Knole Park – Big Park, Little World

For my birthday, I treated myself to a day off work and a little phototrip to Knole Park. It’s a huge estate dating back centuries that’s since become part of the National Trust system. It’s famous for it’s massive collection of basically tame deer, but I wanted to take advantage of it’s rolling hills and ancient hardwood trees for my second attempt at doing a Little Worlds photo.

I learned a couple of new tricks to this technique. Firstly, don’t try to setup your tripod on a hill unless your tripod has a level. It may seem like a great way to take advantage of the forced perspective distortion, but what really happens is that as you rotate the camera around the horizon gets all wonky and the photos don’t line up properly. I was trying to use the level on my ballhead, but that didn’t work. The axis the ballhead is attached to needs to be level.

The second thing I learned is to put the camera up as high as your tripod can go. I shot this series with the camera about 500mm above the ground, and while it did force the trees to take up more vertical room in the final composite, it also meant that too much of the composite is closeups of the grass, which after the distortion become green and brown streaks in the center of the photo. The best way to get vertical height in the final composite is to shoot in the center of an open space with tall subjects equal distances all the way around.

Which is exactly what I found. There’s an old road or riverbed or something that runs through the center of the grounds, and on either side of this flattened area are steep hills with some seriously huge hardwood trees. I put my tripod as close to center between two of the largest trees as I could manage and setup shooting. Again, I was using my 5d2 in portrait orientation with my Sigma 35mm. 20° is the perfect interval to rotate the camera between shots and also easy to measure on my ballhead. The series of 56 photos that goes into each composite takes between ten and fifteen minutes to shoot, including setting up the tripod and the remote and doing color targets.

Compositing the 56 photos just about crushed my pc, and my pc is state-of-the-art. I’m going to invest in a pair of SSD disks as soon as I get paid again. One for the paging file and a second SSD for the Photoshop scratch disk. Any operation that stays inside of 32GB RAM is licketysplit; but as soon as I start working with 7000MB of files for these composites Photoshop grinds to a hault against my HDD’s max I/O speed. I’d see a huge performance gain with even a standard SATA platter drive, but everything on this PC is top of the line and I don’t see any reason to start skimping now.

I’m much happier with this result than I am with my first try. I think I’m narrowing down the limiting factors to getting the look I want.

Distorted panorama of Knole Park

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