Taking a clear photo from far away.
January 10, 2013 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I would like to make a poster of the cliffs at Lion's Head, ON; however, in order to get a shot of the entire cliff without too much distortion, I would ideally be located on the other side of Isthmus Bay, about 4 km away from the cliff. How can I do this?

I would obviously need a powerful telephoto lens and would need to stitch a whole series of photos together; however, I am mostly worried that at that distance, atmospheric distortions would prevent a clear photo showing details of the rock. Is this idea even possible, or should I try and find a better solution? I was wondering if maybe taking the photo early in the day would avoid haze.

Additionally, what sort of telephoto lens would I be looking for? Are there features that would improve the quality of a photo under these sorts of conditions?
posted by jamincan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd look into renting a boat and a DSLR/lens combo with good image stabilization rather than a super-telephoto, and look into good image-stitching software for post-processing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:51 AM on January 10, 2013

I don't have an answer but the link in the post resolves to google.ca for me in the US. Here's an alternate link to maps.google.com.
posted by dfriedman at 5:51 AM on January 10, 2013

Sure, that's possible. I'd probably pull a 300-400mm telephoto lens and a rock solid tripod for that shot, or series of shots if you want to make a panorama out of it. Get as high up as you can to reduce lake haze. Mornings are best, after a cool and clear night.

With a shot through that much air, atmospheric conditions will dictate quality much more than your lens up to a point. But in optimal conditions, yeah, you'll want the best lens you can rent.

Be sure you understand the sun's position and how it will relate to shadowing of the cliff. Scout your shooting location first, then use an app like Sun Calc to plan your time window.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:56 AM on January 10, 2013

A good clear day and a uv filter are your friends. You'll probably need to scout a bit. For stitching, you will want a lens that has as little distortion as possible, or at least a distortion profile that is easy to correct.
posted by Nothing at 5:59 AM on January 10, 2013

There's a focal length calculator on this page (scroll down a bit) that will tell you what focal length you need to fill the frame with an object of a certain size. Bear in mind that the object size is the largest dimension, which depending on how you want to frame the cliffs could be either their height or the horizontal distance you want to capture.

Morning is less hazy than late in the day, although from the looks of it your cliffs will be in shadow in the morning. A UV filter will help at any time of day - shorter wavelengths get scattered more by dust & moisture in the air. If you're making a black & white print, you can take this technique further by using only the red channel to make a monochrome image - use the Channel Mixer in Photoshop for this.
posted by echo target at 6:05 AM on January 10, 2013

Adding to what's been said up thread, I'd make sure I had a circular polarizer with me too. It'll make a huge difference to any haze and what the water ends up looking like in your shot.
posted by merocet at 6:45 AM on January 10, 2013

Could you not just wait for a calm day and borrow or rent a canoe? That seems like the simplest way to get a photo from close enough, and you wouldn't have to worry about haze or losing detail. Is this for a climbing topo?
posted by Flashman at 8:58 AM on January 10, 2013

Thanks for all the feedback; I definitely have a lot to go on now. The Sun Calc link is especially valuable.

I wanted to make a poster of the entire cliff with climbing topos for some of the more prominent landmark routes drawn on it. The issue with a boat is that the cliff is so long, if I am too close, there would be a lot of distortion towards the ends of the cliff. I also think it would be harder to create a seamless panorama due to boat movement.
posted by jamincan at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2013

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