Last year I had gone to Sultan Bathery, Wayanad, Kerala, with my family, on holiday. Phantom Rock was one of the tourist destination we wanted to visit. Phantom Rock is about 13 km from Kalpetta adjacent to the Ambalavayal town. The rock has the shape of a skull and hence the name. Locally called ‘Thalappara’.
Despite its prominent place on the tourist maps, Phantom Rock is far away from the tourists. The only pucca road that runs to this rock is on private property. It is open only from 9 AM to 5 PM. Unfortunately, we reached there soon after 5 PM. Since the gates stay closed, we decided to check places surrounding the rock on foot. What we saw was a huge granite stone crushing quarry just at the foot of the Phantom Rock. Rock was also surrounding by several such monster quarries.
The capture above is one such quarry which stretches over a kilometre in length. Since I had plenty of time and beautiful sunset hour, I decided to try HDR Panorama capture. I had my Canon EOS 5DS R which boasts 50.6-megapixel sensor. Using the 24mm focal length of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM I tried to get this HDR panorama.
The first part of the capture was to take three bracketed shots in portrait orientation. Each shot was two stop different in shutter speed. The aperture was constant of f/9, and ISO 200 in all the captures. These 3 captured images will get converted into an HDR file.
12 such vertical format HDR slices (6 slices in 2 rows) are stitched together to produce this 15574 x 9332 pixel (around 145-megapixel image) what you see above. It was sheer madness which led me to do it. Final image is 1.89GB in size as Tif file 😉
The quarry was huge. Just to show you the vastness of the capture, kindly check the small yellow speck you see in the centre of the picture. That is a large excavator 🙂 I wanted to test the limit of the HDR and panorama capacity of the Lightroom which till version 2015.7 was getting sluggish with each iteration. The new version seems to be better. Soon after the trip when I came back, I did post process these behemoth files. Unfortunately, my computer gave up, and Lightroom was taking too long to process them.
Recently I upgraded my computer with a new motherboard, CPU and graphic card. So I wanted to test it again, and this time I could manage to post process it within a few minutes without difficulty. The creation of HDR, as well as panorama, was all done using the latest version of Adobe Lightroom. Photoshop was not used to enhance image except in one spot where I wanted a content-aware fill to fill the gap.
Here is the Lightroom map, a screen capture showing the phantom rock and the quarry all around it.
Few days after our visit, District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had issued a directive to the Sulthan Bathery tahsildar to stop all granite mining and quarrying activities, and close down crusher units at Phantom Rock, Arattupara and Kolagappara rocks, and those in 200 meters to 1 km radial distance from all boundary points of these rocks. But, the granite quarries and crusher units in the area had been functioning flouting the directive.
DDMA in its directive said that landscape of the rocks and their premises were mountainous in nature with steep slopes and rises. Because of the terrain specifics, these ecologically fragile areas bore the high risk of landslide. Landslide in the region could be catastrophic as the bottom areas of this rocky region were populated. So it was pertinent and inevitable to take proper precautionary measures for the prevention of disasters in this region, the directive said.
However, five granite quarries and ten stone crusher units were still functioning in the region and officials concerned were yet to take any measures to prevent them. Close to 450 loads, each load of 15 – 20 tonnes, of granite products were being transported a day to various parts of the State and neighbouring States.