Watching The River Flow

Panorama 5b copy

I live in an area that many regard as very beautiful. OK, I fully accept that compared to many cities etc, it probably is. However, I reached a point may years ago where I just stopped enjoying it. I’d moved out from an upbringing as a suburban kid, and immediately had time and opportunity to explore some pretty deep countryside within, say, twenty miles of my new home. And explore I did, believe me. However, over time, as familiarity bred boredom, if never actually contempt, and I began to relish places that “did it” for me much more than home ground, I pretty much just stopped taking in the landscapes surrounding where I lived and worked.

I don’t think that’s particularly unusual. I think people go one of three ways: they either become besotted with their area, or indifferent to it. Some perhaps become antagonistic towards it, or antagonised by it, though in that case, I suspect they tend to move on. For me it was indifference. I’ve had ways to access mountains for more than forty years, though never plucked up the courage to up sticks and settle in them. Maybe there was always the element of bittersweet parting at the end of a weekend away, or the delight in returning to see familiar grandieu under a new season’s colours, and the piquancy and plotting of looking forward to a return. These things were lacking at home. Same view, different day, changes in colour, shadow, light one day at a time, all too slow to notice as they happened. Like trying to watch the hour hand of a clock as it moves. The mountains, on the other hand, always seem to me to change more quickly and dramatically.

However, more recently, I’ve changed. I am sure it is me, too, not the landscapes that surround me. Were that to have been the case, people would have commented, I’m sure! The change came by accident too. It was January 2012. I had some new equipment and some new techniques I wanted to try. They worked fine for some photos along a stretch of the River Medway not far from home. A month later, it snowed and I found myself walking in the same area, taking photos of the white stuff. Later that day, I found I had three or four pictures taken in the exact same places from both visits. Nothing pre-planned. It amused me to think that I might return to those spots once each month, and by shooting them again, see the advance and retreat of the seasons. And so it happened.

My driver was, I think, curiosity. I found I didn’t actually know how much, or how little, one of these views would change from month to month, or how sun and shadow at different angles would affect the view. I did at least try to make each visit at the same hour of the day. And I have to say, it was great. The spot I shot from initially was only 20 minutes walk from home, and I found myself looking forwards to my walk there each month. Inevitably, I never stopped at the one spot unless time was short. Twenty minutes further on were other views whose charm also grew on me. One (at the head of this blog) is my chosen “project” for 2013.

I said I had new equipment and techniques I wanted to try out. The equipment was a rather capable 45-200mm lens for my Lumix GF 1 compact. The techniques related to creating panoramic views. “Panoramas” are usually taken as meaning wide sweeps of view, typically larger than can fit into a standard camera frame. I’d been shooting this sort of thing for a good while, originally with a 135W back on my ETRSi Bronica (23 shots to a 36 exp roll of 35mm) and more recently with PTGui stitching software for digital frames, and Autostitch when working on my iPad. It was the software’s ability to construct a view from a tesselation of individual frames, like a mosaic rather than a horizontal sweep, that interested me. For example, if I could shoot each “tile” in the mosaic at 12.1 megapixels, would it not be possible to stitch a grid made up of several frames into a large and highly detailed image? Of course it would, though the questions of “how many represented several?” and “how large?” remained.

I’m still experimenting. There are about 60 individual frames in the photo at the start of this blog. My “record” with PTGui is around 120, and I’ve regularly composed panoramas of 50 or more frames on Autostitch before memory shortage causes a crash. The view above, as uploaded, left me as a 3500 x 1682 pixel file. That’s barely 6mp, but that was after it was downsized for uploading, of course. The original from which it comes is a file of 21,896 x 10,520 pixels, which is of a different order of magnitude altogether! That would sustain a huge wall canvas, for example, while retaining very fine levels of detail indeed. I’ve shot a few quite detailed mountain panoramas, but I’m very much looking forward to experimenting with this level in the mountains later this year.

Meanwhile, I shall be continuing to catch the local riverbank view, and a couple of others, regularly.


About tomsprints

I am a Masters athlete and freelance photographer living in Kent, in Great Britain. I'm a sprinter. As well as competing, my camera and I work regularly for the British Masters Athletics Federation and the European and World Masters Athletics organisations. For pleasure, I'm (principally) a landscape photographer. I have been blessed with the chance of spending quite a lot of time in the European Alps in the last 30 years. My web site is a vehicle for a my photographic work, and is at I run two blogs. One is about what it's like to be an older athlete ( ) and the other is basically about my photography ( ), although they often overlap.
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