Baxter State Park and Millinocket Region - Aaron Priest Photography

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Sunset over Mt. Katahdin from River Pond

This is Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine at sunset as seen from the other side of River Pond along the Golden Road on February 24, 2018, 16:33 – 17:11. I snowshoed to the other side of the frozen pond to photograph a gigapixel panorama with the ice formations caused by protruding rocks breaking through the surface. It was a very challenging landscape to shoot as it was very windy and the scene required focus stacking to have a sharp image from the brush 55 feet in front of the camera to the mountain 7 miles away. Sometimes I had to reshoot a set when the wind would shake the tripod and lens. I settled on 200mm f/13 with 3 rows of 13 columns. Each row required a different number of images for each focus stack because the depth of field gets shallower at closer distances. The top row of the mountain and sky only required one focus distance at infinity. A total of 282 images captured the entire scene over the course of 37 minutes. During that time the light changed dramatically as the sun set, so I had to shoot the glow on the trees and mountain first, then the ice, and the sky last after sunset, and the top two rows had to be shot twice.

Post-processing and assembling all of that throughout the following week turned into a proverbial mountain of work! I used Helicon Focus to blend each focus stack for the bottom two rows into DNG files to preserve as much of the original raw files as possible. I had to blend each stack manually with masks though because the twigs moved so much in the wind. Each individual branch had to be blended by hand from the sharpest frame of each set and it couldn’t be batch processed. Next I ran the DNG files through LRTimelapse to ramp the exposure and white balance smoothly from the first image to the last, as the brightness and color had changed so dramatically over that time frame. I had used a manual exposure and white balance while shooting, but the exposure changed about 4 stops and the white balance shifted about 4400°K from beginning to end. I had over-exposed about 1.5 stops on the meter anticipating that when I started photographing the scene, so it was well within the dynamic range of the camera. After editing and exporting as 16-bit TIFFs from Lightroom, I took the top two rows that I had shot twice under different lighting conditions and blended the darker sky after sunset with the sunlight on the trees and mountain. This finally reduced the number of images down to 39 (3 rows of 13 columns) that I could align in PTGui and stitch with Photoshop into a single panorama.

The finished gigapan is ~1,310 megapixels and can be printed 21.83ft x 7.23ft without enlarging. Click here to zoom in and pan around:

Camera settings: 200mm, f/13, ISO 64, 1/13.

Stitching data: 3 rows of 13 columns plus focus stacking for a total of 282 images.

Equipment used: Nikon D850, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6, Promote Control, Nodal Ninja RD-8 II rotator, Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod w/ leveling base & pano/gimbal head—and hand warmers! Focus stacked with Helicon Focus, edited with LRTimelapse & Lightroom, aligned with PTGui Pro, and blended in Photoshop.

Golden RoadMaineMt. KatahdinRiver Pondfrozengigapangolden houricepanoramapondsnowsunsetwinter