This one was close. REALLY close.
Shortly after making the image of the orange pine surrounded by the green pine, I swung my camera back ninety degrees from where it was pointing before. I yelled to Shea asking for his 2x extender to put on my 70-200. Doubling the focal length now at 400mm, I tested the panorama that I was about to make. I rotated my camera back and forth making sure that the camera was properly level (Something I should have done in a future image - we’ll get there later). I focused the camera and began creating the panorama.
I knew quite well that this panorama was going to be massive. I took about twenty photographs with my camera oriented vertically with my L-bracket to ensure the most vertical resolution. After shooting each individual frame, I took my camera off the tripod and scrolled through them to make sure that everything looked right.
Fast-forward a couple weeks after the road trip. I waited on the panoramas a little bit since those take much more time to make. There was a very familiar problem with this image that I noticed once I merged the individual frames into the panorama.
They were soft.
I did it again! I didn’t double check my focus AGAIN!
f/11 at 400mm is more like f/8, but not technically? Physics is a mess, anyway. Regardless, I should have shot these at a smaller aperture, something like f/16 or f/22. Not only that, but I should have shot these at ISO400 or IOS640 to speed up the shutter time without adding too much noise.
Another classic case of hindsight is 20-20.
Originally, this image was in color, and was a muted blue-green color palette. Months later, I came back to this image to see if I could get over its softness. I couldn’t, so to compromise, I switched it to black and white. To my surprise, it really added to the image. The image suddenly became more dramatic and intriguing. However, I still couldn’t get past the softness of the image.
The lessons I learned from this are somewhat familiar, but there’s one new one.
I can’t reiterate it enough: check your focus check your focus check your focus.
When shooting at longer focal lengths, use a smaller aperture - but never use the smallest aperture/highest f-number — you will often get odd fringing, so stop one or two f-numbers lower to compensate.
Try black and white - sometimes it can save an image, or come very close to saving the image. That’s the only reason why this image was such a close call.
I still very much enjoyed shooting this panorama. It was the largest panorama that came out properly from the trip. It was nearly one hundred megapixels, and compressed to a JPEG, it still looks fine — but I can’t stop seeing that softness of the focus.