Potomac River

Facing Down the Tower by Todd Henson

 

Facing Down the Tower, one of 3 towers at Battery Mount Vernon.

 

Last week we saw an interesting perspective on one of the three batteries of Battery Mount Vernon, at Fort Hunt Park, Virginia, just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Today we take a look at one of three towers, each of which faces a battery.

As we learned last time, a battery is a platform to support a heavy gun. Battery Mount Vernon was home to three batteries supporting guns that faced the Potomac River, just south of Washington, D.C. The batteries are on the second floor, which is the top level of the structure, though the guns have long since been removed.

This tower rose to the second floor and faced the battery. As you can see there is a somewhat narrow opening at the top that faces the battery. The right hand side of the tower is also open, providing the light that lets us see inside the tower. The back and left side of each tower are solid, with no openings.

I don’t know exactly what these towers were used for and couldn’t find any information about them on the various displays around Fort Hunt. But I assume they had something to do with the batteries as there were three towers, each facing a battery. I wonder if perhaps they were used to raise ammunition from the ground to the level of the battery and the gun? Or were they used for the opposite purpose, quickly moving spent casings from the battery level to the ground? If anyone knows their purpose please let me know in the comments below.


An Eye to the Battery by Todd Henson

An Eye to the Battery. Fort Hunt Park, Virginia.

Walking the ruins of an old fort I was captured by the sight of an unblinking eye staring up at me, watching as I walked the walls. So I leaned through the railing, put my eye to my camera, and began photographing the eye. The image above is the result.

This is a view of one of the batteries of Battery Mount Vernon, located at Fort Hunt Park, Virginia. My father and I visited the park one morning and walked amongst the ruins. It had rained recently, and the rain water became the white of the eye in the image. The battery is the circular concrete platform that is the iris of the eye.

Battery Mount Vernon, completed in early 1898, was home to 3 heavy guns designed to protect Washington, D.C. from naval attack. Each of the guns, which could be raised to reach over the wall and lowered below the wall to protect the gun, was located atop a battery. The gun on this battery would have been facing the bottom of the image, towards the Potomac River.

In 1933 Fort Hunt became part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a national park. Now we can visit these ruins, an eye to the past, pondering how different this area is today from what it once was.

An Eye to the Battery is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.


First Attempts at Photographing Action Sequence Panoramas by Todd Henson

A 4 scene action sequence panorama. This is the equivalent of an 11 megapixel image.

After watching and photographing world class kayakers paddling Great Falls on the Potomac River I wondered if I could assemble any of the images I’d created into a single action sequence image, showing the athlete at various positions all in the same photograph. I hadn’t exactly shot with this end goal in mind, so I wasn’t sure if it would work.

If I had planned for it I might have used a wider angle lens and locked the camera down on the tripod. I would have used a small enough aperture to capture the entire course in focus. Then I would have simply clicked the shutter every so often as the athlete maneuvered downriver. I could have merged these into a single image in Photoshop with minimal difficulty because each image would be of the same part of the scene and the only change from image to image would be the moving subject.

But I didn’t plan ahead this time. I didn’t use a wide angle lens. And I didn’t lock my camera down on the tripod. I used a long telephoto with a large aperture and panned with the kayak. This meant I wasn’t going to create the standard sort of action sequence, but instead an action sequence panorama, where the camera moves between images.

The images below were used to create the stitched action sequence panorama above:

George Lepp wrote a great article about this in 2011 at Outdoor Photographer magazine. It might have been nice if I’d read this article first, but that’s why I’m sharing it with you, in case you want to give this a try. Keep in mind this is an older article so the current version of Photoshop may include features that make this process easier that the method mentioned in the article.

As you can see in Lepp’s article the panoramas he creates show his subjects moving parallel to him. That means the depth of field stays consistent so he can use a large aperture and still easily merge the photos in Photoshop.

A 5 scene action sequence panorama. This is the equivalent of a 19 megapixel image.

Unfortunately, in my case the subject was moving towards me. This caused problems with depth of field when stitching the photos together. The shallow depth of field shifted towards me as I followed the kayaker. I think there are likely ways to make this work in Photoshop.

An 8 scene action sequence panorama. This is the equivalent of a 37 megapixel image.

Another issue I ran into due to my lack of planning was not knowing if I had enough of the course captured in the images to create a larger multi-frame panorama of the scene. And as it turned out, in at least one of these sequences I hadn’t captured enough. So I tried using Photoshop’s Content Aware features to manufacture the missing pieces. It did a reasonable job in some cases and a not-so-reasonable job in others. But I present them all here for you to see. It gives an idea of some of the capabilities and limitations of that tool. I do believe a more skilled user could make better use of these features, so I keep practicing and learning. I encourage you to do the same.

One feature, or side effect, of creating stitched panorama images, wether they be standard stitched panos or these action sequence panos, is a potential increase in the size of the image. Stitching many photos together can increase the total number of pixels in the image, even when overlapping images to assist the software during the stitching process. These were all shot with an 11 megapixel camera, and you can see in the descriptions the end results varied from 11 to 37 megapixels. More megapixels can be good if you want to create a large print, or it can be bad if you’re limited in hard drive space and computer processing power. But it’s important to realize doing this can result in some very large image files.

A 10 scene action sequence panorama. I didn’t capture enough of the scene to correctly create the final image.

Because I was missing parts of the scene I attempted to use Photoshop to “create” the missing parts. This shows both good and bad examples of Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill feature. This is equivalent to a 26 megapixel image.

Have you ever attempted action sequence panoramas? If not, give them a try, and let me know about your experiences.