McClure Pass in Fall

I have been so busy during the last couple of months, that I have not had a chance to work on any of the images from my recent trips. October is always a busy month for me, because I try to travel as much as I can in Colorado and Wyoming to capture the fall colors. This year was different than the previous several years, because we got some heavy snow in the mountains right when the leaves started changing colors. Because of this, many of the areas lost a lot of leaves very quickly. The window of opportunity to capture the beauty was only about 5-7 days and unfortunately, I was a little late (but more on that later).

Here is an image of fall colors right before we got hit with the heavy snow:

McClure Pass in Fall

The photograph was taken with the Nikon D7000 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, without any filters. Actually, I could not use a filter, because the image was shot as a panorama (24 vertical images). As I have explained in my “how to photograph panoramas” article, using filters while photographing panoramas is a bad idea. Although the lighting conditions were ideal with the sun directly behind me, I was actually surprised by how the D7000 captured the scene. Its dynamic range is indeed very impressive and it just makes very colorful and beautiful images.

Post-processing in Photoshop took me about 5 minutes after stitching the image. I first started out by cropping the stitched image, then brightened up the shadows a little and adjusted the levels. Sharpened it up by around 40% in Nik’s Sharpener Pro, then saved and closed the image. The image popped up in Lightroom, I then increased the clarity a little to bring out the clouds and the trees, then exported from Lightroom at 80% resolution, adding our watermark using the same technique described in my “how to watermark a photo in Lightroom” article.


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Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Sam

    Very nice picture, Nasim.

    However, I’m rather surprised 24 images for this panorama shot.

    • Sam, I wanted to have a huge image that is printable on a wall if I wanted to :) That’s why I shot 24 images at a longer focal length, to give me plenty of detail and resolution. I could have done this with a single shot or could have done it with 3 horizontal images. But the result would not be the same :)

  2. 2
    ) Callum

    Hi Naseem,

    How did you find the 24-70mm on the D7000? That’s one thing I’m always a little uncertain of his how the heavier pro lenses handle on the semi-pro models and whether it would be worth investing in FX lenses on a DX body or if it’s more straightforward to stick to the DX lenses. I’ve still not decided whether to go full frame as I intend to keep photography as a hobby.

    Thanks!

    • Callum, as I have pointed out in my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G Review, I would not use it on a DX sensor camera like Nikon D7000. 36mm field of view is just not wide enough for landscape photography. I felt it when I went to Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago. I had the 24-70mm mounted on the D7000 when doing landscape work and I had to shoot vertical panoramas, because the horizontal FoV was too long on the short end. Now if your plan is to move to FX soon, then definitely go for the 24-70mm. But if it is not happening any time soon, I would rather get something like the Nikon 16-85mm VR, which is lighter, cheaper and has very good optics for DX. And yes, the 24-70mm is a very heavy lens – you will certainly feel out of balance when using it on the D7000.

      • 17
        ) Sam

        Nasim, I’m actually going for the 17-55mm f/2.8 for my DX body but after hearing from your recommendation of 16-85mm, hmm…..

        • Sam, why waste money on such an expensive lens? The 16-85mm has a better price/performance ratio than the 17-55mm in my opinion. The 17-55mm is too expensive to be a DX lens. If it was an FX/DX lens, then I would recommend it to everyone.

          • 30
            ) Sam

            Yes, reckon that the lens is very expensive. However, 16-85mm is not a fast lens and in fact it has the same aperture openings (f/3.5-5.6) as the kit lens I’m having now except for the extra 30mm focal length. Is it really worth it?

            • 33
              ) Callum

              Good question Sam – I’d be interested to see what you think on this Nasim.

              I was looking at spec and price on the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 EX DC OS HSM – do you know anything about this lens Nasim?

              Thanks

            • Sam, the Nikon 16-85mm is a very good and sharp lens, even though it is a little slow. If you want to go a step higher and invest in a full-frame lens, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 is an excellent lens as well, but a little short on the long side.

            • Callum, unfortunately, I do not know much about the Sigma 17-50mm – I have not had a chance to test and play with it yet.

            • 39
              ) Sam

              Thank you for the valuable time to answer, Nasim.

      • 20
        ) Callum

        Thanks Nasim,

        I’ve got the 16-85 on my D5000 and really like it – I just thought I’d ask as I thought it was a little unusual that you had that 24-70mm on the D7000 you were using.

        • Callum, looks like you are taken care of then :) 16-85mm is an excellent lens and I recommend it to all DX users, along with the 16-35mm f/4 VR.

          • 29
            ) Callum

            Hi Nasim,

            That was also something I had considered – I seem to be taking most of my shots between 16-35 (but using my 16-85mm), some at 50mm and often then switching to my 70-300mm for anything longer, so was wondering if there would be any sense in switching to the 16-35mm f4 VR, a 50mm prime for portrait shots and keeping the 70-300mm for anything longer.

            I’m still trying to decide on the whole DX vs FX thing as well so am spending a lot of time thinking about cameras and potential lenses and their cost and weight vs how good I am and whether I need (or think I need) anything else!

            Thanks again for the site – I love all the information and advice you have made available.

            • Callum, in terms of sharpness, the Nikon 16-35mm is going to be superior, but not by a huge margin. The main difference here is the shorter coverage and DX-only vs FX/DX compatibility. If you have any plans to convert to FX, then you might be better off selling the 16-85mm and switching to 16-35mm. However, if you are going to stay with DX, then it would be a waste of your money, in my opinion.

            • 38
              ) Callum

              Thanks Nasim. That’s an interesting idea – I could go 16-35mm f4, 50mm f1.8 and keep my 70-300mm and that set up would work on either FX or DX… It would mean changing lens more often and probably a change in thought process for me as I’ve got used to the convenience of the 16-85mm.

  3. 3
    ) Peter

    You said the photo was made with 24 vertical images. Please explain some more. Vertical in what way? The way you held the camera or did you start shoot from top to bottom of the scene, i.e., a “vertarama”?

    24 seems like a heck of a lot of shots for a pano. What % was your overlap?

    Very interested in your reply.

    I shoot panos all the time for the local paper. They use them as a “banner” for the bottom of the front page.
    Shooting panos to be frames is prohibitive money-wise!

    Have you ever shot an HDR pano?

    • Peter, 2 rows, 12 images per row with my camera in vertical position. Started out from the left top, then moved down to the bottom row and fired the next 12 shots. All images were shot at around 40mm focal length, which on DX is roughly equivalent to 60mm. Overlap is around 40%. I know it is a lot, but when shooting hand-held panoramas, my technique is to remember the point on the scene where my center focus was, then when I move to the next shot, I make sure that the remembered point is slightly out of the frame. This way I do not miss anything and I know that the panorama will stitch without any gaps. Obviously, I have to watch out for parallax problems when shooting hand-held, but in this case parallax was not an issue even at 40mm, because I was standing on an overlook and the nearest tree was 20+ feet below me. If there is an object close by that might cause parallax issues or if the foreground is too detailed and close and I do not have a tripod + panoramic head with me, then I try to shoot fewer images in 1 row only, while resting the lens on my thumb and index fingers, which sit roughly where the entrance pupil of the lens is. I then rotate the camera from left to right, trying to rotate it on the same axis, which is tough to do, but manageable :) The toughest part is looking through the viewfinder while trying to do all this! A panoramic head is ideal for this, but setting it up and lugging it around with me all the time is time consuming and painful.

    • 8
      ) peter

      Nasim,Ii got my answer to paragraph 1 of my above email from your Callum response:

      “…and I had to shoot vertical panoramas, because the horizontal FoV was too long on the short end.”

      What about: “24 seems like a heck of a lot of shots for a pano. What % was your overlap?”

      • 10
        ) peter

        Nasim, i just got your full reponse . Ignore my 11.11 am email.

        Thanks.

        • No problem Peter! Looks like you are much faster than me :)

    • And yes, I have tried HDR panos, but the amount of post-processing work is too much for me to handle. Plus, I am kind of staying away from HDR to be honest…don’t think I can handle it anymore with all the cartoons loaded up on the Internet :)

      • 11
        ) peter

        I use HDR all the time (not for panos), but I process in Photomatix to look “natural” and avoid the cartoonish look which, I think, is a passing fad. For me, HDR handles the shadows and highlights like no single RAW exposure can and allow me to get shots shooting into the sun which are impossible without using HDR.

        I usually combine 5 RAW images in Photomatix to get my final photo.

        I would stop drinking wine before I would give up this process.

        • Peter, would love to see some examples of your work. I am planning to write an article on realistic HDR and using filters, but did not have a chance to start due to time constraints. Have too much equipment I need to finish up reviewing. I have 3 lenses that I am testing now, plus will be receiving Nikon’s 1 system with lenses, then the new Sony alpha DSLRs with lenses. And I have not even finished up the reviews of the lenses I already had this year. Ouch, tough year for me…

          • 16
            ) Ben

            I would love to see an HDR tutorial from you because I’ve tried HDR several times and I still haven’t found the right formula to get them looking as natural as I would like. Of course the goal with HDR should be to make shots that don’t look like HDR on the surface and I’d really like tips on how to accomplish that better.

            • 18
              ) Peter

              Once you start using HDR you’ll never stop.

              A good book to learn HDR is: The Complete Guide to Learning HDR Digital photography by Ferrell McCollough. Available at Amazon.com

              I use the latest version of Photomatix Pro 4.1 and use the “Smooth” setting most of the time. It gives a very “natural” look which can be adjusted if desired. I do further work in Photoshop or Nikon capture NX2, a most underrated software.

      • I do HDR panoramics all the time, although I tend to lean towards exposure fusing over tonemapping, or I use a program like Oloneo which gives much subtler results if used carefully. I agree with Peter, once you go HDR, you never want to shoot a scene without! I don’t always use all the exposures I take though, it’s just nice to have them to cover your butt later… :-)

        Nasim, I’ve taken many stitched “normal aspect ratio” photos, just for higher resolution for larger prints, or less noticeable noise at higher ISOs, or more compression in a scene that you can’t always achieve with a shorter focal length like a wide angle. Most people would never know until they try it figure out how it’s a 40+MP image without a medium or large format camera… LOL

  4. 6
    ) Ben

    Is Nik’s Sharpener Pro really that much better than sharpening in Lightroom? I’m always hesitant to invest in new software that is simply replacing something that can be done in Lightroom or Photoshop. I
    ve heard great things about the Noise Ninja software too for noise reduction, but again it’s something that Lightroom can do. Do you have recommendations on why and when it’s worth it to use other software for things that Lightroom can accomplish?

    • Ben, check out my “Noise Reduction Tutorial“, where I show differences between Lightroom’s built-in functionality for noise reduction and third-party software. The main difference is the ability to selectively apply sharpening or noise reduction on parts of the image, which you cannot do with Lightroom. I personally find Nik Software to work best for me, although Noise Ninja and other software packages achieve very similar results.

      • 15
        ) Ben

        Thanks Nasim! I might have to take a serious look into the Nik software.

        • 19
          ) Peter

          Ben, I second Nasim’s comment about Nik Software. Excellent software and an excellent company.
          I use Nik’s Color Efex Pro and Dfine (noise reduction) all the time.

          I believe Nik has a relationship with NIKon.

  5. 21
    ) Sivaram

    Nasim,

    Thanks for all wonderful information that you share. I constantly follow your posts. I have a request regarding a review/how to use article on Sekonic ( or any other ) meters in Landscape photography

    Thanks
    Sivaram

    • Sivaram, why would you want to use a light meter for landscape photography? The built-in light meters on modern DSLRs are good enough to get an optimal exposure and you can always use exposure compensation to change it. If you shoot film for landscapes, on the other hand, then yes, that’s where a light meter would be very useful. Most light meters are very simple to use when photographing landscapes. It can be a different story when flash and other complex light is involved…

      • 31
        ) Sivaram

        Nasim,

        Thanks for the reply. Yes i meant using light meters when its complex lighting situations like sunsets or sunrise, sorry for not being clear. About shooting film, yes that was one of the intent to as i am planning to shoot film as i like the slowness and waiting for the results than instant. Also, i did notice that you and lola both are wedding photographers and did not see any kind of light meter under your gear, do you think it not needed or its only useful for indoor portraits.

        Thanks again,
        Sivaram

  6. 22
    ) Peter

    Nasim, your pano inspired me to do my first HDR Pano of a local pond in the New England Fall season.
    The process is amazing. I can’t believe the results… I need a glass of wine…a Zinfandel will be just fine.

    • Hehe, glad you like the results Peter! Don’t forget to share your final image :)

      I think I should open up a separate section for people to upload and share their photos with others. A forum would be ideal, but might be too early for this site.

  7. 23
    ) Gary

    Hi Nasim,

    Do you actually own a D7000 or was this shoot part of your review work? I was just wondering if you think its up to the mark for pro use.

    Gary

    • Gary, no, I do not own a D7000 – I used it for a month while testing the 40mm f/2.8 macro (review coming up soon) and 3 fisheye lenses (also coming soon). I think it is a great camera and it can certainly be used for professional work.

  8. 37
    ) Rod

    A question for the Pro .when on a vacation for a one time oppourtunity and although it’s not raining it is grey and overcast.How do you get the most out of the pictures?

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