The good fortune to have some beautiful light on several occasions during a recent short trip to the Outer Banks, has pushed me to get as much as I can from all the frames that were taken. Earlier attempts to merge a simple, two frame panorama of the surf from the first morning, ended in the failure of Photoshop’s merge function to create a single image. Not that it was unexpected since, even though each frame of the panorama had the same sky, there is no way for the surf to be anywhere near similar. So after processing all the single frames that were easier, it was time to tackle the panoramas that would probably require much more time and effort since it would be necessary to combine the two frames manually.
The main reason for creating the pano in the first place was the inability to squeeze the fabulous light along the horizon into a single frame at the long end of a 17-35mm lens. If it were shot at the 17mm end, all the light would be included, but would have been rendered as an unimposing thin strip on the horizon, losing most of its power.
Once the horizon line of the two frames were properly aligned in two separate layers and most of the overlap “erased” using a layer mask, they were combined. Not much work was needed to blend the sky seamlessly, but the surf required quite a bit using the clone tool to create a believable blend. The challenge was to approach the work as a painter rather than simply post processing. Taking parts from one place and painting it into another area of the expanded canvas, or stretching areas from one frame into the other, was made easier because of the slow shutter speed having blurred the surf somewhat, making the work not so critical. As long as I was satisfied with the blend at higher magnification, then it would probably be good at the smaller sizes at which the final version would be seen.
There was a bit of soul searching considering the fishing boat (bright light on the horizon) since it ended up being almost dead center when more of the scene was added. The options were to remove it all together, or to move it a little to the right. The second option was taken utilizing my recently acquired North Carolina Artistic License; making the tax-deductible $25 fee worth the expense!!
This second image used two different frames from those used creating the very first image at the beginning of the post, as well as the same method of blending them together. But the feeling of the second image is quite different since the texture within the surf is a bit softer, giving it a more subdued and quiet feeling than the turbulent surf of the first image. The importance of having many frames from which to choose, also means options for mood are available to you in creating your final image, in addition to the simple fact that two frames can be successfully blended together.
The final image below is a simple cropped version from a single frame with the fishing boat way off to the right, if you look closely, as it sailed away. I just kept tripping the shutter trying to capture the varying “looks” of the surf, changing positions now and then as the sunrise progressed. The light began to fade rapidly after this frame was taken, but the sky was amazing for the previous 29 minutes when I took the first frame of the day. During that time, 83 photos were recorded in hopes of maximizing the chance to capture at least a few that had some pleasing surf, interesting lines or shapes to compliment such a dramatic sky. It was one of the longest lasting sunrises I’ve ever witnessed, and was thankful for my good fortune that morning, and throughout the visit to OBX.