Backyard Splendor

Sometimes the clouds in our area really dance in the sky.

This was sunset yesterday. Often, the colors develop into oranges, but this was the best moment—the clouds just got darker after this.

I had only a moment to grab the shot, so this is handheld with the medium format camera, something I almost never do because it’s so hard to keep it level off of a tripod.

Technical info: this is a panorama of three shots. The lineup was a bit off, another consequence of taking the shots off a tripod, but they lined up reasonably well. I did los some of the detail in the trees, though.

Exposure info: ISO 100, 1/200th of a second, f/5.6.

I wanted a fairly short exposure to compensate for the hand-held shot, so I kicked the ISO up from my usual 50 to 100. Likewise, a wide aperture to let in more light. I focused blind (I adjusted the focus ring to just short of infinity, and hoped for the best). I know this setup pretty well, and felt reasonably sure it would work. It turned out to be a nearly perfect exposure for the sky, which allowed me to bring out all the subtlety in the scene.

Here’s my first handheld shot, before I got the idea to try a panorama. This is the same exposure but it is darker because at that moment the clouds near the setting sun were thicker. (The scene was evolving really rapidly!)

Notice that the proportions are different in this shot; the trees are not as tall. When I combined the individual shots into the panorama, the software compressed the vertical range because I had done a bad thing for panoramas: the camera was tilted up to get more sky. I had to expand the panorama to get the clouds right, and it made the trees elongate. I had to choose my poison, in other words, and I thought the sky was the best part of the image.