Grand Cayman Beach Photos – Mini-Panos? Huh?

Grand Cayman Island.

The Cayman Islands are on many cruise itineraries. Awhile back, I posted photos from an excursion tour of a labyrinth of caves on Grand Cayman Island. As usual, there is a bus ride to the site of the excursion. Invariably, I find the window by my seat dirty, or the bus is crowded and I don’t get a window seat. Often there isn’t much worth photographing, especially considering the likelihood of reflections through the window glass. I found a trick to get around the reflections. Place the camera lens flat against the window to take your shot. Of course, you can expect some blurry images as vibrations from the vehicle can create motion blur in your entire image. Another source for motion blur is that objects closer to the bus window will be moving relatively faster than objects in the background creating blur in foreground objects only. My antidote for the blurry motion is to select a very fast shutter speed. The opening image, captured as we traveled along a road paralleling the island’s beaches, was captured at 1/8000 sec.

That fast a shutter speed requires a relatively high ISO and larger lens opening. In this case, the meter picked ISO-400 Auto-ISO and F/7.1 for a lens opening. Truthfully, I don’t often share these images because they don’t often turn out for one reason or another. On this excursion, I was lucky to get a window seat on the ocean side of the bus, and the only issue was the morning sun being a bit of a problem.

I almost always bracket my shots taking three images either setting the camera to vary the shutter speed or f-stop depending upon the situation. In this case, I set the camera to shutter priority with 1/8000 sec. to stop motion blur as we traveled down the highway. The camera generates three images when I press the shutter, one with proper exposure, one, an f-stop darker, and one an f-stop brighter. I then use Lightroom to merge the image into an HDR image, the result of merging the images (and with a trip to Luminar for final tweaks,) is shown in the opening image.

When taking the three images from a moving vehicle, each image is a few feet further down the road. Seeing that in Lightroom, I decided instead of creating an HDR image, I thought I’d try a Panorama. I didn’t know what to expect as one of the images in the series is “too dark” and one is “too light.” Just like in the Three Bears story, one image is “just right.” Well, it turns out that Lightroom knows how to match the exposures as it creates a panoramic image. The first picture in the series has a bit of detail that doesn’t exist in the other two photos on the right, and the last image has some detail on the left that doesn’t exist in the other two. The faster the vehicle is moving, the more distance is traveled between each of the three shots.

The image above was the first of these “mini-pano” shots I tried. I was pleasantly surprised that the exposure matched on all three images and even though the tree was in all three images, the software put the tree dead center, blocking the strong sunlight behind it. That worked out pretty well and though it isn’t a “world-class” photo by any means, I was pleased with how it turned out.

Of the three samples where I tried the technique, this one was my least favorite. It had too much road visible, so I cropped the bottom which gave it a more panoramic feel than the other two. Now that I discovered there might be some interesting images in my library of shots from bus windows over the years, I may just have to look specifically for some more photos to process.

My last image demonstrates an aberration that could occur. Those two trees are really one tree. you can tell by the markings on the tree trunk itself. You can see that one view of the tree is “slightly rotated” from the other since each image was captured from a slightly different angle. I had trouble believing it was two copies of the same tree at first because the hedge in the background behind the trees appears to have inconsistent heights indicating that the trees are standing in front of two different size hedges. I can’t explain that anomaly, I just found it interesting.

All in all, this was a fun experiment. I certainly will keep the “mini-pano” in mind for when I again get to travel by bus and see something interesting to try to photograph. Kudos to Adobe for adjusting the exposures on the fly in their Panoramic Merge tool.

John Steiner


  1. Beautiful. Reminder that I am also lucky enough to have been there and recall a rare storm coming and my pictures were stunning! No talent. Use the magic of the Island.

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