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Thread: Is the Horizon Level?

  1. #1
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Is the Horizon Level?

    One of the most common critique responses concerns having the horizon tilted. In some images it is not easy to be sure and in some other cases it looks tilted when it is not.

    We all have problems with getting the horizon level from time to time so how can we avoid this problem?

    Some cameras have a built-in level but for those that do not, there is a little green cube that you can attach to the flash shoe to get it right when the picture is taken.

    Actually there are several versions; this is the one I use - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...SIN=B001HS87D6

    One of the additional benefits of getting the camera level in multiple axis is that we can avoid (or at least be aware of the risk of) parallax issues. This is where buildings, for example, tilt in or out when they shouldn't.

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    It can be difficult to measure, sometimes you are advancing upon a hill with a structure beyond the horizon. Just check how stable the image looks after post processing.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    I'm not sure that I agree; the spirit level will show the "true" horizon, but when you get to the actual image, it just may not "look right". Other than those rare occasions when I use Dutch tilting, I ususally do my final assessment and tweaking (finalizing the horizon line) in Photoshop.

    I do occassionally use the spirit level built into my tripod.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Frank,

    I added a Canon EX15 Eyepiece Extender to my 40D so I could more easily view the viewfinder while wearing glasses. All of a sudden I began to have horizon tilt problems. It took me a while but, I finally figured out that the extender was causing me to view my shots at an angle.

    I have an electronic viewfinder level in my 7D but almost never use it, except when shooting panos. I will, however, use the viewfinder grid, at times, to ensure that the horizon (or apparent horizon) is level. Mostly, I just eyeball it.

    I have a fetish about two things in photography: tilting horizons and veticals that grow from a subject's head - I tend to see these better with the eye level viewfinder than using liveview.

    I seldom use the bubble level in my tripod head but, I will sometimes use a bubble level cube which fits on my hotshoe. I will most often use this when I am shooting panos but, I think that the electronic level is superior to the bubble level cube. However, the 7D is my only camera with an electronic level.

  5. #5
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    I've spent years blaming everything under the sun for wonky horizons. Nikon must be putting all their sensors in at a tilt, I've one leg shorter than the other, I've a heavy trigger finger that is so gravity stricken it also affects shots where the camera is on a tripod....the world isn't in fact flat...the list goes....

    The in-camera level on the D300s does actually help but I've gotten used to correcting it in PP most of the time. Nikon Capture NX2 has a great 'Line' tool for doing it but as it doesn't work correctly with OSX Lion (yeah I know its been out nearly a year but Nikon haven't bothered their ar**s to update their software yet) I am now using ACR and theres one in that too.
    Best way though is to use the crop tool where you get a nice grid up and can 'play' with the horizon while viewing the overall effect live.

  6. #6
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Hi Richard, some of the Nikons use a Virtual Horizon but it may only work in Live View. My D3100 doesn't have it so I haven't had a chance to play as yet.

  7. #7
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    One of the additional benefits of getting the camera level in multiple axis is that we can avoid (or at least be aware of the risk of) parallax issues. This is where buildings, for example, tilt in or out when they shouldn't.
    Ummm.... as a mad panoshooter, I can tell you that isn't really what pano shooters are talking about when they refer to parallax error. To me, parallax error is when you shift position or don't rotate the lens around the no-parallax point, so that the position of objects in the scene shift relative to each other, which causes stitching errors, because simple warping won't get the images to meet seamlessly.

    But yes, varying the "pitch" (tilt) of the camera can cause keystoning of buildings, and in stitched panoramas, can caused curved horizons. For me, however, since I shoot 360x180 spherical panos, that's actually very easily corrected in post by simply shifting the POV of the pano. Since I have the entire sphere to choose from, I can correct for the pitch easily to straighten out the horizon. The reasons I use a 2-axis bubble level on the hotshoe is a bit different.

    In combination with a plumb line (philopod), the bubble level can help you keep the camera stationary in space and rotating about the no-parallax point of the lens while handholding.

  8. #8
    krispix's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Hi Richard, some of the Nikons use a Virtual Horizon but it may only work in Live View. My D3100 doesn't have it so I haven't had a chance to play as yet.
    You're right Frank, it does work on the rear monitor which is not always the most convenient. Also you have to page through menus to get to it. If it could be displayed in the viewfinder at the flick of a switch or push of a button it would be lot more useful. Like you I use a little spirit level cube which cost peanuts, lives in my pocket and levels 3-ways.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Yes I have one too Frank.

    I find it invaluable when using Live View and the tilty LCD screen to shoot from (almost) ground level.

    When the image you are viewing on LCD isn't in the same plane as the camera lens, correcting an error on the LCD is counter intuitive, but using the hot shoe level makes it easy.

    Cheers,

  10. #10
    benm's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Some cameras have an option of turning on a grid that is visible in the viewfinder (e.g., Nikon D90 and D300s have it). That will give you a few more horizontals for reference.

  11. #11
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    I love my Sony a55 for this feature - I can display a horizon for both axes in my EVF.

  12. #12
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    So, er, ah, does this mean that we'll be seeing fewer images posted with tilting horizons? Perhaps, but I suspect if there are folks like me out there, that in the heat of the shooting or post processing concentration on other issues, I'll probably continue to forget to check the horizon.

    Oh well. It gives us something that we can gently nudge each other for during critiques!

  13. #13
    Momo's Avatar
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    Re: Is the Horizon Level?

    I bought one of these for my old Sony a-100. This was long before I got my Nikon. So, old Sony users take a look at your accessory shoe before buying one of these spirit levels. It probably won't fit, as the slot on the Sony are on the outside, not the inside like Nikon and Canon. I wound up returning mine.

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