Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA by John Freeman

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Picture Story

Point Sublime on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is at the end of a fairly rugged 4x4 trail. We had visited this location in Oct. 2018 only to find the canyon fogged in. On July 29, 2019 my friend Bill and I returned planning to stay the night. We arrived about 6PM and I sat up my panoramic head and gear. A monsoon weather pattern was predicted to early the next morning an we had early signs with thunder storms to the south. The sun was obscured behind the clouds but there was clear skies on the western horizon so I was hopeful that we would get some good sunset light. Knowing that with the clouds the scene would have a wide dynamic range of light in the canyon verses the bright sunset I planned to do a bracketed shoot for processing as a HDR. Also, I wanted to shoot a panorama with at least 1 Gigapixels resolution. I programmed my panoramic head to shoot 5 rows and 35 columns of images. I programmed it to do column by column starting on the left (eastern) part of the scene and ending at the setting sun area of the scene. I set the focal length at 70mm, adjusted my shutter to f/13 and ISO to 100. As the sun first began to sink under the top layer of clouds, I used spot metering with the spot metering point aimed at the sunlit area of the sky, to adjusted my bracketed shutter speeds to yield no more than +3 stops for the underexposed bracket. I waited for the sun to start illuminating the canyon floor and started the panoramic head hoping that it would finish as the sun was very near the horizon. Thankfully, it finished with the sun shining just beneath the lower clouds creating rays of light into the canyon and Crepuscular rays of light onto the higher clouds.

The image is made up of 525 bracketed images processed to yield 175 individual HDR images, 5 rows x 35 columns 45% overlap in portrait orientation to produce final image measuring 61" x 192", 18415 x 57515 pixels, 1.06 Gaga-pixels.

Post processing was first done using Camera Raw to do lens corrections and convert all the images to tiff format. I then used Oloneo Photo Engine to do the HDR processing. This takes a lot of experimentation with the HDR settings to yield a natural looking image. Switching between dark areas of the deep canyon and the bright sunset areas I repeatedly adjusted the settings until I got the results I wanted. Using that setting, I then used Oloneo Photo Engine's batch processing to create the 175 HDR images. I used Kolor Autopano Giga to stitch the image into the panorama. And finally, I opened the stitched image in Photoshop for final processing.

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