On my daily drive to work I pass Alvirne High School in Hudson, NH. Across from the school is a forest, in which I have often noticed interesting lighting due to the angle of the sun and the shadows of the trees. This is most pronounced in the spring time when the morning sun is strong and the canopy of leaves has not filled in yet.
Recently on a clear morning, I took my photography gear and stopped to scout the area for possible photographs. I made a few images. They were not exceptional but I recognized some potential in the location. My enthusiasm for the spot resulted from three components: interesting patterns in the shadows and light coming through the trees, backlight illumination of the early-growth forest floor plants, and the detail of all the natural forest litter.
I realized that capturing the scene would require more than a single image. The depth of field from the nearest subject to the most distant, a range of about 2’ to 50’, could be captured if I shot with my widest lens and used an f22 aperture, but my second objective was to capture the detail in the forest floor with as much clarity as possible. Using a single wide angle image would not provide this detail and a camera lens loses some of its sharpness at f22 due an optical condition known as diffraction. I wanted to take the image at a more desirable f-stop.
The solution was to use multiple photographs to capture the scene. Using a focal length of 25mm (with a Micro 4/3 camera this equates to 50mm), I shot three, four image panoramas with the camera in the vertical position. Each panorama used a different focus point; one for the very close objects, one for the objects in the 3’ to 5’ range and one for 5’ and beyond. I shot these at f11, which provides good depth of field within each sequence. I also elevated the camera slightly in each panorama as the height of the frame, even with the camera held vertically, did not quite cover the subject. The shots were taken on a tripod that is equipped with panorama head.
I used Photoshop to merge the twelve images. First I merged the four images from each panorama into three composite panoramas. Then, without making any adjustments, I put the three panoramas into layers in a single image and aligned them. I then painted out any out of focus areas using masks in each layer. When this was completed, I merged the layers into a new layer and corrected any distortion using the Photoshop perspective warp tool. This created a very large file - when I went to save the . file, I received an error message stating that I had exceeded the maximum . file size of 4GB! I flattened the image and then saved it – it was still a 500MB file.
After merging the images, I moved back into to complete any further adjustments that the image required. Then, going back into Photoshop, I prepared the image for printing. This consists of adjusting the final output size – the image is large enough that I can make a 10" x 18" print at 720dpi – and adding an output sharpening layer.
I printed the image on Red River San Gabriel paper and it is quite stunning. The composition is good and the detail is fantastic. With your nose to the glass, you can see the veins in individual leaves and see detail on single pine cone seeds. It seems there is no end to the detail.
Of course, none of the exceptional detail can be seen in the image presented here in a small, monitor representation of the picture. So, to help you enjoy this image, I have placed a full size copy online and you can download it from here: linktoimage. To make this more fun, I’ve added three tiny to the image. Each Waldo is about ¼ the size of one of the bright green leaves, which by the way, are the leaves of , also know as the Canada mayflower or false lily of the valley.
Have fun; go find Waldo!
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