can. Not only is it a good way to learn about the quality and colour of light at different times of the day and in different seasons, you are also guarantied to come away with some spectacular almost perfect shots. You don’t have to travel very far to shoot some masterpieces!
I just noticed that in my last post I happened to pick the first shot from my film strip header – so why not go through all of them as they are five of my favourite shots.
The next shot in the header above is a humpback whale tail. I love animals and shooting wildlife is heaps of fun. In this case it also felt a bit adventurous! The image is from last year, I was in Brisbane and went on a whale tour with Moreton Bay Whale Watching (highly recommended! I’ll be back this year to go again) just one day after a big storm (it actually blew a gale! they said this on channel 9 news “off the coast it blew a gale”. Very funny I thought!)…hang on where was I?
Right, I’m off in the big custom built catamaran with Skipper Kerry and the swells are 2-3 meters and that means when the boat is stationary and we’re scouting for whales it’s one big rollercoaster up and down big waves! Hold on! (to the boat…and your lunch!). So one hand on the railing and one hand holding my Canon 5D with 70-200mm f/4.0 L lens with shutter on continous and auto focus on servo, scout the horizon 360 degrees for whales and when you spot whales breaching – shoot! and keep shooting! With one hand, don’t let go of the railing or you’ll be chucked off the boat by the waves! We did this for about 3 hours and had a whale of a time so to speak, great fun! Half the people on the boat were seasick but I was happily shooting away at 3 frames per second, riding the waves and admiring these beautiful whales (some of them about the size of the boat). And this is one of the shots from that great day out in Moreton Bay:
So the lesson for shooting wild life…hold on to the bloody boat for dear life! Oh and be aware, concentrated and be quick mate, wildlife waits for nobody!
There’s a certain element of luck in photography and by that I mean being in the right place at the right time. You can however tilt the odds strongly in your favour by being very prepared, study the light at different times of day…and most of all by being patient! This goes for all kinds of photography, if you’re shooting landscapes, people in the street or wildlife – you have to wait and wait for that shot to present itself. You may have to come back several days in a row to get that perfect shot in that perfect light. Then sometimes you think you have it and you arrive only to find some construction work going on with big cranes or scaffolding blocking your perfect shot (bloody bastards!) It is indeed the art of waiting!
Here’s a good example, I shot this last year in Brisbane (Australia…of course) and I waited for more than an hour for this shot, sitting on the lovely South Bank just watching the light and the clouds (it’s easier doing this on holiday where you’re not distracted by any real life things such as being at work etc!). It was overcast but I could see that if the sun would break through for just a bit it should be a nice shot. The sun did break through for about 1 minute, I was fully prepared and my patience was rewarded with this shot (click to see full size):
So get out there, cameras ready – and wait!
For some time I have wanted to buy an extra camera. Only problem is: it doesn’t exist. At least not yet. I drag my “precious”, my Canon EOS 5D (usually with 17-40mm L lens and 24-105mm L lens) almost everywhere and I love it, it is a truly phenomenal camera. But it’s big. It’s heavy. And it’s certainly not discreet. For street photography it also calls far too much attention to itself and people become very aware of you and your camera. In short: a compact digital rangefinder camera (with optical viewfinder!) as backup camera and for street photography would be a very welcome addition.
Again. Trouble is…it doesn’t bloody exist! I want a high quality rangefinder style digital compact with optical viewfinder, fullframe (or 1.6 crop sensor), fixed lens at perhaps 24 or 21mm and no bloody frills at all – except it should be very high quality and of course save RAW images. No company in the world makes a camera that comes close to this. No digital camera that is, there were plenty of high quality compact rangefinders available when film was still all the rage.
Well, Leica makes a digital version of the M8, but that’s still a bit too big and heavy (not to mention expensive!) to be an option as a backup compact camera. Wouldn’t mind owning it though 😀
As for the current offering of digital compacts. I don’t want 10 megazillion super noisy pixels in a mega small sensor, I don’t want super zooms going from 28-300mm, I don’t want 3.5 inch lcd screen with no optical viewfinder, I don’t need video options, I don’t want face detection, automatic red eye reduction and awful noise reduction…actually I don’t want any of the stupid features they install in compact digital cams presently! What happened to making quality cameras instead of adding features that don’t work and nobody wants? Seems to me the market for digital compacts is moving backwards.
Sigma may just come to the rescue though. The Sigma DP-1 camera could very well be everything that the serious photographer has looked for in a backup camera and not found yet. Sigma promises a “full spec compact digital camera with all the power of a dslr”. 14 megapixel compact with the same Foveon sensor the Sigma SD-14 dslr has. Optical viewfinder. Sigma apparently is still working on it, it was announced last September and still isn’t out – with no word of when it is coming out. It may very well prove to be worth the wait! In the meantime here’s a picture of it. Doesn’t look like much? Precisely. That’s the point. This is not for the standard consumer market. It’s for photographers!