Monday, January 27, 2014

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Spot

Domkyrkan, the cathedral in Lund is a great photo subject during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The towers are illuminated and the windows glow from the lights inside. The only challenge is getting far enough back in order to be able to capture the entire facade. The front of Lund's Domkyrka is about 35 meters from the buildings and shops across the street and through the years I have seen thousands of tourists pressed up against the shops across the street trying in vain to get as much as possible into the shot.
For most p&s cameras it's impossible, they just can't go wide enough. When I first came to Lund in 1987 I had an analog camera, an Olympus OM2n and a 24mm Zuiko lens which allowed me to capture the front but not much else. The situation deteriorated when I went digital with the Canon 300D + 18-55mm lens, which was the full frame equivalent of 29mm

Lunds Cathedral at 18mm (29mm fullframe equivalent)

As you see the shot is nothing to excited about, it might work as a reminder of what I have seen, but it doesn't put the cathedral into any kind of context.

I've never been very interested in wide-angle lenses but every time you travel to a big city like Stockholm, New York or Lund, you realize they have a place in your lens collection. With a full-frame camera like the 5DII the Canon 24-105mm lens became my "walk-around" lens. It's much better than 29mm but still not quite at home in close quarters. Here is where the 17-40mm lens shines, allowing you to put things into a context:

Lunds Cathedral at 17mm
As you see in this shot the cars spoil the shot, and setting up for New Years eve fireworks I knew that this was going to be a problem when the fireworks went off behind the cathedral. It would be better to be on the same side of the street, but then the 17-40 isn't wide enough. So I decided to chance it and as you see from the result below the composition is pretty good, but the cars were indeed a problem; of the 15 shots I took, there were cars in most of them.

New Years Fireworks at 17mm
Still even 17mm doesn't tell the whole story, and while my favorite lens the Samyang 14mm is better, I wanted even more.

Lunds Cathedral with the Samyang 14mm f/2.8

So during the last days of my Christmas holidays I experimented with stitched panoramas of the cathedral, using the 14mm Samyang and taking 15 shots in portrait orientation to create a 360 degree view.

360 degree view of Lunds Cathedral
Of course now the distortion is a bit distracting, but it captures the big picture.
The nice thing about stitching images is that you can use almost any lens, a tripod makes it easier to line up the images properly and shoot in M mode to ensure that the exposure is identical in all images. I could have created the same result using a 50mm lens, but it would have taken 240 images instead of 15.
So next time you can't get far enough from your subject, try capturing the shot using multiple images, remember to use portrait orientation, otherwise your image will only be wider, not higher. Photoshop's "Photomerge function will put the pieces together for you automagically, blending the image perfectly.