Rainbow Moments

Panoramic View of the North Shore and Water Front at 7:30ish

Panoramic View of the North Shore and Water Front at 7:30ish

Timing is everything.  I could come up with hundreds of stories of how timing made the difference between what was and what wasn’t.  Of course, I suppose that is true for every moment in every day for everyone, so perhaps it’s not particularly remarkable.

But there are certain events that occur in a moment and then disappear–you either see them or you don’t–dependent on their timing and yours.  Rainbows are a great example of transitory events that occur infrequently enough that most of us are still amazed whenever we happen to witness one.

On this particular day, at 7:30 PM, I had just gotten back from taking a break to walk Tisen.  I’d decided to run down to a common room in our building with great views to try out the panoramic feature of my iPhone camera from the balcony.

My 24-70 mm lens just wasn't wide enough at 8:30ish

My 24-70 mm lens just wasn’t wide enough at 8:30ish

I guess I was inspired by the sky while I was walking Tisen, but I don’t remember.  The clouds were interesting enough to enhance the panoramic view, but it was too early for any interesting sunset color.  So, around 7:30PM, I was out on the balcony taking the panoramic shot above.

After shooting several panoramics and deciding I liked the one above, I returned to my office and went back to work.  About an hour later I got a text from my husband telling me to get down to the exact same spot I had been shooting from an hour earlier because there was a huge double rainbow.

Knowing rainbows cannot be counted on to hang out waiting for me to get my equipment together, I grabbed what I thought was my tripod bag, my DSLR with a 24-70mm lens on it. and my iPhone (of course) and left for the common room so quickly, I was half way down the hall before I realized I was barefoot.  Not having time to return for shoes, I kept going.

I manage to capture the rainbows with the panoramic feature on the iPhone, but the 2nd rainbow is faint

I manage to capture the rainbows with the panoramic feature on the iPhone, but the 2nd rainbow is faint

I got to the clubroom, and immediately realized the bag I’d grabbed was not my tripod bag.  Rather, it was a bag of lighting stands.  For those of you who are not into photography, lighting stands are not at all helpful when what you need is a tripod–at least not if you need it quickly.  Perhaps with enough time and ingenuity, a lighting stand could be rigged into a temporary tripod.  But a rainbow is not the time to try this.

So, handholding my DSLR, I took a few shots of the huge double-rainbow visible end-to-end in the sky and realized my second problem–24mm wasn’t wide enough.  I couldn’t fit the double rainbow into the frame.

While I got out my iPhone and started taking more panoramics, my husband kindly ran back to our place to grab my tripod and 16-35mm lens for me.  He returned in record time.  By the time I switched my lens, there was only one strip of rainbow still visible.  Maybe next time.

At 16mm, I might have gotten both rainbows, but it's hard to say for sure

At 16mm, I might have gotten both rainbows, but it’s hard to say for sure

The First Overlook

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

This is going to be a short post.  I’m writing at 11:15PM on Thursday night.  I just finished my “day” job 15 minutes ago (I guess that makes it a “day-and-night” job) and if I try to write my usual 500 words, I’m likely to end up writing this post in my sleep (yes, I’ve done that before–check this out).

Cloudland Canyon is one of those must-see places if you’re anywhere in the area.  They have nice facilities including campgrounds, a picnic area with restrooms, an interpretive center, a spectacular view, and lots of great trails, including backcountry trails.

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

That said, if you are having a low-energy day, there’s also the leisurely walk around the mostly flat path along the cliff top.  There are several nice overlooks that always make me feel like the $5 parking fee was well worth it even when the path around the cliff top is the only path I walk that visit.

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

All of the images in this post were shot from what I think of as the first overlook.  It’s only the first overlook if you start with this one.  🙂  I like to park at the far end of the cliff top path and walk uphill around the rim.  I don’t know why I like this, but it might be because even when the park is really crowded, there are usually still parking places in this end of the parking lot.

The other reason is because it’s a short walk from the car to the first overlook, so there’s a quick payoff.  One drawback is that the restrooms at that end are often closed, so stopping at the first set of newer facilities (in a concrete block building) may be imperative, depending on your situation.

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

A short walk down a dirt path followed by a steep descent down metal-mesh steps takes you to a panoramic view up one leg of the gorge.  I, of course, was standing there with my 5D Mark III and my husband’s T4i with a 70-200mm lens on it (don’t ask) hanging around my neck while I stood on the overlook creating panoramics with my iPhone.  I sometimes think I should get my husband to take a picture of this with his iPhone just so I can see how ridiculous it looks!

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps


Mocassin Bend from the Point at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

Mocassin Bend from the Point at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

Back home in Chattanooga after a week away at a work conference resulted in two things.  First, a lot of napping and second, a disappointingly dull Memorial Day weekend.

Feeling obligated to do something both celebratory and respectful of those who have served, we managed to muster enough energy to go up to the military park on Lookout Mountain, Point Park, and take Tisen on a walk around the point.

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ve undoubtedly seen photos from Point Park many times–it’s one of my favorite places to take visitors because of the spectacular views from the point.

And, in fact, I took enough photos for at least two more posts (sorry), but for today’s post, I thought I would share my iPhone panoramic experience.

Another go at Moccasin Bend - almost level

Another go at Moccasin Bend – almost level

First, I confess, I was not an early adopter of this capability.  I updated my iPad to iOS 6 (the update required) months ago when it first became available.  However, updating erased all the data on my iPad, which I restored from backup.  Since I wasn’t sure I had a backup of my iPhone, I waited to upgrade until I had a chance to do a full backup.  It took the moment when I was in the Grand Ole Opry wishing I could take a panoramic shot on Wednesday night before I had sufficient motivation to do the backup and upgrade process.

At long last, I made time for the upgrade (iOS 6 has been out so long, it’s moved on to 6.1 now) on Friday night.  Ironically, I immediately forgot I’d upgraded and now had the ability to do panoramic images.  In fact, it wasn’t until I got to the point in Point Park and saw a guy pull out his iPhone and start taking a panoramic shot that I remembered I too now had this amazing “new” technology!

Another way to get Panoramic--using Stitch to piece together multiple photos in software

Another way to get Panoramic–using Stitch to piece together multiple photos in software

Truthfully, the ability to produce panoramic images has been around for many years.  I believe the first Canon digital camera I ever bought back in the late 90’s came with software called “Stitch” that would allow you to put together multiple photos into a single panoramic view.  If it wasn’t with my first digital camera, it was certainly with my second in 2003.  I have silly looking panoramic shots where the photos create a rather embarrassing curved shape.  If they weren’t on a different computer, I would post one for you now.

A really old-fashioned way to get a panoramic image--crop to panoramic dimensions

A really old-fashioned way to get a panoramic image–crop to panoramic dimensions

By comparison, the iPhone panoramic feature is easy to use.  Rather than taking a bunch of photos individually and either using a tripod or hope to line them up horizontally so you can “stitch” them together in software later, the iPhone uses a video-like mode and guides you through capturing 240 degrees of image while it automatically puts the images together into one.  The result?  Well, you go home with a panoramic already done.  On the down side, the exposure is set from where you start, so choose your starting place carefully.

Starting the image capture in the shadows results in an overexposed bright area

Starting the image capture in the shadows results in an overexposed bright area

Double Sunset

Between working on a self-portrait, working my way through another online photography workshop, and taking a break from from both by shooting outside, I’ve managed to spend nearly all of my weekend on photography.  I pick up my camera and start to tuck it back into my bag when I look out the window.  The sun is doing something amazing.  It’s setting in the East.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a directionally challenged friend.  It went roughly like this:

I said, “Look at the sunset!”

She said, “Oh wow!  It’s really beautiful.  I always thought that was the East.”

I replied, “What?”

She repeated, “I always though that was the East.”

Confused, I said, “The sun always sets in the West, so that has to be the West.”

She replied, “Oh, I know the sun always sets in the West, but that’s the East.”

At this point I gave up.

However, I am not confused.  The sun, of course, is setting in the West, but the light is bouncing around in inexplicable ways that make it look like it is also setting in the East.  I cannot explain why the clouds reflect the sun so brilliantly in the Eastern sky tonight, but it’s beautiful.

Frozen with my camera still in my hands, mid-way to being put away, I look at the camera and immediately head to the balcony, grabbing my tripod on the way.  The obstacles from the balcony quickly frustrate me.  I return inside, tripod over my shoulder, and head on up to the roof.

The double sunset motivates me to try to shoot a set of photos that I can stitch together into a panoramic image.  I start in the East and work my way around to the real sunset.  I end up with 12 overlapping photos.  I consider reshooting on the vertical, but the light is starting to change and do other interesting things.

A small wisp of clouds forms just over the ridge in the distance, turning brilliant red.  I decide not to risk missing the last of the light by reshooting the panoramic and shoot the changing light instead.

When I return inside and try to figure out how to stitch the photos, I learn that my Canon software is so outdated it won’t run on any of my computers anymore.  I do some googling to figure out I can use Photoshop Elements to stitch a panoramic and go to work.

Something has gone awry in my 12-photo series and one photo seems to be out of place.  It’s as if I changed focal length in one shot.  I don’t remember doing that, but maybe I bumped the lens and magically bumped it back.  In any case, I don’t much like the panoramic with 12 pictures.  I create one of the East and one of the West instead and am much happier with the results.

I still want that full frame camera, though.