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Behind The Image: The Quiraing

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

In between ticking off the Cuillin Ridge on a recent trip to Skye for Grizzly Munro Diaries, with the weather forecast pretty miserable for the south of the island, Sean and I headed north to the spectacular scenery of the Trotternish Ridge in search of capturing this extraordinary landscape.

With a short ride along the tourist walking routes we headed deep in to the heart of the Quiraing.

The possibility for something epic was around every corner, but this location has been shot to death so we searched high and low for different angles.

With a good set of pixels recorded on the memory cards, we headed back to the vehicles.

Back at the car park we both reflected on how difficult it was to capture the grandeur of the place with a mountain biking context.

A view opened up before us, the entire Quiraing was in sight. Sean spotted a small piece of singletrack that could be ride-able and could make for a good shot, so pushed his Deviate Guide in to place.

With a wide angle lens on, the rider was lost amongst the landscape, so using the 70-200 we went for a panorama.

With the lens set at 122mm, this compressed the background, pulling the cliffs towards us and dwarfing the rider beneath them, exactly what we were looking for

In portrait or vertical orientation, I pre-focused on the spot where Sean's body position looked the best as he hit a small rocky outcrop.

Using back button focus really helps with this technique, holding down the back button to focus, then releasing your thumb locks your focus in place, allowing you to recompose and uncoupling the shutter button from focusing when capturing the shot. Closing down the aperture helps with keeping the subject in focus either side of the feature, around f7.1 - f11 is good depending on the light and your required depth of field.

Taking control of the exposure manually is essential, in any automatic mode, ie, aperture priority, auto ISO, the camera will expose for the different light conditions in each frame. For instance, in the Quiraing image, the right hand frame has more sky, therefor more highlight information, which will cause the camera to compensate for this, compared to the contrast of the left hand side of the image, which is darker. It's about scanning the scene with the camera and using your cameras meter or histogram, finding an exposure that works and is balanced without blowing out any of them highlights and locking it in in manual mode, keeping a consistent exposure throughout.

It's then a case of waiting for the rider to hit the spot and timing the shot, keeping still and bursting off a couple of shots either side helps to get the desired rider position.

Once the rider is out of frame, it's time to build up the image. If using a tripod, make sure it's level, if not tuck, in your elbows, swivel from the hips and try to keep the camera level. It's best to overlap the images by at least 1/3 of the frame ensuring you capture the full scene.

Once captured, it's time to blend the images together back at the computer.

Depending on the size of your camera files and the speed of your PC, it's possible to blend the files together in Lightroom, giving you a huge RAW file to play with.

If you find your machine struggles with blending the RAW files together, you can edit each file separately, make sure to correct the lens of distortion and vignette, by clicking the Enable Profile Corrections under the Lens Corrections in the Develop Module.

Then make sure you sync the same edit throughout the sequence of images, checking each one for blown highlights and dark shadows. One image may have more sky and one more foreground, it's about finding the balance between them all and editing the image to suit. Export the files as JPEG's to whatever size your computer is comfortable with. 2000px along the longest edge is more than enough for most applications.

Then import the JPEG's back in to Lightroom, select all the images, right click on any image, Photo Merge > Panorama, or Ctrl/Cmd+M for the shortcut. If your computer is capable, just repeat that process with the RAW files, and edit the huge DNG that it processes.

Once processed, you might have noticed that you weren't exactly straight when shooting, and the panorama has gaps, or dead space where there was no information captured.

Don't worry, these days Photoshop is amazingly good at filling in the gaps. Open the file in Photoshop, either by right clicking the image in Lightroom, Edit > Edit in Photoshop or exporting once again as a manageable JPEG and opening in Photoshop.

Once in Photoshop, use the Magic Wand tool to select the white pixels or dead space, head up to Edit > Fill, select Content Aware and click OK. If it doesn't look right to the eye, then select the dodgy parts with the lasso tool and use the content aware to fill in the area again.

I've found Photoshop to do a really good job in filling in the blanks and using panoramas to capture mountainous landscapes a really good way of showcasing just how small we actually are at times.

Below are a few more examples.

If you would like any more information, or would like to read more tutorial blogs, then please drop me a comment below, or hit me up on social media.

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