Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Desert View Panorama-Mania!

Even though we've been back from our recent Grand Canyon trip for weeks, I've been recovering from a hard-disk crash on my laptop, so some of the work on Canyon post have been delayed.  One of my days there, I took off with my small telescopes to try catching river rafters going down some rapids.  Melinda stayed in camp with friends while I went off to the eastern part of the Park where wider expanses of the Colorado River are visible. 

Out at Lipan point there were no rafts in view, so I continued a few miles to the Desert View Watchtower, built 80+ years ago.  The Watchtower was designed by Mary Colter who worked for Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad, and was responsible for some of the most iconic structures on the South Rim.  This was built not only as a lookout and rest stop for visitors travelling to the Canyon, but also to foster understanding of the Native Americans who live in the area.

The Watchtower is 70 feet tall and is the highest point on the South Rim.  After months of study, it took 3 years to construct at Canyon's edge in 1932.  The structure and Canyon begs to be imaged by something wider than most cameras and lenses allow, so I took several series of exposures that can be joined by software to make panoramic views.   It was a spectacular blue-sky day, though a little hazy and hot for the canyon - temps in the 90s.  Of course, the place was packed with tourists, and unfortunately it was tough to take pictures with the proper amount of overlap to join them, and yet not get people moving between frames to get disembodied body parts.  With careful planning, and sometimes several tries I got pretty good results.  These were assembled from vertical frames taken with my 10-22 zoom, with typically 4 frames joined to make the above.  These are also shown here at the maximum picture size that Blogger allows, 1600 pixels wide, a little larger than I usually show here.  Of course the original files are fun to look through when they're 12,000 pixels wide!  Of course, click the images to load the full-size...

This frame is not a panorama, but is a wide shot with the 10-22 zoom again.  But this shot is what is called an HDR image, which stands for High Dynamic Range.  Three exposures are combined, one properly exposed, one over-exposed, and another underexposed. When combined, the construction software compresses the highlights and shadows to allow all the details to be seen.  Sunrises and sunsets can be amazing with HDR, but at midday might not normally be utilized, but I think it helps this image.  This vantage point might be interesting for some night images.  Noted astro-photographer Wally Pacholka has a very nice night-time image of the Watchtower and Milky Way.

The interior of the Tower is also open to the public and has several levels with original Indian artwork by Fred Kabotie.  Again, the interior expanse requires another panorama, a vertical format in this case.  For this one, 3 horizontal frames were combined to form this vertical image showing the interior design.  Going to the full-size image allows some of the designs to be seen.  The artwork shows some classic designs in Indian art as well as relating some of the creation stories and beliefs.  I've never actually climbed to the top of the tower - perhaps next time without so many tourists!

Of course, I couldn't let you get away without a stereo pair!  This view was taken from very near where the HDR shot was taken above.  As in all this post's images, multiple shots are taken - in this case only 2, one to be viewed by your right eye, the other, taken a foot or two laterally away to be viewed by your left.  The result is a 3D image!  These are presented for cross-eyed viewing - cross your eyes slightly to look at the right image with your left eye and vice-versa.  The result will be a center image in 3D!  The thumbnail might be easier to practice on before going to the full-size image.  Since I was 50 meters or so from the Tower, the 3D effect is relatively small, but can definitely be seen.

So finally catching up on my Canyon posts.  One of the main projects I wanted to work on was some time-lapse sequences.  As a result I took nearly 5,000 pictures, mostly to be seen at 5 to 10 frames per second for a time-lapse.  Still thinking about how I'm gonna edit it and maybe set it to music - stay tuned!