Cuchara Valley Landscapes | Aspen Cathedral

Aspen Cathedral

November 03, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Aspen CathedralPanorama stitch of 20 photos, 16 mm, f/10, 1/8 sec, ISO 100

This image is my second attempt to realize an artistic vision to mimic a "cathedral vertorama" in a forest of aspens. My first attempt was last October and was a complete failure; at least this year I was able to produce a usable image.

A vertorama is a vertical panorama; the technique is popular for photos of cathedrals because it creates a surrealistic effect where you can see the entire cathedral from floor to ceiling straight up (Here's an incredible example: Tewkesbury by Mark Wycherley). To create the image, the photographer has to take several photos and stitch them together to get the whole scene in.

For this image of the aspens, the scene is 180 degrees wide, so I had to capture 5 images going from left to right, then repeat that process 4 times to capture the scene from the forest floor to the sky. The camera was mounted on a tripod, and I used a spherical panoramic tripod head (Panosaurus 2.0) to ensure that the individual photos would align properly-my mistake last fall was attempting to handhold the camera. This image is the result of 20 photos stitched together.

So why did I say this one is not a complete failure? Well, it doesn't quite achieve my vision; when I look at the photo I don't feel enveloped by the forest. I really needed to capture more of the forest on each side to achieve the cathedral effect. In hindsight, I should have used my 12mm lens. I had that lens with me, but decided to use my 16mm Zeiss instead. 12mm would allow me to capture more than 180 degrees horizontally without having to capture more images. I also should have taken images all the way over the top of the tripod vertically to where the camera is actually pointing backwards. The end result would be much better with a cobalt blue sky above the yellow leaves; I knew the conditions weren't optimal when I captured these photos, but I only get one opportunity each year, so I tried anyway. Finally, after doing some research on indoor vertoramas, I probably need to experiment with some perspective warping in Photoshop to enhance the desired effect.

Overall, this was a good learning experience, and I did end up with an image worth sharing. I received several encouraging comments when I posted it to Facebook. So I'll try again next year!


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