December 29


Aerial Panorama of the Turnagain Arm, Alaska

By Dan

December 29, 2015

Turnagain PanoA

Last week I flew an aerial photography mission over the Turnagain Arm, southeast of Anchorage. We’d had a blanket of the usual morning ice fog, which lasted until after noon, so I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get up in the sky that day.

Making the fly/no-fly call at noon normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but with our early winter sunsets, which come around 3:45PM in late December, that doesn’t give me much wiggle room. Especially considering that winter flying involves preheating the plane with my MSR stove and aluminum stovepipe for about 45 minutes and dealing with snowy wing covers before even getting into the cockpit.

However, I’ve got my system pretty well dialed, so when the fog broke around 12:30PM, I quickly got my flight gear together and headed over to Merrill Field. After a smooth preflight, I was up in the air with my X-T1 around my neck, shooting my first photos out the open window alongside the Chugach foothills at around 2:45PM.


Although the skies had cleared up enough to fly, there was still a misty cloud ceiling hovering at around 5,000′, which limited my options for shooting at higher altitudes. My favorite sweet spot for shooting mountain aerials in this area is between 7,000-8,000 feet. Flying and photography both demand a certainly level of flexibility, so instead of heading directly over the Chugach, I headed south of Anchorage towards the Turnagain Arm, which was almost completely covered by another layer of low clouds that lay just above the water.

As I turned the corner at the southwest edge of the Chugach Mountains, and flew between these two cloud layers, I caught some amazing views down the Arm. The bottom layers of that 5,000 foot cloud ceiling were filtering the rays of the setting sun and taking on dramatic pink and purple hues that got richer by the minute.

I spent some some shooting some of the taller summits at the edge of the arm, like McHugh and Rainbow Peak, switching between the new Fuji XF35mm f/2, which has quickly become my new favorite aerial photography lens, and the XF90mm f/2, which lets me zoom in on the more distant scenes.


I was happy with some of the photos I was getting, but as I circled back around for another pass, I suddenly saw the potential for a very wide panorama scene of the entire north side of Turnagain Arm. Up to this point, I’d never tried shooting panos from the plane, but this seemed like as good an op as any to give it a try.

Switching back to the wider 35mm lens, I lined up and shot a series of 18 photos, which involved a bit of fancy rudder work in order to not get the wing strut in some of my frames.

My series encompassed a view of about 25 miles from side to side before the landscape disappeared into the fog. I continued to shoot until all of the colors from the sky faded, all the while, eager to get home and see how well my pano would stitch together.

Inside Photoshop CC, I opened up a series of 9 frames and hit the File> Autotmate > Photomerge command and crossed my fingers. This is what came out:


Sometimes you don’t know how everything will merge when shooting panos, but this one seemed to work quite well. After cropping, the image narrowed down to this image below. After cropping, I hit the File> Export> Zoomify… command and created a Zoomify Panorama. If you’ve never done this, it’s pretty fun- it creates a webpage with a scrollable panorama of your image, at whatever size you wish.

For this one, I exported at full size, then reduced the resolution to 72dpi, so that it would load faster on the screen. Go ahead and click here, or click on the image below to see the full size Zoomify version of this panorama. Once inside, you can scroll around and zoom in to see all the detail in the final image. I’ve created theses Zoomify images before, but never one this cool.

Turnagain PanoA

Thanks for reading. If you’ve got a cool panorama that you think would work as a Zoomify image, create one and post the link here in the comment section below so that I and other readers can check it out.


About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 25+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.

As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.

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