Stitching in the New World

So, I was looking for a new way to SEE with my Hasselblad camera and I naturally went to Really Right Stuff.  RRS is located in San Luis Obispos and for the sports, landscape, safari and well just about anyone who is serious about their photography, this outfit is pure Made in America ingenuity. My quest was to start shooting in a wide screen panorama format and it was easy to find out the gear I needed to make my two shot pan using my 50mm lens and my H1 Hasselblad film back camera. I was already using a RRS BH-55 full size ball head on my RRS carbon fiber tripod and after one call into the very helpful tech support staff at RRS I had purchased a panning clamp with a lever-release and a nodal point sliding rail. This allowed me to place my lenses at the nodal point for making my camera pan from A shot to B shot. Here’s the rub with panoramas you have to understand and it is called the No Parallax Point or the Nodal point. This is the exact position of the camera lens over the axis of rotation that produces NO parallax. Best way to understand this is stick your thumb out and hold it in place. Close one eye and move your head back and forth. Notice how the background rotates? This is parallax. Wiki says: “Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two line.” We are trying to eliminate Parallax so that our stitching software can easily position our frames in our post process. There is a simple test to determine your lenses No Parallax Points or Nodal Points which the RSS site makes clear. Once your make those tests, use a label maker to stick those specs on your lenses. That way when you are in the field you are confident in your set up and concentrating on the framing and exposures.

Once I had the equipment I wanted to find the shot or shots in this case. I’m enthralled by the Flatirons here in Boulder, Colorado. I climbed the Third Flatiron when I just started climbing in 1968. It has a 50% slope and is about 1,000 feet long so it is always an adventure. If you look closely at the Third Flatiron you can see the vague outlines of the huge CU now painted a faded red to disguise it. This a remnant from 1949 when Dale Johnson and Robert Rowlands decided to paint a huge 50′ feet letter C in white on the upper east face. In the 1950’s a U was added. Today you can still see these letters through the “rock toned” paint.  Many climbers like to hike up the trial and rope solo the east face of the Third and it is always intriguing to be climbing over the huge graffiti letters. Btw/ the speed record parking lot to the summit via the east face and back to parking lot for such a soloist is 33:17. Yep, as in MINUTES…  I’ve climbed the east face solo many times, taking my sweet time, and it never fails to get my full and undivided attention. It is really a joy to climb without a rope slowing you down on easy ground like the east face but it’s not something for an inexperienced person to consider. Copy that?

I love Boulder’s many flatirons and the view from behind the Second Flatiron out to the east showing the West Face of the Third Flatiron really caught my attention. To get there you park at the Chautauqua parking lot and head up between the First and the Second Flatiron. There are 27 switchbacks getting up to the saddle. I knew where to put my tripod but I wanted a storm to be in the atmosphere and to have the sun peaking through breaking western skyline clouds in the late afternoon for my shot. I’d seen that glorious light and it took me eighteen trips up to the saddle to actually capture it. On one trip, the light was perfect and I made my first shot but by the time I panned over the light was gone. I had to laugh. At least I was able to feed the chipmonks in my little enclave. It was a fun, obsessive project!  My son helped me up one day just to see what I was doing hanging out above the Second Flatiron and sweet Joanie followed me up there one day to get the vibe as well. But in general it was a solitary quest.

On the 18th trip up I finally snapped off two shots as an afternoon storm was clearing just as I had visualized.  I sent my Velvia 50 chromes to my long-time landscape lab West Coast Images. Terrence Reimer, the master printer there interpreted the high resolution Tango Drum Scanner files and stitched my two shots together. This size frame is really satisfying to me because while it was shot in the unconventional horizontal format it delivers a cinematic wide screen aspect ratio that mimics the human eye. I have this shot laminated and framed by Ken Knudson and his Denver based frame shop A&A Art in my living room at 77″ across. This shot is for sale as are my other landscapes on this site. I’d love to print this photograph up to its full 95×50 inch resolution size so please spread the word about this unique image! It is a bit pricey but it reflects two months of vigilance and ninety hours of trail humping love!


Bob C


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