Under cover of trees
Sometimes, a situation conspires to make things impossible for you. When this happens, a part of you starts to worry that the image you have in mind simply won't be feasible—but a challenge is also stimulating, and the most difficult images are often the most rewarding to achieve.
For example, this is the result I was initially getting when trying to photograph the exterior of a residence.
Using the TS-E 24mm II from as far as I could back up.
There wasn't enough room to back up to get a proper framing and trees surrounding the property meant that whatever position I chose, trunks and branches were going to block a good part of the view. Moving around, a small clearing revealed some important features of the structure.
From this angle, an opening in the branches gave me hope.
I generally try to use a longer lens to avoid very pronounced converging lines, but it isn't always possible when there's no way to make the photograph from farther away. In this case, to get the proper framing and avoid the trees, I had to move in closer and use a super wide-angle lens. The resulting converging lines became too exaggerated, so I alleviated the problem by moving to a slightly elevated point of view using a stepladder.
Using the TS-E 17mm elevated on a stepladder. We're getting somewhere!
At this point, I felt good about the framing, but there were still too many branches blocking the view of the structure—it's not a photograph of the deck, after all. The only solution left was to move in even further and position myself precisely in the small clearing in the branches.
That's it! At last, the branches weren't ruining the shot. The problem, of course, is that even with my super wide-angle lens, I couldn't fit the whole structure within the frame. Luckily, it was still possible to perform a flat stitch, joining together three "plates" at the extremes of the movements allowed by the lens.
Oh, did I mention that this shot would normally have been made just before sunrise for the sun to be behind me? Yeah, well, in this case it was not an option—I would have to "fix it in post", because the structure was backlit. Not only did I have to shoot multiple plates to get both the top and the bottom of the structure, I also had to shoot a bracket of exposures for each plate—from four seconds to two minutes each (using a remote timer)—to get detail in the shadows as well as the highlights.
Since shifting the lens introduces a parallax error, the camera was mounted on a rail: after each plate, I had to shift the lens in one direction and the camera in the opposite direction. Nothing else could move, otherwise the images wouldn't fit together and it'd be a nightmare. Of course, all this time I was battling with rapidly fading ambient light, so there was no time to lose.
Needless to say, my legs were tired when I finally stepped down from the ladder (and started breathing again).
Onto post-production, the first step was to join the pieces of the puzzle together.
All together now.
Off to a good start! But the challenge, especially in a backlit situation, is to harmonize the tones without having the image looking like an overly processed HDR—a tacky look I abhor.
Looking at the intermediary image above, it was clear that some serious problems called our attention. One was that the structure still felt too dark against the sky and needed to be "lit up". Then there was the obvious dissonance in colors and tones between the different wooden surfaces—the deck was too pale compared with the façades, and the far wall's orange was too saturated. Naturally, lots of miscellaneous details needed to be cleaned up as well.
We've come a long way.
Voilà, after several hours of work, a result that, while certainly a compromise imposed by the situation, nevertheless does justice to the beauty of the architecture.