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Lupine Panorama

Lupine Panorama, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

Lupine Panorama, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

I first discovered this amazing field of lupine along the northern flank of the Sneffels Range in 2010. After shooting two sunsets and two sunrises there, I came up with one of my all-time favorite wildflower images, Lupine and the Sneffels Range. As I was reviewing all the images I shot in those four efforts, however, I suddenly realized I might have overlooked another potentially great shot. Was the flower field so extensive and dense that it would be possible to shoot an ultra-wide panorama stretching all the way from the rising sun to Peak 13,134 and still have flowers filling the entire bottom third of the frame? The panorama would span roughly 180 degrees left to right ‒ way too wide to be shot in a single frame. I'd have to set up the camera perfectly level in every plane and shoot a series of frames, rotating the camera between frames, with each frame overlapping the next, then stitch the pieces together.

To further complicate matters, the extreme range of brightness values across the scene, from the blindingly bright sky near the sun to the shadowed cirque below Mt. Wolcott, would make it impossible to hold full detail with a single exposure at each camera position. I'd actually have to shoot three frames at each camera position using different exposures, rotate the camera, shoot three more, and so on. Then I'd have to combine the three exposures at each camera position to hold detail everywhere in the frame and stitch together the merged images. This complicated procedure meant it was essential that the wind be dead calm so the flowers wouldn't move between exposures. I returned in the summer of 2011 and tried twice to shoot all the component images. Although the wind never really stopped, I shot anyway and hoped for the best. I was delighted to find when I got home that despite all the obstacles I was still able put together my favorite wildflower panorama.

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