Winter is once again upon us in the Mountains of Western North Carolina and since I am certainly unmotivated to get out and shoot (current wind chill is 7), it would appear it is time to write and tell you about my 2015 season.
This time last year I was sitting at Hospice watching my Father in his final days. He passed away on January 24, 2015 at the age of 67. Cancer had invaded his body and Pap was ready to stop hurting. In the time we had after discovering his cancer he told me that I should continue to follow my dreams and cherish life, don’t give up on it, do everything I can to make it happen. So, as I sit here almost one year later, I can proudly say that I am continuing my dream and will enter 2016 promoting and selling my photography as my primary source of income. Thank you, Pap for encouraging me, and supporting me. We only get one trip on this rock we should make the best of it!
Sales for 2015 were up over 2014 but I am definitely not going to bore you with sales numbers and percentages. I use the line often that “I am a numbers guy,” but I know that reading a blog about my sales data for 2015 would be a sure fire way for you to hit the back button and spend your time in other ways. Instead, I will start my 2016 writings telling about the biggest progression in my craft for the year.
Evolution of a Panorama
Over the past two years Summertime Dream has been my top selling photo, and it is not even close to being challenged. When I shot that scene in the summer of 2014, I took multiple photos with overlapping edges to build a panorama of the entire view. It took 21 photos to capture the entire scene. Then, I used my editing software to put them all together. If I had not shot that image, I could very likely be back in the traditional working world. It has had that much of an impact on my business, selling almost every time I set up my display.
This inspired me to shoot other scenes in the same manner. I began doing it at waterfalls, and other sunrise or sunset views and was capturing images that typically would require an extremely wide-angle lens. One of my close photography friends even told me that shooting that way seemed silly, that I just needed a 10mm lens, but for me it was unique and was providing images that I was not seeing elsewhere.
In July of 2014, I ventured to a popular view of downtown Asheville and shot a 27-photo panorama of the city at sunset.
I also built a 40 photo shot of Eastatoe Falls, capturing fine details that I typically was not able to see in my images.
I found that shooting this way was creating very large files, and basically turning an 18-megapixel image into a 300-megapixel masterpiece. The files would enlarge as big as a customer could want them and keep the clarity and fine detail of a medium format camera.
In the fall I went to Living Waters Ministry on Hwy 215 in the community of Balsam Grove, NC and shot the entire scene of two waterfalls and the red house. Usually a photographer can get Shoal Creek Falls next to the house and if you stand in the right spot you can get a side view of Shoal Creek and include Mill Shoals but I had never seen them in one image together with the house.
These two waterfalls are collectively known as Elysium Falls, Shoal Creek Falls is on the right and Mill Shoals, aka French Broad Falls is on the left. This took 75 photos to build. The file was so large when I was trying to build it that my computer audibly laughed at me. I had to break it up into two halves and then put the two sides together for my computer to even consider processing it. But the results are certainly worth it.
I was building a nice collection of panoramas but in the early market season of 2015 a customer brought me an additional tool to help with my craft. A tripod head specifically designed for how I was shooting. He wasn’t using it and thought if I would have use for it then it would be better than it sitting in his closet.
I returned to Living Waters in summer of 2015 to shoot Bird Rock aka Cathedral Falls about ½ mile down stream. This would be my first time using the new panoramic head.
I included the video to give you a sense of scale, and to see where I was shooting from.
This took 60 photos to complete, and is the only photo I have seen that incorporates the massive rock wall that makes this a special place. The vertical standing rock on the far left of the image is to your back when you are facing the waterfall. I have seen other images trying to include the rock but they cut off half of the waterfall due to the slope of the rock that I am standing on to shoot this.
On my way out, I stopped at Lower Rooster Tail falls and shot a 24-image panorama, I would have included more to the left, but it was getting dark and my exposures were already at 30 seconds each.
The new pan head certainly made a difference in the ease of shooting this style. I found that my images were also merging easier in post processing. I spent the rest of the season taking two tripods with me to most of my shoots, one for single shots and the other for the panoramas.
When autumn arrived I began capturing some simply breathtaking images that I had only dreamed of before now.
The venture into panoramas was the most significant change to my business in 2015, even though it began in 2014, it became part of every shoot this past season. They accounted for one-third of my total sales of 2015. It looks like I have found my niche, at least for now.
You can see all of my panoramas in the “panorama gallery.” I can enlarge these to pretty much any size, so if you have a space you need filled just ask.
Thank you to all of my fans and customers; because of you I am able to continue following my passion. I have said it many times, but I will say again; “I am loving my life, not just living it.”