October 22, 2011 | Ed Foster Jr.
I must confess I have always enjoyed using wide-angle lenses. Not your average 21 mm either, but really wide lenses just short of the round image fish-eye style. I like the perspective and I like working close to subjects.
Sometimes though, even with a 12mm lens, a super wide-angle does not provide a sufficient angle of view and desired perspective. This was the case on a recent assignment to photograph a cenotaph (wall of remembrance) at Calvary Catholic Cemetery surrounded by the graves of departed priests. The goal was to visually render the scene in a way that would best reflect the Church’s belief that after our departure from this world, we move forward in a positive direction, hopefully.
I felt the warmth of the late afternoon sun would help to convey a promising atmosphere, but I was challenged with including the important elements in a way that would strengthen the message. Backing up and viewing the components through a 12mm lens the scene was flat. In addition, the combination of shade and sunlight would not render properly with a single exposure.
However, when I visualized the scene in left and right components, I could see the shape of the graves began to “smile.” A simple panoramic image was brewing in my mind’s eye and if I could combine multiple exposures I could retain the bright areas as well as the shadows.
I placed my tripod at the foot of the graves centered on the cenotaph and leveled my Nikon D300 digital camera and polarizing filter equipped 12mm lens. With the right side of the left portion of the image just past the right edge of the cenotaph, I exposed 5 frames. The first shot was at the metered exposure. Two more frames were over exposed, and two frames were under exposed by varying the speed of the shutter the equivalent of 2/3’s of one stop each. I repeated the process for the right portion of the photograph.
Back in the “digital darkroom” the five exposures of the right and left sides were each merged into a single image using HDR Express in order to retain the high dynamic range of the scene. Once complete, the left and right sides were “stitched” together using Adobe Photoshop’s Photomerge feature.
This simple panoramic, I hoped, would help increase the visual impact of the scene and reinforce the Catholic Church’s belief that death is not negative.