Panoramas from the Heart of the Mojave

A week ago, I was forced to go to Sacramento for a business trip — forced, as in “don’t fling me in dat brier-patch.” Seriously. Have to leave Houston to go to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada? There are many, many worse things in life. I’ll write more about the trip later. I’m still fussing with a .kmz file that shows my travels on a map. You know me: I’m obsessed with maps.

In the meantime, I wanted to show a few photos that I took in Trona, California. I tell people that I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Fulton County, Illinois. Trona is… maybe at the end of nowhere — the end of the world, right before you fall off into the abyss. In other words, it’s a pretty cool place.

It’s hard to describe the Mojave Desert in photos in the same way that it is hard to describe central Illinois in photos: the place is wide open, expansive. If you focus your camera on the so-interesting horizon, you often end up with a so-disappointing photo. It’s maddening. That squarish rectangle that your camera captures does not capture what it feels like to be in the wider landscape.

The way around this is to capture a panoramic view of the landscape. I have been taking panoramic photos since I got my first digital camera in 2004, but I have never tried in earnest to stitch them together. Finally, with this batch, I mustered the impetus to try it.

So, I picked up a copy of hugin 0.7.0 from SourceForge to create the panoramas.

It was fairly easy to use. There is a feature to create the panoramas automatically, but I set the control points — the points common to multiple photos that would be stitched together — manually. It looked better like that because I could do some quality control on each point, plus I did a more thorough job picking control points in the common areas.

Click each photo for a link to its page on Flickr. Welcome to the desert. Let me know what you think.

Trona Pinnacles:
Trona Pinnacles Panorama

Trona Pinnacles, from on top of a pinnacle:
360 Degree Panorama from Top of Trona Pinnacles

Panamint Valley, from CA-178:
Panamint Valley Panorama

If you’re impatient, you can see all of the photos from this trip on Flickr before I write about it: California, October 2008

Trona Pinnacles: blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/trona.html

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