March 2013 - Size Matters

Category: News 13 March 2013

Size Matters

The Colorado River from Dead Horse Point, Utah, USA.
Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70mm @ 24mm, 1/6 sec @ f11, polariser.

It is a fact that the landscapes of south western USA are BIG; to European eyes immense is more the word. To stand at Dead Horse Point gazing down on the Colorado Valley stretching away as far as the eyes can see is a truly, to a coin a much overused term, awesome experience. The sheer scale of the view presents us landscape photographers with a problem; how to express that epic size in a puny picture? Twisted and gnarled juniper trees bathed in gorgeous early morning winter light on the rim of the snow etched precipice are irresistible to us twisted and gnarled photographers as foreground interest, but an image shot with too wide an angle robs distant features of all impact. This business of perspective is a tricky one to handle; clearly size matters.

A different approach is the panorama; the wide letterbox picture shape I’ve been wedded to for decades. In many ways it is the perfect format for landscapes; the dynamics of the frame mimic well the way we look at a view. But the trouble is to really appreciate the impact of a panoramic image it needs to be seen large, and the larger the better; displaying panoramic images big enough is a problem. It’s a format unsuited to most of the mediums we commonly use to view images. On screen sweeping panoramas look distinctly unimpressive, on the printed page of a conventionally shaped magazine or book they’re just too small with acres of space above and below, and web pages render panoramas as underwhelming strips of distant confusion. Really there’s only one way to appreciate a panorama; as a big, wide print.

Balanced Rock and the Windows Section with the La Sal Mountains beyond, Arches National Park, Utah, USA.
A panorama made from 12 vertical frames.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 105mm, 1/25sec @ f11, polariser.

I made this panorama of Arches National Park in the snow last month using my 5D mkIII by rotating on the tripod as I exposed 12 overlapping vertical frames to be stitched together subsequently to weld a computer busting 2+GB image. Viewed on the screen at 100% the clarity is amazing, yet even on my 30” monitor in the office the impact of the panorama is lost. Reproduced here in this newsletter it’s an unimpressive boot lace shaped picture. It’s frustrating that I rarely get the opportunity to view my panoramas at anything like the size they deserve to be.

Until recently the largest I’d ever seen one of my panoramas printed was 5 metres wide. When we staged our Waiting for the Light Exhibition at London’s Oxo Gallery in 2008 a Lakeland scene printed that size stretched across one entire wall; it did make a statement. Thena few weeks ago at Focus on Imaging the gang on the Canon stand used one of their Image PROGRAF iPF8400 large format printers to output the image at a mighty 6.5 metres wide. It took 90 minutes to print; afterwards all pedestrian flow around the NEC was blocked as we stretched the big print out along an aisle to view. It certainly turned heads. Wendy and I have now to decide what to do with it; our loo wall is just not quite wide enough.

The 6.5 metre wide print inconveniencing passers-by at Focus. Photo: Paul Sanders

The Big Print was unrolled again on the hotel floor during our recent Jurassic Coast Photography Workshop as a ploy to display to our guests from Norway, Germany, Holland and the UK the quality available to us from our full frame DSLRs. That course flew by as they all do; we got muddy and stood in the mist overlooking Corfe Castle and Durdle Door exposing quality pixels as fleeting decisive moments unfolded in front of our lenses. It was great fun, and the banter was lively. We’ll be doing it all again in November (insert link) but this time as a 3 day Jurassic Coast Digital Workflow Special Workshop: from Capture to Print.

Corfe Castle at dawn. 
An image from our recent Jurassic Coast workshop.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 90mm, 30 secs @ f5.6

If you’d like a fix of pure photographic joy from dawn to dusk in an intoxicatingly verdant mountain landscape you don’t have to wait until then. Next up are our annual Umbrian Workshops for which we still have few places available.  It will be a pilgrimage tinged with sadness this year; after 6 years it’s time for a change and it will be our last workshops there for now. We’ve had so many great times with all our workshop guests in the Green Heart of Italy.


Poppies in the Valnerina near Campi, Monti Sibillini National Park, Umbria, Italy.
Canon 1Ds mkIII, 24mm TS-E lens, 1/8 sec @ f16

This month in our Chasing the Light eZine we have more practical and inspirational fodder for our f11 Members. Recent feedback from you has indicated you’d like to see more video tutorials, so that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Here’s eZine Editor, Freya Dangerfileld:

Excitingly, this month we have the launch of our new series Seeing the Light, which should make essential reading for all photographers. David kick-starts his exploration of light by contemplating exactly what it is, as he stands surveying the stunning night sky in Utah, USA. He also provides his regular essential Compositional Tutorial; this time considering the tool that is unique to photographers – selective focus – and the creative opportunities it provides.

For Behind the Lens, we join David for the second leg of his amazing trip to Myanmar (Burma) as he travels on to Mandalay, exploring the various photo opportunities on the way.

An image from Behind the Lens: a woman weaving, Phaw Khone, Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma).
Canon 1Dx, 24-70mm lens @ 70mm, 1/125 sec @ f2.8, ISO 800.

And for Stepping Back, David relives his trip to Tasmania – the sights, the weather, and his travels with two maple leaf chairs (apparently, it’s a family thing…). We’ve got another of our popular Video Tutorials and the Member’s Gallery, with constructive comments from David on a member’s work. Also this month we have Sutherland Highlander; David's latest video blog from the far north west of Scotland.


From other contributors we have an in-depth review of compact camera systems in our Field Trial, penned by the photo triumvirate of David, Jonathan Gooding and Jonty Wilde. And for this month’s Guest Feature we dive into the world of shooting portraits of celebrities, joining renowned Telegraph photographer Clara Molden as she explains how she got started, the pleasures and pitfalls of her chosen area of photography, and her equipment choice. Freya.

Right now I’m on the far side of the world having just completed a challenging commissioned shoot in a wild and wonderful landscape. For now I can tell you no more, but in a few months you will of course hear all about it; right here and in more detail in the eZine. It’s the spring equinox; a date etched into all photographer’s psyche and a good time to be heading back from the southern hemisphere. I hope I’m returning to the European spring, although Wendy reports more snow has fallen. You can read her latest Wendy’s Wanderings from Burma “Where the Gong Bongs” here (insert link ). As for me I’ve a book to finish; video tutorials to record, images to edit and the new Road Show to construct. Oh, and a big print to hang, but we may need to plan an extension first to accommodate it.

Preci at dawn, the Valnerina, Umbria, Italy.
We’ll be heading here soon enough for May’s Umbrian Workshops .
Canon 1Ds mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 110mm, 4 secs @ f8.

Keep exposing


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