Photo essay: Panoramas

I don’t always consider myself to be a good photographer. I am self-taught, which is respectable, but as shutterbugs go, I am not the most patient. Additionally, I so often pack my tripod for a trip and then opt not to haul it around. As such, night photography is often in “P” (Program) mode rather than “M” (Manual) mode. I still pull off some good shots, but I don’t deny that they could have been better.

One category in which I excel – I think – is panoramic photography. It isn’t so much that I’m a natural; some places simply lend themselves to “wider-angle” photography. Natural wonders are obvious choices – the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Alps, I could go on and on. On rare occasions, cityscapes make for terrific panoramic images as well. The trick, of course, is a) to seek these vista points out, b) to step back and recognize a place’s potential, and c) to have a camera on your person.

Below are several of my favorite panoramic photos from my travels. My process is to snap snap snap an epic view from left to right, then “stitch” the individual images together in post. I use Windows Live Photo Gallery for this feature. It is a free program; don’t be surprised if a version of it is already installed on your computer.

Unless otherwise indicated, pics were taken using a Canon Powershot or a Nikon DSLR. You may have to click on them to see the full detail.

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One of My Favorite Places in the World: Sycamore Canyon

I love hiking, wildlife, and natural beauty. As such, I was saddened, ten days or so ago, to learn that one of my favorite places in the world, the western corridor of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, was essentially going up in smoke, as an early-season wildfire – most likely caused by a carelessly-discarded cigarette, the dry Santa Ana Winds, and above-average temperatures – swept through the mountains.

If you don’t know the area of which I speak, the Santa Monica Mountains extend roughly 60 miles from east to west. They bisect Los Angeles in two – the famous Hollywood Hills are actually the Santa Monica Mountains – but most of the range runs along the Pacific Coast, from Santa Monica to Point Mugu, west of Malibu. A 65-mile hiking, biking, and equestrian trail, appropriately-named the Backbone Trail, traverses the most rugged “spine” of the mountains, passing film sites and archaeological ruins en route. The Chumash Indians called these mountains home as far back as 7,000 years ago, and shared the land with mountain lions, bobcats, and red foxes, all of whom roam free.

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