Road Trip Panoramas: Mojave Preserve
These images were taken between Barstow, CA and Las Vegas, NV. Normally I try to show a mix of styles; verticals (3:2), horizontal (2:3), square (1:1) and panorama (1:2+). But the vast spaces of the Mojave National Preserve on the southern California and Nevada borders really couldn't be framed by any standard image ratios. With winter just around the corner, the air is a bit thinner. Abundant fog in low altitudes and increasing snow and frost in the highlands act as a natural air filter, capturing dust that would normally create sight-souring haze.
I lamented the existence of power lines in my last blog about Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire, but I'm actually glad these transmission towers cut across the foreground. It would be difficult to show the scale of the landscape otherwise, which is one of the major challenges of shooting landscapes.
The above is one of the largest composites I've ever done-- a view from Interstate 15 in California. The final image is 105.4 Megapixels with 36 images, (two rows of 18 frames), and can be printed to almost 7 feet wide with no resampling or "upsizing". My goal with images like this is that when they are printed, you can stand just a couple of feet away and feel like you are looking through a window at the real thing. The next image is slightly different. I included more foreground, but not too much, because I didn't want to distort the view. I was elevated roughly 30 ft, but adding more and more foreground would make the viewer feel closer to the ground.
Fun Fact: The above and below were taken from the same position within 3 minutes of each other. It's amazing to me how different they feel. Obviously I'm looking at a completely different landscape by turning 180 degrees, but it's almost like I'm on the other side of the sun on Bizarro-World.
Believe it or not, the above image is actually not a composite. It's a single frame shot from about 10 ft elevation with a rectilinear 28mm lens. In this situation, it was all about timing and where to center the frame. By keeping the sun just slightly right-of-center, the beams are exaggerated and easier to expose.
Pro Tip: Any time I'm working with rapidly changing light, I typically shoot 5-10 frames at 15-30 second intervals. I then play back my images on my camera's LCD screen and study how the light changes from one frame to the next. This method takes five minutes at most, and allows me to observe the light's movement, then anticipate where it'll go next. Sometimes I see a pattern with just enough time to reposition.
I posted this shot on my Instagram in standard 35mm format, but after going back, I decided to crop it to a 1 : 2.5 ratio. The perspective is identical, but shaving off the sky and foreground brings much more focus to the stream of cars disappearing into the Mojave. If you look closely, you can see the highway continuing behind that black hill, into the far left of the frame.