Mono Lake Morning

We stopped at the “Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve” one morning while on the way further north. There’s a lot of tufa formations here that are smaller, and generally scattered out a lot. It almost looks like a field of tufa debris.

The image below is a panorama stitched from three separate, horizontal images at 70mm focal length. Why do this, instead of simply using a wider lens, and then cropping away some sky and foreground?

Ultra wide angles often demand dramatic compositions with an immediate foreground object. These compositions do have a tendency to distort the relationship between foreground and background a lot – the extremely close details are over-emphasized, while the background is dwarfed. This is quite desirable when the background doesn’t matter much – like seascapes, for example. And it works if the background has features that are large enough, and have a lot of visual weight – think of mountains, with their sheer size, strong jugged lines, plenty of texture in the rocks.

In a photo like the one below though, the background (especially the island in the lake) was important to me, but it doesn’t have that much visual weight in itself. So in this situation, I find the panorama more appealing. Using longer focal lengths has the advantage that lens distortion and vignetting are less of an issue as well. The tricky part here was focusing – at 70mm, I stopped down to f/16 and focused carefully to make sure that everything from the immediate foreground into the distance is sharp.

Since the panorama below is in the “classic” 16:7 aspect ratio I’m not using the scrolling panorama viewer here – if you’re viewing this on a larger monitor, you can still click on it to open a larger version:

Morning at the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve near Lee Vining, California, September 2016.
Morning at the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve near Lee Vining, California, September 2016.
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