12.25.16: Icy creek


Fallen leaves around icy creek, Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

Jan. 6, 2008,
12:04 p.m.

40°4’24” N,
82°52'5" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L  (16mm)


1/80th second


When I came across this scene during a winter morning hike in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio, I knew I wanted to photograph it. 

The gray winter sky and icy creek were separated by a warm carpet of orange fallen leaves yet connected by the stand of straight trees. It caught my eye. 

Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t simply capture what my eyes saw and my brain envisioned.

It was one of those cases where the range of human vision — and how the brain interprets what is seen — didn’t correlate with a camera’s limitations: lens length, angle of view and crop factor (the camera’s sensor captures scenes with a 2x3 ratio). In other words, it’s a case of what you see isn’t what you get.

If I used my widest lens, a 10 millimeter to 22 millimeter zoom, I could capture much (but not all) of the width of the scene that I wanted, but I would also capture a vast amount of unusable sky and foreground elements. Yes, I could crop those elements and get a photo that would be close to what I had visualized, but I didn’t want close. 

So I tried a different tactic. I shot it as a panorama.

Shooting a panorama with a traditional camera (a camera not designed to capture single-frame panorama images) takes a bit of work. It requires taking multiple, aligned, overlapping photographs and using software to combine (or stitch) the separate photographs into a single, seamless image.

I was standing on a wooden bridge that crossed the creek so I put my camera on a tripod in the center of the bridge, popped on my 16mm-35mm zoom (I assumed that lens would provide the angle of view necessary to get the vertical coverage I wanted) and set up for a vertical shot. I pointed the camera at the middle of the scene and determined that the widest setting on the zoom (16mm) would provide the appropriate vertical coverage, set the aperture and focus to get the best depth of field for the shot, then panned the camera to the area I wanted in the far left side of the image. I took one shot, then panned the camera a bit to the right and took another shot. I repeated this six times until I had captured the area I wanted in the far right side of the image.

When I returned home I used Photoshop to stitch the six vertical photos into one horizontal panorama.

I liked what I saw. I had overcome the in-camera limitations to capture what my eyes had seen and my brain envisioned. Plus shooting the scene as a multi-photo panorama created a much higher resolution photo (28 megapixels) compared to what a single-frame cropped version would have provided (about 6 megapixels on the 10.4 megapixel camera I was using when I shot this in 2008). Higher resolution translates to larger potential prints. I could make a six-foot wide print from this file with no concerns. A two-foot wide print would be a stretch from the lower-resolution file.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.