Lake Moogerah Sunset Panorama

G’Day everyone. With the family all off to see Mamma Mia the musical, I ended up with a free afternoon. There was a meetup for the Scenic Rim Photo Walks group at Lake Moogerah, so all the gear was packed and off I set for the hours drive south to the dam.

It was a very hot and warm day, many people were taking advantage of the lake with jet skiers and water skiers zipping around. The clouds was starting to look very good as sunset approach, but the wind in the main part of the lake was still very strong, it didn’t look like I was going to get one of those perfect reflections.

I decided to head around to the southern part of the lake as it appeared the wind was a little less strong there. Driving down to the waters edge it looked like I was right, it wasn’t a mirror finish, but the ripples were nice and I figured that if there was colour for sunset, this could work.

I walked the shoreline trying to visualise for a panorama, not something I do often so its a little hard to get your head around. I ended up using my phone to take photos, and then crop them in phone to a rough 3:1 aspect ratio to help work out my composition. There were two stumps close to shore, I liked those and wanted them as my foreground interest. Two sets of taller trees on each side of the mountain could work as a nice framing element. After about 20 minutes of moving around I settled on my spot.

I had my tripod as low as it could go, I also had the camera mounted on a nodal point setup in portrait orientation. This basically allows the camera to rotate around the best part of the lens, so when you get back to stitching together the shots, you have very minimal loss of pixels, worked out great. The hardest part is to make sure your tripod is dead level.

I zoomed in to 34mm on my Olympus 12-40mm pro (equivalent to 68mm on a full frame camera). I wanted to bring all the elements of the scene closer to each other. When you are standing there, that mountain really looms over you and with a wide angle, that feeling would have been lost. I put the camera in full manual mode, ISO at my lowest which is 200, Aperture at F9 which gave me just enough depth of field being zoomed in (take a few test shots and check the sharpness on the back of the camera to get this right). I was also going to bracket my exposures as with such a high peak, using a filter would have darkened it down too much for my liking. My camera is the Olympus OMD, Em5 Mark II.

Now it was just a matter of sitting back and waiting. Sunset here in South East Queensland Australia can be a very funny thing, you will get waves of colours and just when you think it’s all over, another blast comes through. After witnessing at least 2 bursts of colour that didn’t light up the scene well, I thought this may end up a dud sunset, but I knew I something could happen so I just waited.

Suddenly the cloud to the right started getting a hint of red, and within 30 seconds it was glowing. I took my shots from right to left (starting where best colour was). 6 vertical shots overall to capture the width of the scene I wanted, 3 exposures for each shot at metered exposure, 2 stops under and 2 stops over. I ditched the underexposed photos as my metered captured the sky perfectly. Here are the final 12 exposures I would work with.

These are the initial exposures I will use to blend, stitch and then post process to create my Moogerah Sunset Panorama.

The colour finally finished so I made my way back to the day use area to meet back up with the group. I captured a great star trail shot which I’ll share up next week with the details on that one.

Post processing this image was going to be a lot of work and I actually had several goes at it. I finally decided to exposure blend the metered photo and the 2 stop over exposed photo from each shot, to bring back some of the detail in the darker parts of the middle ground. This involved taking both photos into Photoshop and using luminosity masks to blend. I finally ended up with these 6 photos ready for stitching to a panorama and then post processing.

These are the photos I will stitch together and then post process to create my Moogerah Sunset Panorama

Now the post processing begins. I created the panorama in Photoshop and then began my adjustments. I did some colour correction to get the colours to where I remembered them. I then used Nik filters to boost the contrast and colours. A final round of sharpening and I was very happy with the result. The final image ended up at 40inches wide at 300dpi, I’ll certainly be able to print this very big.

A stunning sunset over Lake Moogerah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia. This panorama shows the beautiful wide view of the dead trees in the water, with Mt Greville looming in the background. The sky is full of colour and the ripples of the water reflects this wonderfully.

I really enjoyed the process of capturing this panorama, and I’m starting to learn how to visualise the shot. I’m looking forward to repeating this process more this year, keep an eye out!

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