PART 2: Shooting your trip
You’ve already suffered through my long winded gear explanation in the previous post about gear weight in part 1. Here are some of the images and techniques I use with the gear being utilized for each shot, laid out. The above panorama shot was a handheld series of 5 frames, shot in portrait orientation using the Canon EOS-M and 22mm f/2 lens. The third and final part in this series will focus on the actual processing of the shots and won’t really have much to do with backpacking per se, nor the weight saved, but hopefully can show that with these small cameras, image quality is not compromised.
Bro-Lo and Tommy, shot with the Panasonic GX1 and Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye lens (ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/50sec)
I like to combine a shoot from the hip/documentary approach with a planned out list of “shots to get” so to speak. I don’t know exactly what the scenery will look like, but through a bit of research, I can estimate when and where the sun will be in relation to where I will be and can kind of plan out a few shots with this info in mind. I’d like to again, thank Yukon Trading Company, Marmot, JetBoil, LEKI Trekking Poles, 43rumors.com, Expert Shield screen protectors, and B&H Photo for the sponsorship and support which has enabled this series of articles to come to fruition. For the folks who’ve been reading me for a while, hopefully you know I don’t like to push anything, and certainly won’t attempt to do so for stuff that isn’t quality, so with that said, please check these guys out, tell them I’m forcing you to, they’re all awesome.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 OIS lens (ISO200, 120mm, f/5.6, bracketed HDR shot)
From the Hip
With these small cameras, it is easy to keep one instantly accessible. I had the Canon EOS-M with the 22mm f/2 lens strapped to the side of the fanny pack, placed in one of the elastic pockets while hiking and had the Panasonic GX1 fit with the Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye as well as the OMD EM5 with the Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4 in the fanny pack for easy access. The Canon served me whenever I needed to catch a moment, and when we’d stop for a rest, out came the tripod for the obligatory stream shot or the like. When backpacking, it’s easy to keep everything packed away and somewhat difficult to get to between rest stops. Herein lies the benefit to having easy access. I chose to employ that ever appreciated social stigma, the fanny pack. It distributed the weight well and had three cameras (in my case) on hand for immediate use when the need arose. When we’d stop for a quick rest, off went the backpack and out came the tripod.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 lens on tripod (ISO200, f/22, 1/4sec)
Aside from the trip documentary, I knew that I wanted to get some sunrise shots, some nighttime shots and really wanted to build up my portfolio of large panoramas. For the weeks preceding our trip, I carried a piece of paper in my wallet on which I could jot down ideas as they came to me while researching the trail and route we’d be taking, direction and location of the sun at sunrise and sunset to gain an idea of the angle of light, etc.
Panasonic GX1 and Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye lens on tripod (ISO160, f/8, bracketed HDR shot)
After reading through many of the ideas scratched onto that piece of paper, I knew that I wanted to be prepared to capture a wide dynamic range, also known as HDR or High Dynamic Range imagery (you can read about my HDR capturing techniques HERE) and do so in many stitched frames to create large, sweeping panoramas. HDR can come in handy in a variety of lighting scenarios. It can enhance low angle light during sunrise and sunset for instance, or can really help soften harder, overhead light by capturing more of the range and tonal swing of a harsh, overly contrasty scene as is commonplace in midday sun. I’ll be talking about how I shot and processed my panos, HDR, and HDR panoramas in the next post. Long story short, if you don’t already have an HDR software, click HERE and download the free trial version of HDRsoft’s Photomatix. It’s awesome. When you decide that you can’t live without it, use the promo code “TRP15” for a 15% discount on any version.
Having an idea as to what you want to capture can help keep you motivated to actually stop and shoot. Unless you’re marathon speed trekking, you’ll be taking breaks here and there. With photography on the brain, those here and theres become more photogenic, and the stops can become somewhat dictated by the scenery. Having a camera at the ready can also help when fleeting opportunities present themselves.
I used two specific, but easy to accomplish techniques on this trip. High Dynamic Range bracketing, and stitched panoramic shots, even combining the two doing a panoramic HDR for the scenes which it both suited and where I had the time. While I’ll get deeper into the processing of these shots in the third and final part of this article, preparing your shots is easy. It just takes a little foresight. For best results, whether processing multiple exposures for HDR, or single files, shoot RAW, trust me. The bit depth and ability to bring back highlight info is huge, especially for landscape photos.
While these techniques are far from being camera specific, the light weight, micro 4/3 compact system setups were both easy to carry and up to the task.
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
For those not versed in HDR imagery, it is the topic of much heated debate in various photographic circles. Fact remains that this, like any technique, has a variety of outcomes depending on how heavy the processing hand may be. The basic idea is to account for a digital sensor’s inherent lack of ability to fully capture the total range of luminance in a single exposure. Back in the day, hours were spent in the dark room finely tuning the development process and then dodging and burning prints. Now, with modern software, we can speed the process up and add a few more tricks to the bag. Long story short, the human eye can see and discern the difference between a roughly 20-25 stop range of exposure value, while the highest current camera is still below 15 stops in a single exposure. Not every scene has this type of dynamic diversity, but when we can see clouds in the sky AND detail in the dark greenery of backlit trees for instance, and that same scene captured by a camera will have to sacrifice one of those two ends of the range, this is where HDR can really shine. By bracketing your exposure, and combining them in the post processing stage, you can more easily replicate a scene as it appeared to your eye. I’ve gone into depth on how best to truly measure and capture the full dynamic range of your scene HERE. Auto bracketing is the cheap and easy way to do this, but may or may not get you the full dynamic range of the scene. Here are the basics, and if this list doesn’t make sense to you, click the link above for a full walk through on how to measure and record exposures.
- Set your camera to M (manual mode)
- Adjust to your working aperture (normally I default to somewhere around f/8-f/11 or so)
- Spot meter the brightest area in your scene and make a note of the shutter speed needed to achieve that bright area at mid tone (“0” or in the middle on your light meter)
- Do the same spot metering for the darkest area in your scene and record the shutter speed, these become your bookend exposures.
- Get your camera on a tripod and set your camera to a 2 second (or similar) self timer if the wind is relatively still, if not, see the Auto Exposure Bracketing technique, or forego the self timer.
- Start at one of your bookend exposures and make one stop exposures until you hit your other bookend.
Like I’d mentioned, I’ll go into a little more depth with illustrations in the next post and will dissect a stitched, HDR panorama.
Panoramas can provide a powerful, visual recreation of any scene. Some may say to merely shoot with a wide angle, which is a nice way to get a sweeping view in, but it can alter the appearance of compression in relation to subject matter and of subjects in your frame and is often more susceptible to distortion (bowing lines, keystoning, etc). Many of my panos are shot using wide angle lenses for effect as well, so there is no fast, hard rule. One fun reason to shoot and stitch panoramas is to gain a wider angle at a more compressed perspective making it appear less distorted, or closer to a real life representation regarding perspective. Another is to have a huge file from which you can print large, beautiful high resolution prints. In the next part to this series, I’ll show you what I mean. For now, I’ll let you in on how I shoot my frames with the intent to stitch together a simple panorama later on in Photoshop (or Elements, or PanoStitch, or any free panorama stitching software). We could discuss multi pass layered panoramas, but for this one (and because this is how I shot on Rainier) we will keep it to a simple, single row panorama.
- I set the camera up on the tripod in portrait/vertical orientation and level the head.
- I pan through my scene to make sure I’ll get the subject(s) I want, and that they are relatively level. (a panning head is pretty crucial, see the Gear Post for my choices.)
- Starting on one side (I start on the left and pan right as it stacks up in my image management software showing the pano in order) I’ll take my shot(s) (multiple if doing a bracketed HDR pano, but make sure to make the same exact set of exposures for each frame to avoid tonal disparity in post)
- For the second, and subsequent frames, make sure to overlap your previous frame by about 25% (illustrated in the image above). This means to find something within the first quarter or third of the frame in the direction of the movement of the camera and make sure that is still included in the frame on the opposite side when you pan to the next frame.
- Do this 25% overlap for each frame until you get to the other side of your pano.
The other parts of the Mirrorless diet are here:
Thanks for the read and happy shooting,