Picking up from the lessons learned two weeks ago, I set out to create a linear panorama with a 200mm telephoto lens, to see if this focal length would produce the outcomes Aaron and I have been talking about - a view of the forest that reveals the individual trees and plants, as well as the connections between the organisms.
I started by testing the lens on the same view - and traditional-style panorama - I made with the 500mm lens two weeks ago, but this time I stood closer to the edge of the trees, and photographed a smaller section. You can see that the results are quite different in Figure 1 from those of the longer lens.
The 200mm lens is much sharper and reproduces color far better, which is honestly a little astounding given that it is really just a cheap lens that comes standard in a Nikon camera kit. This increase in sharpness and color contrast is likely due to the superior coatings on the optics and the increased tolerances for lens manufacturing from recent times.
Being closer to the edge of the trees also creates a better entry to the identification of and interest in any particular specimen. This was an exciting development, and I knew at this point that results from a linear panorama should be better than previous tests as well.
I made 11 photographs in a straight line on what is the right edge of the forest pictured above. When first importing them into Photoshop, I thought I might have some material that the program would know how to stitch together, but this was not the case. Figure 2 shows the failure of Photoshop to connect most of the edges.
This issue cropped up with Aaron’s panorama’s (found in his post from this week) as well. I decided to manually stitch the images together and happily it was very easy to do, and produced the best result from all of these tests yet (Figure 3).
I am quite happy with these results, as the forest has depth as well as a real (and strange) width that changes the viewer’s relationship with the information just enough (I hope) to generate a deeper look. I now plan to try out this method on more subjects to see if the results are reproducible.
The two weeks since my last blog post have overlapped with a writing workshop facilitated by Charlotte Du Cann and Nick Hunt (editors with the Dark Mountain Project) that I had the good fortune to participate in. Our main assignment was to think of a wild place/space to walk (in)to, walk into that space at dusk, and look for stories there that needed telling. Nick suggested a few different exercises to do to (un)focus our attention, including “horizon-lining”, in which one focuses their eye on a point on the horizon and then very, very slowly turning a full circle and following that horizon point around the circle.
As Eric and I have been working on how to photograph and post-process panoramas to reveal new kinds of information, I thought that horizon-lining could provide an interesting way to visualize the competing ecologies of a particular wild space: the often-overlooked wetlands that exist in the margins and on the edges between rivers and roads (Figure 1).
I took two sets of photographs. The first set of 21 images were taken at a 28-mm focal length (wide-angle). Panoramas constructed using standard post-processing (with Adobe Photoshop; Figures 2 & 3) were workable but surprisingly (at least to me) did not reflect the order in which the photographs were taken (Figure 4 shows the panorama in the “correct” order). As the photographs encompassed a complete circle, though, “order” is an aesthetic choice; perhaps it would be better to display these as a circle with the viewer able to view them in any order or from any angle).
Figure 2. Wetland by the Watertown (Massachusetts) Storm Drain Outfall, Dec. 1, 2020. Panorama constructed from 21 images (28-mm focal-length) by Aaron Ellison; post-processing (correcting for lens distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration) and panorama stitching by Eric Zeigler using Adobe Photoshop.
With the intention of focusing on the wild space, the second set of images “zoomed in” on the wetland. Using a long focal length (300-mm) and low f-stop to deliberately render the urban background out-of-focus, I needed 86 images to complete the circle. Although I have been able to stitch sections of the image together using Canon’s PhotoStitch (software that is nearly 20 years old and no longer supported) (Figures 5 & 6 show panoramas of the first 10 and last 14 of the images), Photoshop was unable to automatically piece the panorama together. There appear to be too few landmarks and too much motion (from the strong wind blowing the tops of the reeds) for accurate computation. What insights does this provide about how technology and specific visualizations force particular alignments or interpretations of landscapes and their ecologies?