Gusty Ouray

Ouray, flowers, and clouds

Here’s a photo I made this evening on a hike above Ouray, Colorado. I tried to use the gusty wind to my advantage by taking long exposures showing the movement of the wildflowers and clouds.

This photo deserves a bit of explanation on how I created it. It’s mainly a stitch of two vertical photos, taken one after the other using a tilt/shift 17mm lens – one with the lens shifted all the way up, and one shifted all the way down. When making panoramas with a tilt/shift lens, the camera does not move at all; only the lens is moving up and down. The beauty of this is that the two photos fit together seamlessly, requiring no stitching software or cropping. Anyhow, since the 17mm is already a really wide angle lens, this double-shot vertical panorama is showing a huge angle of view here, from the little flowers right up close to the lens, to the dark clouds almost overhead.

I also used a little photoshop trickery in the flower portion of the image. I had taken numerous 30-second exposures, and in each one (depending on the wind during the exposure) the flowers ranged from totally blurry, to somewhat sharp with a little bit of blur. The fairly sharp one still had too much blur to use on its own, while the totally blurry one was probably too abstract, just streaks of yellow lacking any context of flowers. So I stacked up three of those flower exposures in photoshop, and turned the upper two layers to “lighten” blend mode, meaning that only the parts of the layers that are brighter show up. The result is this composite of three flower exposures, showing a combination of some sharpness and some blurriness (ok, mostly blurriness). Of course our eyes don’t see like this naturally (at least when we’re sober), but the effect adds a bit of visual interest to the photo by showing the windblown chaos. What do you think… dig it or ditch it?

And, in an unrelated side note – last night it snowed a little bit on the high peaks around here! Yes, the air is getting cooler and Fall feels like it’s right around the corner!

18 thoughts on “Gusty Ouray

  1. I love this shot…I tried to duplicate something like this in Lake City over the summer. The only difference is your attempt was successful. Great explanation on your processing technique as well…I enjoyed that. Those T/S lenses sure seem to have some nice benefits over traditional lenses.

    1. Thanks Justin! Yes, I got used to using tilt/shift lenses from shooting the 4×5 camera, and so I was thrilled when Canon recently released the two new wideangle T/S lenses. In fact it was the main reason for me to move to the Canon system. Loving it.

  2. Dig it indeed!
    The blur adds an artistic look(:
    Interesting lens you have there, I’ve never heard of those before..

  3. I’m digging this one, Jack. The blurred flower thing doesn’t always do it for; sometimes I just want to clean my glasses. But here I think it’s having a properly impressionistic effect, and it complements the clouds very nicely. I’m digging the vertical pano format too.

    1. Thanks Jackson! I agree, the windy “blur” shots are tricky; most of my attempts never see the light of day. So I’m glad to hear some positive feedback on this one.

      Also, yes I think the vertical pano format is way under-utilized, by myself and others. From a print standpoint it makes so much more sense than horizontal panos – with so many more potential places in a house/office to hang a vertical pano compared to the awkward size/space needed for a horizontal one.

  4. Hi Jack, incredibly well created image. Isn’t it wonderful to have a vision and then having the skills and tools to enable us to create an image of our visions. Very well done, the image is created in the head, not in the tools – but still appreciate of course your tech description, I am bit of a tech geek as well 🙂

    The horizon is slightly undecided in the middle but it still works fine, the foreground is so strong and the sky so dramatic.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Flemming! Yes I wondered about the horizon in the middle (I could always crop the sky a bit) but I think I like the way that the centered horizon accentuates the juxtaposition of sky and flowers – it makes my eyes move up and down in the scene rather than having a more stable static landscape.

  5. I’ve been several weeks out of the web and just read all of your recent updates Jack. Glad you are having a wonderful summer- so many photos, details, trips.
    Blurred is beautiful, and it works very well here, I think during the last year I’ve managed to pull out no more than 2 passable shots with moving elements. Tricky indeed. Perhaps the key is to look for a good and still anchoring point just to contrast the moving elements; just like the rugged mountains you have over there.
    Vertical pannos hmm, interesting! There is a large format photographer in Flickr, Komkrit and he has quite a few beautiful vertical panos in his gallery, mainly 6×17 format- some scenes (forests for example) just cry for a vertical pano.
    Thanks for all the updates, great reading and photos,

  6. I LOVE this shot and I LOVE your new webpage. Very artistic and Navajo-like, you know, the Beautyway. Stunning work, Jack.

  7. Hello Jack!
    I had to stop and put a vote in for digging this one! This is beyond stunning! Just the right amount of contrast to a great composition. You really communicated the feeling of the weather well! I was just looking at pics of Ouray, because it’s been a couple years since I’ve been, and I’m interested in moving. That’s how I ran across your page. You’re inspiring me to really think about it more seriously. This is gorgeous, as are the rest of your photos! Really inspired and beautiful!

    DEFINITELY dig it!


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