Yet another of my favorite sunrises from the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.
This is from Capitol Reef National Park, a place that I definitely want to get back there some day. I only spent one afternoon here and was completely blown away. The light was absolutely spectacular.
Actually the drive from Brice Canyon to Capitol Reef was just about as spectacular than either of these two National Parks combined, I’d like to spend a few weeks at, and in-between, these two destinations sometime very soon.
This one is also one of my very large stitched multi HDR images that are about 85 inches by 17 inches when printed at 360 PPI. Click on it for a larger peek.
This one belongs in my favorites short list simply because of the cool story behind these natural bricks. This was taken in the North Dakota Badlands, also known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park. These are naturally fired bricks created by natural coal vein fires that were, at one time or another, burning profusely firing the natural clay deposits, probably the result of lightning strikes. These bricks were extremely valuable, especially to the indigenous peoples of North America.
Here is one of my favorite views, it is from the porch of our family cabin on an early autumn morning with the Sun burning the fog off of the lake. Actually this shot was not at all planned, I simply woke up for my morning pee and was completely blown away. I wasted absolutely no time since the light was absolutely perfect. Yes, I set up my camera and tripod and blew off several exposures for this HDR image shivering while still in my tighty- whities. If you look close near the end of the peninsula you will see the sign declaring the boundary of Voyageurs National Park. (click on it for a larger image)
Here are a couple of panoramas of the new Vikings stadium being built taken with my iPhone. The first is pre shift and the second is post shift, a day later. The stadium is on schedule for a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime in July. Click on them for larger images.
As good as the iPhone is I’d like to get my real camera gear and take some real cool high resolution low noise panos.
Here is another one of my favorites:
It is a stitched multi image panorama of the Grand Tetons taken in the fall, click on the image for a larger image. The cloud layer in front of the range was pretty cool. I think that when printed full size at 360 PPI it is about 85 inched wide by about 17 inches tall.
Update, The book has now been published and is selling at #1 in Amazon’s Travel/Pictorial seller’s list. Unfortunately the image, as is now published, turned out to have been oversaturated, especially the reds. I should have insisted on the conversion of my colorspace used in my printer/paper to National Geographic’s printers colorspace. Oh well, live and learn. And… holy crap! It is pretty damn cool to see one of my images in print in such a well respected National Geographic publication. I think my dad, who taught me basic photography and darkroom practices, would be proud since he was a huge fan of National Geographic.
By the way the entire book is pretty darn cool and very well done, I definitely recommend buying it.
I’ve been honored by National Geographic by selecting one of my images to be published as a two page spread in their upcoming book Places of a Lifetime . It should be available in late October, but Amazon is now accepting preorders.
This year the fall colors along the St Croix River were, although still spectacular, somewhat subdued. Still there were a few backwater areas that were worth shooting. Here is one panorama:
The HWY 36 bridge construction still continues a year later, note that I now am using an architectural lens (Nikon 24mm f2.8 PCE) with tilt-shift capabilities and the images now show the bridge structures as actually parallel rather than pointing inwards. This is now my favorite lens.
360 degree panorama of the End of the Ash River Trail: (click on it for a larger image)
If you have been following me at all concerning my adventures into multi-rotor platforms for photography you may already know that I was pursuing a rock steady stable platform from which to take aerial photography shots from. Videography is definitely a back burner issue with me, my main interest is with still photography.
My initial disappointment was with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision in that the camera was rather poor quality, at least when measured against professional photographic equipment. The dynamic range was low, the lens was too wide an angle, the fisheye aspects were unacceptable, and worse the images from this camera were difficult at best to correct for image distortion.
I almost immediately sought out alternatives, the Go-Pro was also unacceptable to me since it also has a pronounced fisheye look to its images. Initially I adapted my Nikon J1 camera to the Phantom but found that it was simply too heavy to be safely flown with the Phantom. After exploring other avenues I found that I would have to spend over five grand to get a decent platform that could safely lift my Nikon J1, let alone my intended camera, my Nikon D800.
I was searching for a cost friendly alternative so I first built a quad using DJI’s E800 motor/ESC combination but found that these motors don’t come close to their advertised thrust in their “Tuned Propulsion System” it should, in all honesty, be called the Detuned Propulsion System. So I set out to build my hexacopter.
I was having troubles tuning the necessary vibration isolators to prevent the inevitable resolution robbing vibrations away from the camera. I was even looking to scrap my drone program entirely in favor of a balloon based system which has very little or no vibrations at all.
Then it dawned on me after a test flight. I have used tie cord as a safety backup in case the vibration isolators would become separated from the camera platform and after a previous hard landing all four indeed became detached. The next flight I forgot to reattach the isolators so the platform was hanging by the tie cord loops. The four tie cord loops were not all equal in length so the camera was flown at a ten degree, or so, tilt angle. After landing and giving my self a Homer Simpson DUH! I decided to download the flashcard and see what I got.
To my surprise the sharpest images that I have taken to this day from any aerial platform! That was the key! For the first time I was able to stitch a decent ten image panorama together! The problem with fisheye lenses is that they don’t stitch into decent quality images very well. Even though the camera was tilted and the copter wavered around due to both the normal GPS wondering and well as the ten to twenty MPH gusty breezes my stitching program, PtGui Pro, was able to easily stitch the ten images together. The other main problem with this particular panorama is that I did not take the images with enough overlap. While there are some areas of the image that certainly need improvement it is the IMAGE RESOLUTION that beats all previous images taken from any ariel platform, at least by myself!
Next to stabilize it even more I will be looking into a downward facing stabilization camera to supplement the GPS for position hold as well as an ultrasonic range finder to supplement the altitude hold function. Using vibration isolators between the camera platform and then suspending the gimbal from the airframe with tie cord is a perfect answer for total vibration isolation for still imagery, while this is obviously not a very good solution for videography – well I really don’t care that much about moving pictures anyway 😉
Update: I may have spoken too soon when suggesting that tie cord may not work for video, here is a video taken with the exact same setup as was used for my stitched pano:
You can clearly see the difficulties in taking a series of still images to stitch together for a pano, the copter is flailing around in the wind. Most of the jitteriness seen in the above video would be minimized when a two axis stabilizing gimbal is utilized. Note that the video from the Nikon J1 is not very good to begin with, compared to the D800, slow panning on a stationary tripod results in marked loss of resolution, not seen at all in this video. I am becoming convinced that a third axis gimbal motor may be necessary due to the unreliably unstable rotation control of the hexacopter is around the z-axis, especially when windy. Yup, retractable landing gear and a third axis gimbal motor may ultimately be necessary.