The First Dusting of Snow: an experiment in HDR panorama

In late November we had an early snowfall. It was light, but enough to coat the trees, which looked like they’d be dusted with icing sugar. When I woke up in the morning, I was greeted by this beautiful, serene view of our pond – our ‘backyard’. There was barely a breath of wind and the faintest of ripples on the far side of the pond. It was calm and quiet where I stood. So quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. I love these kinds of days. Even the birds are quiet. It’s like the animals of the forest are afraid to break the delicate silence. It’s hard to put into words the serenity and peacefulness of a day like this. As I stood by the pond taking in the scene, it was as if time stood still. I thought about nothing but the feeling around me. Thoughts of work, pressing tasks, and anything else were completely absent. It was just one of those rare moments where I am able to utterly and completely tune out everything around me except the scene in front of me. It’s like nothing behind me existed; my entire world, for that moment, lay immediately in front of my eyes. I cherish these moments. These days, with life so busy and complicated, moments like this seem to happen so infrequently. But when they happen, I am happy to ignore everything else and just drink in the moment. 

Image

This image is a composite. It’s an HDR (high dynamic range) image. And it’s a panorama. Twenty separate images went into making this one image. I captured this scene in four sections. My camera was on a tripod. I carefully rotated my camera slightly to the right each time, ensuring I overlapped at least one third of the scene with each section. To capture the dynamic range of the scene, I also took 5 exposures for each of the 4 sections. The tool I used to create the four separate HDR images was Photomatix Pro. I love this software. It’s easy to use, but also easy to manipulate to create more realistic images rather than the cartoonish, ‘other world’ looking images that were initially the result of HDR. Once I had my four HDR images, I then stitched them together using Photoshop CS4. CS4 does a very decent job of stitching. Of course, I did have to crop the image, but very little was lost from around the edges. The only other manipulations I did were to remove some spots created by dirt on my sensor (time to sensor clean again…), slightly tweak the vibrance and clarity and I used Nik’s Viveza software to darken parts of the sky. I decided not to create an overly dramatic sky. I left it entirely natural. Too much drama in the sky would contradict the serene mood that the rest of the image communicates.

I haven’t done many HDR images or panoramas. I haven’t really had much interest until lately. So now I’m beginning to experiment. But I like what I created with this landscape. Perhaps I like it more than most people will because it is a deeply personal image. When I look at it, I can still ‘feel’ the mood of the moment. It’s like I’m right back there, standing at the edge of our pond, soaking in the peace and serenity. I know that you will not have that same emotional experience, but I hope that I am able, with this image, to communicate at least some of the emotion I felt while standing quietly at the pond edge.

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