5 ways to mess up a landscape photo shoot…

Good idea, poor execution.

Here’s the idea:  Go to the tower on top of a very high mountain near my house and make a panorama of the sun rising in the east and panning around to the moon setting in the west.   This actually happens once a month (or at least comes close) — and is coincident with the full moon.  (Solar and lunar tables are available on line for a town near you.)  If I could capture it I would have two events happening simultaneously on one panorama.

Sunrise -- first frame of historic (?) panorama.

Sunrise — first frame of historic (?) panorama.

I don’t know if this is an original idea but, to me, but it seemed like a fun thing to try.

So, we (The Bride and I) awakened plenty early to make the trip from our home to the shuttle station in the parking lot below the peak.  We knew the shuttle wouldn’t be running at that hour of the morning but thought we could drive up on the road the shuttle used.  Wrong.  The shuttle road was securely locked.

First mistake:  Didn’t think through all the things that could go wrong.

But…not to worry.  There is a walking trail that goes to the top.  So we broke out the flashlights (torches for some of you) and were able to make the one hour trek to the summit with plenty of time to spare.  Things looked pretty good until I attempted to set up the tripod.  On the tower there was no place to set up the tripod that didn’t include getting part of the structure in the frame. 

Second mistake:  Didn’t do a dry run.

I finally managed to rig my tripod so that it cantilevered out into space a bit.  Not the most stable but it would work.

Before going I read up on everything I could find on making panoramas.  I knew that having the table of my tripod dead level would help things considerably so I brought out my little level and set to work.  Only problem was that in the almost-dark I couldn’t hold the level, aim the flash light, and adjust all the little gizmos at the same time.  The Bride tried to help but the aforementioned cantilevered tripod put both us in danger of plunging into the dark abyss.  Should have brought my little headlamp.  So…the third mistake was related to the first two:  Didn’t bring all I should have to work in the expected conditions.

OK, everything seemed ready.  My intention was to make an exposure every 15 degrees or so.  Allowing for some extra content at each extreme I figured I would make 14 or 15 images.  And, since I had just become interested in HDR, I planned to make 5 exposures at each position for later incorporation into what would surly be the first ever HDR panorama including the sun rising and the moon setting. 

The sun appeared right on schedule.  Always comforting.  I waited to make my first shots until the full ball was above the horizon and muted a bit by the fog in the valleys below.  Perfect.  Almost.  Each set of exposures and the re-aiming of the camera took a long time.  (Remember the cantilevered tripod.)  By the time I had worked around to the moon the sky was so bright that the moon was washed out.  Additionally, the extra time consumed made the exposures enough different that I couldn’t stitch them together without unsightly variations.  I guess you could say that mistake number four was simply not thinking.  Next time I’ll manually set the exposure, forget HDR and start at the moon end of the panorama. 

Mistake number five was this:  I told all my friends (ahead of the shoot) about what a great, innovative photographic production I would have to show them.

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Robert Barber - First, at least you gave the idea some thought and tried. 2nd, we all forget or don’t think of ALL the things we need. 3rd, Nice morning for a hike and you got your daily exercise in. 4th, it is a very good image. A lot of us don’t have this scenic view close to run and try for this sunrise. I enjoy reading your Blog. Keep ‘em coming.

skeeter - Thank, Robert. All you said is true — and I WILL try again.

Barbara - Whoops!!
By looking at the glorious photo I purchased from you at the art show I still love the effect of the sunrise. I love the photo and by the way, you need to sign it for me.

skeeter - Will do, Barb. Now you know the story behind it!


Pat Stannard - Thanks so much for not only the process but your humor. Much needed.

skeeter - Thanks, Pat. It might be humorous (in retrospect) but, I have to admit, I had my doubts at the time. And, it was very, very cold. Anyhow, aren’t all photo outings fun?

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