Smoky Mountains panorama in autumn

Smoky Mountains panorama in autumn © William Britten use with permission only

The image above was taken from the footbridge that leads to the Ramsay Cascades trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. This wide panorama was created from five vertical panels joined together with a photostitch technique. And each vertical panel was created by combining four different exposures. So, the entire image that you see above is a photostitch of 20 exposures!  Click on the image above to see a larger version.

Visitors in my gallery often comment on how much easier digital photography is, compared to the old film days.  I would say that the way that professional photographers utilize digital cameras is much more complex than it was with film!

Almost every image that I work with is taken with 4 or 5 exposures, taken at different settings.  This is often referred to as “bracketing” but to me it is simply a collection of exposures made for various parts of the scene. For example, in the image above, the whites of the water needed a specific exposure setting, while the shadows in the rocks and woods required a very different setting.  Digital allows me to take many exposures of the same scene, and combine them later to give each area of the picture its own perfect exposure. At first this seemed cumbersome, but now it is an established habit when I am out working.

I often turn my camera to the vertical position and sweep across a scene, taking 3, 4, or 5 separate vertical panels, each with 4 or 5 exposures as described above. It takes some concentration to do this quickly and accurately, so that the scene does not change too much as you work your way across.  After each panel is finished by combining the multiple exposure settings, the entire panorama is photostitched together using software. Photoshop has a built in “photomerge” for this, or I also use a program called PTGui.  When a scene is changing, as it is with the flowing water above, the panoramic software has a challenge to blend the water from panel to panel to make it all blend into one image.  Wow! This is a lot of work. And digital was supposed to be so easy!

One final comment: to get a good panorama that will photostitch together well requires that your tripod stay level while you rotate across the scene. I use a special tripod head attachment from Really Right Stuff to enable this. I also use a special bracket from the same source that allows me to position the “nodal point” of the lens directly above the tripod center. In this way the camera body rotates around the lens, creating perfect panoramas.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

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