A View of Everything in the Surrey Hills

In the last few weeks, I have once again been out and about in my local area. This time I visited the quite beautiful Newlands Corner in the Surrey Hills which has spectacular views across the south of England. Normally, quite a busy place with hikers, dog walkers, families etc. I headed off at the crack of dawn to grab the best light of the day and at just after 7 am, when the sun rises at this time of year, I had the whole place to myself.

Even though Newlands Corner has these stunning views, it can still be difficult to translate these beautiful, imposing panoramic views into images that can be viewed on screen or printed that have the same breath-taking wonder felt when standing there, soaking up the stunning vistas. One of the best ways to do this is to create panoramic images made up of multiple, individual shots.

Now, I could have just rocked up with my Fuji X-T10 camera and 10-24mm wide angle lens and captured the entire scene in one shot., packed up and headed for breakfast. On top of this, there would have been far less post-processing involved so all round a significant time saver. There is nothing wrong with using a wide angle for capturing landscapes, I use mine, all of the time, especially when capturing some close-up foreground interest in the frame but one thing wide angles do is make distant subjects very small which actually prevents them from adding anything to the picture's composition, almost ceasing to exist in the shot.

I wanted the 2 trees in the middle of the closest field to be present in the image and not thrown into insignificance somewhere in the background and the only way to do this was to use a longer focal length but then I would be zoomed in too close and not capture much of the rest of the scene. This is when creating a panoramic comes in.

Panorama is a combination of two Greek words, "pan" and "horama" which literally means "a view of everything".

With the camera affixed to the tripod and in portrait mode, I proceeded to pan the camera from right to left, taking 8 or 9 images each time, allowing around 30% overlap to make sure I would have no issues stitching them all together in Adobe Lightroom. It is probably worth noting here that you need a bit of grunt in your computer when stitching so many images as the resulting file sizes are huge and it would be a slow process on older hardware.

The first two images below were taken with the 18-55mm lens at 55mm and 52mm respectively. I wanted to capture some of the subtle, pastel-like colours in the sky created by the sun as it was just appearing on the horizon off to the left of the shot.

1/6th sec
f10

ISO200
55mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

Click on the image to enlarge

Another advantage of creating these panoramic stitcher photos is that the resulting image sizes are pretty huge. All of the examples in this post are between 49 and 55 megapixels and that's after some cropping in post-production. What that actually means, in reality, is that I can make 1 meter wide prints at 300dpi without any kind of enlarging techniques used. Hanging on the wall, a print at that size with that much detail is quite something.

1/8th sec
f22

ISO200
52mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

Click on the image to enlarge

For the last image below, I used the 55-200mm lens at a focal length of 100mm so I could emphasise the trees further in the composition. The sun was a little higher now and the warm light was casting a glow across the scene creating a nice atmosphere in the resulting image.

One more benefit of using a longer focal length that should not be overlooked which works well with a shot like this is the compression effect you can see as the different layers in the shot (in this case the hills) are pulled forward creating a real feeling of both depth and intimacy. You won't get this kind of look with a wide-angle lens.

1/25th sec
f8

ISO200
100mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

Click on the image to enlarge

Being a landscape photographer is in part about trying and adopting different techniques and using these to capture the shot you intended and visualised while out on location. Panoramic images are nothing new and I have used them for my shots of London as you can see here but it is still and will continue to be a valuable tool in the arsenal of any landscape photographer.