Vacation photos, the rest!

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Sadly, we are back. We have compiled the best of the pictures from our trip. Since the last post, we continued to the twin cities to see the Hunters, then moved up through Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, into Jasper NP, Banff NP, and finally Kootenay NP before crossing into Montana. We then spent three days with the Drakes in Florence, before heading by way of hot springs in Idaho to Jeff and Maya’s beautiful wedding on the McKenzie outside Eugene (here is a Picasa page as well).

We were so honored to spend time with everyone! Who knows when we will get this chance again!

Here is us in Jasper at lower Geraldine lake:

The whole family at Geraldine Lake

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Summer 06 Panoramic Pictures

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I was going through our old pictures to try and find a new banner image, and rediscovered all the panoramic pictures that we took last summer. I thought I would take a minute and share them all with you.

Forewarning though, these images are large, over a megabyte each, so if you are on dialup they will take a while to completely load.

First, a little introduction to the craft. Panoramic images, or “pans” are made several different ways. For these shots, I have taken several images and “stitched” them together into one large image. I have been working on this for years, and have become very skilled and quick with the process. There are two complications with panoramic images. One, correcting for spherical aberration (an artifact whereby the image is compressed in the center of the image and expanded on the edge. All modern lenses have this problem to some degree). To imagine what is going on, think of light entering a lens and coming out onto the film or CCD as a series of concentric circles: the distance between two points on any one point on one circle is not necessarily the same as that for another. Also, you are projecting “rays” from a focus point onto a flat surface: the projection from zero to five degrees is not the same area as one from five to ten degrees. This makes matching edges a delicate balancing act, not so cut and dry as you might expect (and as I originally thought when I was learning this craft). The trick I employ is to fade edges together in the middle of their convergence zone using the erase tool. Two, correcting for saturation and white balance. This is the trickiest part, and one where a better camera and better software would help, but I can get things pretty close with just Photoshop. I will try to illuminate the salient technical points for each image below. Anyways, on to the pictures!

general sherman tree

This first pan is a vertical pan. It was taken in Sequoia National Park, and the subject is the General Sherman tree. It is one of the largest living things in the world. This image is composed of three separate shots. The color balance turned out poorly, if you see the magenta tone of the sky. White balance took some back and forth but worked well; I ended up having to make the base of the tree very dark for it to look correct. Correcting for spherical aberration worked well, owing mostly to the closeness to the object (I was about twenty meters from the tree).

These next two pans are from Yosemite National Park, and were taken on a drive through the mountains on our way to Mammoth Lakes to see my old friend Jeff Kane.

olmstead point

This is a picture of Olmstead Point. It is composed of three shots. As you can tell here as well, the far left shot has poor saturation and white balance. This was in the original picture and there was nothing I could do to save it. Since the three shots do not cover a wide angular distance, the spherical aberration was very small.

Tenaya Lake

This next image is of Tenaya Lake. Liz braved the early summer mosquitoes for this shot! I was quite surprised none of them were in the shots, as she brought at least five back into the car with her. There are two main pictures that make this pan, but Liz took five separate shots so I had some choices for balancing colors and brightness. The picture itself is quite stunning with the sky being almost the perfect tone to balance the grays of the mountain.

Jackson Lake

This image was taken a few weeks later in Grand Teton National Park. The story was that we had driven from Salmon, Idaho to here and were tired, it was late, and we were surrounded by storm clouds. We were not sure if it was going to dump a foot of snow on us or golfball sized hail, so we frantically threw the tent up, then walked down to the lake. We were greeted by the most majestic double rainbow we have seen in years. Obviously, this is two images, and to preserve the natural colors I did not touch the original settings that the camera took the images under. This is a good example of using blank space creatively too, as you can see the black text area and gray area in the upper right.

Sweet Grass Hills

This next pan was taken at the tail end of our trip. This is actually the view north from the road in front of my mom’s family farm outside Chester Montana, looking north to the Sweet Grass Hills that are just a few kilometers from the border with Canada. This is composed of three shots, which sucks because they were almost stitched perfectly edge to edge, which lead to the not-so-even look to the surfaces in the pan (spherical aberration again). Also not helping is that this is a picture of the sky, and that this part of the road is in a slight basin, which means the horizon sort of wraps around oddly. I did my best! The shot-series itself is amazing, and we took several other shots in the minutes before this that were amazing as well. There is a reason they call it big sky country!

Mesa Verde

This is the last pan we shot. This is from Mesa Verde National Park, looking to the north-east (into the rockies, towards Telluride). The storm itself was actually gaining intensity and spilling towards us (not moving towards us, sort of falling on us). Minutes after this shot, it started raining so hard we almost had to pull off the road. The pan is composed of four shots, and is executed quite well. The white balance had to be toned down a bit on the rightmost shot to get it to match the leftmost shot. Spherical aberration is minimal. You can also see creative camouflage of the empty space at the top of the picture (look close). Take a close look there as well, you can see quite well how I erase the edge off the image on top, exposing a soft edge that overlays the bottom image without being a glaring line. This technique also balances the spherical errors for each image, creating a more realistic image. Another thing you can see in this picture is how skew from horizontal (and how steep the terrain) the image is. Look to the far right: that is the desert, which is perfectly flat!

Well, I hope you enjoyed these pictures, and I hope that you learned a few things along the way!

Backpacking: Mazatzal Wilderness (and other fun stuff)

Filed Under Travel

Finally, I get to finish writing about this trip! Like I said before, you can see the whole photo set here.

Our plan was to do the Barnhardt Trail in the Mazatzal Wilderness just north-east of Phoenix. We wanted to stay two nights, spend a day up top with Iris and have some fun, and come back down Monday to leave for home.

I wanted to get us there with plenty of time to get up the 6.5 mile trail to Chilson Camp. Iris has some short legs, so I was budgeting for about one mile per hour, so six to seven hours of hiking. If the sun goes down at 5, that means get on the trail by 10AM… so I wanted to be hiking by 9 (for safety). You do not need permits for this hike, so we just needed to get there. The drive to the trailhead was six and a half hours, so we set the alarm for one in the morning, got some sleep, got some coffee and left.

The drive out the 8 was madness until we got down to Yuma: super strong winds kicking up pebbles, thrashing the car all over the road. Liz kept waking up going “What’s hitting the car?!?”. Yes hon, you want to drive?

Etc Etc etc… we got to the road to the trailhead and drove up. We could tell that if it was really wet, there was almost no way you were getting a low-clearance vehicle out. This gave me pause as I remembered the weather report (rain or snow). We got to the trailhead and were alone, save for the two trucks parked to the south side. I left the car with a good downhill stab at the road (in case it was snowed in) and we got started.

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Backpacking trip… etc

Filed Under Travel

We are back, safe. No getting lost in the wilderness here. If you want to see some pictures, click here.

I am not quite ready to write up a full description, but the condensed version goes like this: hike in, sleep well, wake up to clouds and warmth, leave because you do not want to get stuck in mud a mile from the highway, spend the night in Flagstaff, go to the Grand Canyon, and go home.

Updated weekend plans

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Regardless of the iffy weather, we are headed to the mountains in Arizona this weekend.

In case we do not return and you have to send in the rangers (HA!) we are headed for the Barnhardt Trail in the Mazatzal wilderness. We hike in on Saturday morning (starting at 9AM) and will stay at Chilson Camp for two nights, hiking back Monday morning.

The weather forecast is for snow Sunday night or Monday morning or Monday or Monday night… gotta love living on the west coast! The forecasts are more “cast” than “fore”… :) We may be snowed in for an extra day, but that is no biggie, we have enough provisions for an extra day or three.

Again, pictures will be posted when we get back!