Made with a Better Light Scanning Back for Outstanding Detail and Clarity

I don’t get out to photograph very often, and when I do get the opportunity, I don’t take many pictures because of my choice of equipment. That’s OK with me - much of the reason I enjoy landscape photography is just being out in beautiful places. I also appreciate the discipline of using a large format camera, and the challenge of using a digital scanning back.

View cameras and scanning backs aren’t known for their speed or ease of use, but when everything cooperates, the results from these big digital cameras can be spectacular - huge, uninterpolated images with unsurpassed clarity, color, detail, and dynamic range. Such high-quality information allows these photographs to be examined quite closely without any visible degradation, providing a greater sense of “being there” than has ever been possible before. In fact, it is easy to see more in these photographs than by standing where the camera was with a pair of binoculars!

Landscape photography frequently involves enough light to allow operation at the scanning back’s more favorable exposure settings, providing a wide dynamic range with very low noise. Up to twelve f-stops of scene brightness can be recorded in a single 144 megapixel scan that takes as little as 35 seconds overall. Seamless panoramic photos up to and beyond one gigapixel are made using only the center of the lens, for optimum sharpness across an unlimited horizontal view. Full-color pixel data and precision signal processing deliver exceptionally smooth tones and subtle shading while preserving low-contrast fine detail. A scanning back is the simplest and most straightforward method of recording a high-quality photograph, converting a scene directly into separate and complete red, green, and blue image data without film grain or interpolation artifacts. Huge digital images are now being made by scanning very large format film or by stitching hundreds of tiled DSLR images together, but these enormous pictures still cannot deliver the combination of detail and clarity provided by a scanning back. 

Mike Collette "at work" – South of Yosemite, July 2005

Here, then, are some of the highest-quality photographic images that can presently be made by any means, from a handful of interesting places in my part of the world. Thanks to intelligent viewing software from, visitors can now study these images over the Internet at any magnification up to the full original resolution -- with a typical computer display, this would be equivalent to viewing a section of a huge 60 by 80 inch print for most images, and even bigger for the panoramic images. Notice how fine details remain crisp and clear even at full magnification, and how clean and smooth skies and clouds appear. See into the deepest shadows without losing detail in the brightest highlights. Experience accurate, natural colors that are neither exaggerated nor strained. I invite you to spend some time looking around in my pictures, and enjoy the closest thing to being there without leaving your chair!

>> A HIGH-SPEED INTERNET CONNECTION IS RECOMMENDED for the best viewing experience <<

Photographs are listed in reverse chronological order (oldest at bottom), with new ones added to the top of the list. These pictures have been modified after capture using Adobe Photoshop, typically to fine-tune overall brightness levels, darken and/or lighten selected areas, adjust color saturation, and sharpen the image.

Click on any photo for a closer look at the full-resolution image data.

Panamint Valley 360, Death Valley NP

January 2008 - This is about one-sixth of a 360 degree panorama of Panamint Valley from a point near Panamint Springs. The full 2.8 gigapixel image was captured in three overlapping sections that were subsequently joined together to create a huge 5.2 gigabyte file comprising 6,000 vertical by 157,000 horizontal 48-bit RGB pixels with zero interpolation.

Dante's View, Death Valley NP

January 2008 - The first rays of sunrise illuminate the Panamint Range west of Death Valley. Snow-capped Telescope Peak is 20 miles west of the camera and over two miles high, while the road near the bottom of this picture is 2.5 miles west and a mile below the camera.

The light colorations on the valley floor are salt deposits from an ancient lake that dried up after the climate changed.

Olmstead Point 360, Yosemite NP

June 2007 - This is only about a third of a full 360 degree, 975 megapixel panoramic image of Yosemite’s granite high country, photographed from a ridge above Olmstead Point at 8,500 ft. elevation.

Tenaya Lake Reflections, Yosemite NP

June 2007 - A light breeze blows gentle ripples across the surface of crystal-clear Tenaya Lake in Yosemite’s high country, causing a pattern of refracted light to dance across the shimmering lake bottom. The shifting water and light interact with the smoothly moving image sensor to create unique patterns that are only possible with a scanning camera.

Negative Tide, San Mateo Coast

March 2007 - A very low tide in the afternoon reveals oddly-shaped sedimentary rocks holding a variety of freshly-filled tide pools. Overcast skies provide wonderful light for the rocks, but also create a rather gray Pacific Ocean. The strange rocks, monochromatic water, and colorful aquatic plants promote the illusion of exploring another planet while looking around in this picture.

Wizard Island, Crater Lake NP

September 2006 - Late afternoon sunlight punctuated by briskly-moving clouds provides dramatic lighting on Wizard Island and the rim of Crater Lake. Wind zephyrs leave graceful inscriptions on the water’s surface.

The camera is at an elevation of around 7,000 feet for this picture, about 100 feet higher than the top of Wizard Island (1.7 miles away), but 1,000 feet below the top of Llao Rock on the opposite side (about 4 miles away). Crater Lake is 6,180 feet above sea level, and is one of the deepest freshwater lakes in the world.

Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier NP

September 2006 - 14,300 ft. tall Mount Rainier photographed shortly after sunrise, with the beginnings of a cap cloud forming over the peak. Fifteen minutes later the entire mountain was obscured by clouds. Nisqually Glacier is the large ice mass that extends the entire visible height of the volcano, slightly to the right of center.

The lowest visible part of Mount Rainier is about 3.5 miles from the camera, while its peak is over 6 miles away and another 7,000 feet higher.

Nisqually Glacier, Mount Rainier NP

September 2006 - Taken from the Nisqually Glacier overlook after a short hike, this is as much of Mount Rainier as I got to see that afternoon, with clouds constantly forming to hide the top 7,000 feet of the volcano.

The camera is at about 5,200 ft. elevation for this picture, and the scene across the glacial canyon starts at about 5,000 ft. and rises to about 7,000 ft. before disappearing in the clouds. There are a half-dozen small waterfalls visible on this slope, some dropping over 400 feet.

Colored Sandstone, Point Lobos SR

August 2005 - These sculpted sedimentary rocks exhibit a variety of colors, both from changes in the composition of the exposed layers, and from stuff growing on the surface.

Captured under the same overcast skies as the scene below, this low-contrast, almost colorless subject came alive by using a high contrast Tone curve with only four f-stops of range. This picture has more contrast than what I saw, but it’s exactly what I visualized when I set up the camera.

Rocks and Cypress, Point Lobos SR

August 2005 - The Pacific Ocean laps at the rugged coastline of Point Lobos State Reserve, while dozens of cormorants rest on the foreground rocks.

Even though an overcast sky softened the light, this scene still exhibited a very wide dynamic range, from the sparkling surf to the shadows beneath the trees. The eight f-stop brightness range was easily handled by the scanning back, which also did pretty well with the surging water.

Small Waterfall, South of Yosemite

July 2005 - A small stream cascades over granite boulders, uniquely rendered by the scanning back. Wonderful detail shows all sorts of tiny stuff growing on the rocks. Not your typical blurry blue water, though…

View Across Tenaya Lake, Yosemite NP

July 2005 - One of my favorite views of “big granite” in the high country of Yosemite National Park, looking across Tenaya Lake at 8,150 ft. elevation. Late afternoon sunlight emphasizes the texture and color of these monolithic mountains as dark clouds gather in the distance.