Thursday, July 26, 2012

Photo of the day: 360° at Sunrise Point

I've been experimenting with "polar panoramas," which create the illusion of a planet hovering in space out of a panoramic image. The effect works best if the edges of the panorama "match," so what better way to make that happen than to take a full 360° image? And what better place to capture such an image than Sunrise Point in Mount Rainier National Park? And what better time to do so than on a day when the weather was gorgeous but, because of helicopter operations, the road was closed to the crowds that would normally fill the viewpoint with distracting colors and movement? I took a few minutes after completing my duties for the day to take a series of shots -- 17 in this case -- turning incrementally in a circle while standing near the apex of the point. My good friend Crow captured an image of my technique, which is well worth visiting as it's a breathtakingly beautiful photograph in its own right, marred only by the guy standing in the middle of the frame! I made several such circuits, trying different settings -- getting good photos of a glacier-covered mountain is always tricky -- and found that manual settings (so that the lighting was even all the way around and the ends of the panorama matched perfectly) worked the best. When I created the polar panorama itself, I quickly discovered that I didn't really like the "planet" look, because in order to get the full detail on the outer edge of the "planet," the detail at the bottom of the frame in the interior of the planet became wildly distorted. So I switched gears and decided to just make a circular panorama instead -- basically the view you would see if you stood at the Point and turned 360° in a circle. In the end it makes a very cool shot -- though it doesn't hold a candle to actually being there.

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