The above image of Loch Toll an Lochain beneath the An Teallach ridge is of one of my favourite places. There are many ways to shoot this view, the number of vantage points around this loch are innumerable. On the day that I took this I did my usual hunting around for what I felt was the best one but all the time constrained by the usual worry for photographers, that the light will change!
Getting to such vantage points is not usually easy and can take several hours. The effort involved can be aggravated by the amount of camera gear you decide to take with you. Many decades ago when my passion for landscape photography began, so did the never ending quest for equipment capable of shooting a wide range of subjects. I began photography back in the days of film, shooting on 35mm film stock to begin with, then medium format with ever more expensive equipment. Then digital came along and the drive for versatility and quality continued apace.
The result of all these endeavours was to accumulate a great deal of equipment! To be sure that I could capture the scenes nature presented me with, all this gear had to be carried on every venture. At one stage of my life as a landscape photographer I was carrying anything up to 15kg of camera gear into the hills, sometimes on good tracks, on other occasions over rough ground. A day in the hills to reach the desired vantage point for photography would inevitably result in several days of aches and pains!
However, I'm well into my seventies now and a few years ago I decided that downsizing was the way to go. Small, lightweight, but not sacrificing on quality were to be the determining factors in replacing all my equipment. I eventually decided on a camera with fixed lens (35mm f2 Zeiss lens) with a macro option and a full frame 24mp sensor.
The decision to go with a fixed lens was not easy! I had for decades been used to having a range of lenses at my disposal to capture whatever nature presented. I agonised over my possible camera choice for some time but the reviews of the Zeiss lens were so outstanding I felt compelled to opt for quality over versatility. Whilst I do miss on occasion the ability to use different lenses I have never regretted my decision to opt for lightness and quality.
I've recently been interested in the camera being developed by Light.co in view of its compactness and the fact that it offers a great deal of versatility in a camera no bigger than a smart phone. Using folded optics it has 16 lenses, 5 at 28mm, 5 at 75mm and 6 at 150mm. It also has ten sensors and the resulting image is fused together in camera to give a capture size of up to 52mp! It also supports the following file formats, jpeg, tiff and dng.
The image below shows how the camera looks and I for one look forward to using it one day! I've long been interested in the miniaturisation of image capture technology while at the same time improvements continue to be made to its quality. Hence I was so pleased to be contacted recently by Light.co to discuss the subject of The Vantage Point in my blog.
The Vantage Point - Image Construction
Having decided on the vantage point for my view of An Teallach and Loch Toll an Lochain the next decision was about how much of the view I should include in the resulting image. I quickly decided that I needed more width in the image than my 35mm lens would permit! Nor was changing my viewpoint by moving further back an option as this would have introduced other landscape elements that I did not want to feature in my composition.
Therefore the only choice was to take a sequence of images from my vantage point and stitch them together later in Photoshop. In the past I would always have taken a tripod for this situation. However experimentation had shown that I could manage to do this without a tripod and save lugging yet another heavy item into the wilderness.
In order to capture in one image the view shown at the beginning of this article it was necessary to stitch together five separate images. Each image overlapped by about 30%. Also each of the five images was shot in portrait mode to ensure that I could capture the top of the mountain ridge as well as the shore of the foreground loch.
Finally, the light range in the scene between bright sunlit clouds on the one hand and the deep shadows on the hill exceeded the camera's dynamic range. So I shot each of the five portrait images in HDR, three images for each portrait shot, one at the correct exposure and the other two images at +1 stop and -1 stop respectively. Therefore I ended up with a collection of 15 images to be HDR processed and eventually stitched together in Photoshop.
To begin illustrating how the components of the image were shot and put together I have shown below the three unprocessed HDR shots for the first part of the scene that I captured. The fourth (rightmost) image below is the resulting merge of the previous three HDR shots.
The above HDR processing for the first shot was carried out for the four subsequent shots, giving me a total of five HDR processed images to be stitched together in Photoshop.
Illustrated below are the five individual HDR processed images. Having stitched them together some final editing was carried out in Photoshop to improve contrast, etc and also to deal with any local issues arising in the stitching process, such as clouds or shadows changing position between shots. The resulting image shown at the beginning of this blog has a pixel dimension of 10,350 x 5971
The Vantage Point - Final Words
As can be seen from this example the combination of chosen vantage point, the desired image capture and the camera equipment available all have a significant impact on the subsequent image processing. Perhaps with an extreme wide angle I might have been able to capture the scene in one shot, but the quality of an extreme wide angle lens would probably be inferior to the 35mm lens I used. Also, I may still have decided to undertake HDR processing to be sure of capturing the full dynamic range.
Now what would I do if I visited this same scene with Light.co's new camera? Who knows, but it is an exciting thought!
5th December 2016