Yosemite Tunnel View Panorama

Tunnel View Panorama, Yosemite.

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Tech Info: Five image panorama stitched manually. Each image was from a Nikon D300s with Nikkor 50mm, f/8 for 1/750 sec with ISO 200

The five images used to create this panorama was taken on the second day of the Yosemite visit. It was still drizzling and we had to shield the camera equipment with anything we could get from the rain. I was using a good old black umbrella (the one used by Grandpas..) and some of the wide angle shots here got the tip of the umbrella in them :-p

This is my first panorama and probably the last one that I’m going to stitch manually. Its way too time consuming and difficult to stitch. The auto stitching programs were cutting off most part of the stitched image, but since I didn’t want to loose them, went the manual way.

Stitching a panorama manually is very difficult as you have to take care of the alignment and the lens distortions that might be there. This particular one had both and I’m not sure how I managed to do it. I’m happy that its done and will appreciate the auto stitch programs a lot more now :-D

Half Dome from Sentinal Bridge

Half Dome from Sentinal Bridge

Tech Info: Nikon D300s with Tokina 12-24 @24mm, f/16, ISO 200 for 15s.
Filters: B+W Polarizer and Hoya NDX400

Its been pretty busy at work and haven’t got much time to work on photos, but today after witnessing a superb match win by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) over Rajasthan Royals (RR) got some energy to work on a picture taken during the Yosemite trip.

Another very useful filter to have is a Polarizing Filter. This one helps to reduce the polarizing effect and can cut the reflections. This shot is an example where the filter is at its use. Usually when water is an element in your composition, the glare/reflection from the surface would be pretty high, thereby preventing the camera to see underneath the water. A polarizing filter will help in reducing those reflections and revealing details.

In this shot, I angled the filter just enough where the scene would contain some reflections and details on the river bed. To the bottom left, you see the river bed and as the polarizing effect is reduced, you can see the reflected light. Of course when you are trying to capture the reflection itself, you would avoid this filter. But here, I wanted both of them and hence the change in angle of the filter. The smoothness on the water surface was obtained by the use of NDX400 filter. As mentioned in the previous post, this one cuts the light and helps to get longer exposures during the day.

While taking this shot on the bridge, there was another guy with a medium format camera standing next to me. It was interesting to see the way he was composing; he took some test shots with a point and shoot and then used the medium format camera to compose the scene. I think its a great idea to go about composition this way, especially if you are having trouble visualizing the scene in a 4×5 format. Of course not necessarily with another camera, but even a small cardboard with a cutout in the middle should help. It’ll be interesting to try it out next time I’m out :)

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite

Bridalviel Falls, Yosemite

Tech Info: Nikon D300s with Nikkor 50mm lens, f/8 at ISO 200 for 2s

This was the last shot taken during my recent visit to Yosemite. The view is from the parking lot. During my next visit, will take the short hike up to get a much closer view.

About this falls: Bridalveil is 188 metres (617 ft) tall and is the only waterfall that flows throughout the year in this park. All the other falls in the park peak during late spring when all the snow has melted away and taper down during the summer, coming close to non-existent. This is one though continues, but of course with varying speed. It is said to peak during late spring, but the view certainly didn’t seem like it wasn’t at its peak. I can only imagine how it would be during late spring when its in full flow.

About this shot: It was mid-day and the light was pretty harsh. Usually cloudy conditions give out a very diffused light, but sometimes the clouds open up and make way for the harsh light. This was one of those moments. In order to get motion for the water flow, I used a filter Hoya NDX400 which cuts down the light reaching the camera’s sensor by 9 stops. Since my filter thread size was for my wide angle lens (77mm), I had to hand-hold this for the smaller 50mm lens. Processing was the usual one too; some contrast adjustment using levels and then resized for the web use.

What are filters? In short they are like sun shades we use for our own eyes. They cut down the light, minimize polarization etc. There are quite a lot of filters available and each has its specific use. They come either in square/rectangular shape which needs some holder to place them in front of the lens, or circular shaped which directly screw-on to the lens. This particular filter (Hoya NDX400) is a dark circular shaped one. Its so dark that if you screw-it on the lens, you literally can’t see anything in the viewfinder. You have to compose the scene before and then screw this on.

How does this filter help here? In order to show any kind of motion in pictures, you would need a slow shutter speed. As the lighting conditions fade for the human eye, its very good to capture motion in waterfalls. My first experience was during the yellowstone trip and you can read about those 2 shots here and here. For those 2 shots, I didn’t have to use any filters to get the motion for water as the ambient light was good enough to give me a slow shutter speed. Here since it was pretty high during the day I had to put something which will cut down the light and hence this NDX400 filter usage. It cuts down by 9 stops and thats quite a lot in reduction thereby getting slow shutter speeds. I’m in love with this filter and I’m always looking for its usage :)

If you are buying filters, don’t go for the cheap ones. I do have some cheap ones and suffer from the loss of quality in the images. So it does help to get the best ones and they can cost a bit. But like most say “You get what you pay for” is very true in this case.

Update: Here is a shot of the same view without the Hoya NDX400 filter where the water of the falls doesn’t depict any motion, but rather frozen in time due to the fast shutter speed.

Stormy start to Yosemite

Storm headed towards Yosemite

Tech Info:D300s with Nikkor 50mm prime, f/16, 1/3 of a sec with a EV bias of -2. ISO 100

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Its been just over 3 years in the bay area and I can’t believe that I hadn’t been to Yosemite. Its another paradise (though Yellowstone is my all time fav). This place has so many opportunities for pictures, you can just spend an entire day sitting at one location and play with the changing light. No amount of adjectives can truly describe it and you have to make a visit to experience it first hand. If you ever visit bay area, time it in a way that you can spend some days to experience the winter magic at Yosemite. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I was supposed to carpool with 2 more folks starting from San Jose. Since I stay a good 20-30 miles away, I decided to take the Caltrain. I’ve always wanted to experience this train ride and I was thrilled at this opportunity. At the same time I was scared to death. The reasons are pretty weird (at least that’s what my wife says). For many folks it just a train ride taking me from northern part to the southern side. Its as simple it can be. But for me it isin’t. I’ve been known to make a mess of simple things. As it turns out, I finally did make a mess out of this one too.

My wife did all the checking of train timings and instructed me with everything I need to know to make this short train journey. Another friend of mine drove me to the station which is pretty close to my house. Looking at my state, she even wanted to stay there till I board the train. But I insisted on her leaving as I was pretty confident of making it myself…comeon..I’m old enough to figure may out.

I head to the booth to buy my tickets. You insert your credit card or cash into the machine and select some buttons and get your ticket. But I got stuck in the first step; the machine wasn’t recognizing my credit card. I kept trying and trying and finally it read the damm thing and gave me my ticket. Being little frustrated at the booth for behaving like that, I made my way to the platform and waited for the train to arrive. It was supposed to make the stop at 10:06 AM and they keep it pretty punctual. I see a train arriving and I’m all set to board it. As the train came near by, I realized that the train had 3821 as its number and the one I’m supposed to take should be 236. Just to make sure, I saw a guy with the Caltrain jacket get down and I asked him, politely, as to what was the train’s number. Again, not sure why he was so pissed with that question, he just pointed his index finger to the big board which said 3821 (to his fairness it probably was a dumb question to ask). I mustered some courage and asked another guy who immediately responded “I don’t know”. But seeing the disappointment on my face, he went to a nearby board and started checking something. About 40s later, he says “its 236″. On hearing that, I started to run towards the door, but wasn’t quick enough to make it and the doors got shut. Initial instinct was to whistle (yeah, I can whistle quite loud) to the driver to open the doors, then realized that those things hardly matter here. The only train in the morning going towards San Jose left the platform with me standing with my luggage on the platform and yeah, having bought the ticket for it too :(

All my friends tell me that I should have just got on it…irrespective of the train number. How am I supposed to know that the train number doesn’t matter here. Its like you want to take a train to Delhi and you are standing on the platform waiting for it eagerly and the train that comes by (at the same time) has got a board of Nagpur or some city in the same northern direction. Would you take it? Of course not. You would wait for the train with the right board to arrive and thats exactly what I was going to do. But now I learnt a thing about Caltrains; numbers don’t matter. So next time I’m going to board the train and then ask questions :)

Since I didn’t make it to the carpool, I had to drive all the way to Yosemite, alone in my car. It was fun in its own way, but I would prefer to avoid it anytime :)

The weekend’s weather was pretty bad…snow storms and rains throughout saturday. As per the prediction, it was supposed to start on Friday at 4pm. So my wife made sure I understood that if I’ve to avoid driving in wet conditions, I had to reach the place before 4pm. I started pretty late, but eventually made it to the destination at 3:30pm. I guess thats why my wife was pretty scared of me driving alone. All iz Well in the end.

About this shot: En route, you could literally see the storm clouds getting formed. I stopped at a pullout and decided to do an HDR of the scene as there was so much amount of drama unfolding in the sky. Used my umbrella to protect the camera gear and took some shots. The movement in the clouds was so fast that I couldn’t avoid it with having a gap of 1s between the shots. That’s the least amount my remote cord can function at. So I chucked the idea of HDR and used a single exposure to process. It isin’t that bad as it does give you an idea of how the weather was going to be. Bad weather sure does give you some interesting shots :)