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Thread: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Hi, Everyone;

    I first happened upon the CiC site several years ago, while researching perspective control (shift/tilt) lenses before making such a major purchase. I found this site to be very informative and insightful; but it has taken me all this time to start participating in the forums and to realize just how great this site and its members are!

    Anyway, I thought I would start up a thread with reference to perspective control lenses, and post a few photos that have resulted from my initial encounter with CiC. I decided to go with a Nikon 45mm PC lens, and couldn't be happier with my choice. I use that lens more than any of my other lenses; possibly, more than all my other lenses combined!

    So here is a start, an HDR autumn shot bringing together some frost on the plants in the foreground with the fall colors of the trees in the background:

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    The area where this was taken is in a small finger of Canadian Shield granite which crosses the St. Lawrence River into upper New York State, forming the Thousand Islands (of salad dressing fame) in the process. Photographed at sunrise, the colors do look a bit saturated on a computer monitor but tone down nicely when printed.

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Lovely. I was hoping when you came onboard that you would be posting some images from the Thousand Island area. With the early evening frost decorating the foliage and the fall colours, this is a treat! Thank you so much for posting.

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Thanks, Frank; glad you like the photo! Yes this is a very special region because of course the extension of the Canadian Shield brings the northern coniferous forests into contact with the southern Carolinian broadleaf deciduous forests; and the result is a very unique bioregion.

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Very nice shot John, love those autumn colours (or should I say "fall colors" )

    My wife and I have recently returned from a holiday in Canada and this included travelling along the St Lawrence. What a magnififcent waterway it is !! We also enjoyed a boat trip around the Thousand Island area.

    Just out of interest, did you apply much perspective control with the lens for this scene ?

    Dave

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post

    Just out of interest, did you apply much perspective control with the lens for this scene ?

    Dave
    Hi, Dave;

    Well sure enough, exactly as described in the CiC tutorial, the amount of tilt b=needed decreases the farther the camera is above the foreground (the higher the height of the tripod). The 45mm PC lens is also a macro lens, so there is a balancing act between how close the camera is to the ground and how close it is to the foreground; which is to say, how far above and how far back one is from the closest thing in the photo.

    Here's a shot from a little earlier in the day, from on top of the granite outcrop shown in the first photo, looking toward the Thousand Islands Bridge at Ivy Lea/Wellesley Island:

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    I've never quite managed to edit this image just the way I want to, and perhaps that isn't possible; but I thought I'd include it despite its shortcomings (in my eyes).

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Great shots John, I have been thinking about getting a len like yours however I do not know anyone who has one or used one. We maybe sometime after September I will sent you a Private message and we might be able to pair up for a day where you might be able to give me some help. You live just down the river from me so to speak, I even have a good idea from where the above shot was taken as I can see the spiral. Again great image I only wish that I had taken it.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Yes Alan that is the Skydeck on Hill Island breaking the horizon in the background and definitely if you enjoy shooting landscapes then a perspective control lens is wonderful to work with. I wish I had picked one up decades ago!

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Wow; posts in this thread really work their way down in the pages if one isn't updating them regularly!

    But I have lots of shift/tilt landscape images, so, here is another one taken in the spring:

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    One of the nice things about a shift/tilt lens is that you can do different things with the tilt and shift at the same time. In this image, the camera is set up for a vertical capture and the tilt is set to capture foreground and background; the shift was then used to widen the image area covered, to create a mini-panorama. The advantage of doing this is that the image is shifted at the nodal point of the lens, so the panorama lines up seamlessly without any distortion. When a panorama is captured by turning the camera on a tripod head, their is a little bit of distortion which sneaks in at the edges of the individual captures and so lining up the panorama seamlessly is a little more problematic than when the camera lens itself is shifted on its nodal point.

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Of course, the tilt function of the lens does not need to be used in a horizontal plane, tilting from top to bottom. It can also be used in a vertical plane, tilting from side to side. Here, the cliff face of an escarpment is brought into focus as the near foreground, while a forest in the background is kept in focus at the other side of the photograph:

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    A matching set of images were made from photographs taken during this shoot, which coincided with the setting sun dropping parallel to the leaves and branches of the forest growing to the west of this limestone escarpment. The color of the light was caused by the filtering of the sunset colors through the autumn leaves. These are of course High Dynamic Range images; and although the colors look to be over-saturated when viewed on a backlit computer monitor, they print up very nicely indeed!

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Hi John, you seem to have mastered the shift/tilt lens but what really impresses me is your vision - how you 'see' the composition and use natural lighting to advantage.

    Woodlands images are extremely difficult to capture in a compelling image and you appear to be doing that effortlessly!

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Hi, Frank;

    Thanks very much for your kind compliment. I am an old 'out-of-doorsperson' from 'way back; and having spent a significant portion of my life up in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and hiking the old growth forests / climbing in the mountains of British Columbia, I am now taking some time to capture a bit of the area in which I grew up: the Thousand Islands area of Ontario.

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    The other 'major' use for shift/tilt lenses is for perspective control in architectural photographs, where the shift function is used to keep vertical lines on buildings from appearing to converge.

    The process is quite simple (much simpler than using the tilt function): position the camera/lens so that it is flat to the horizon (a tripod head with lots of spirit bubble levels is a big help here). This will almost always cut off some of the building that you are attempting to photography; but this can be adjusted for by leaving the camera as is and shifting the lens upward until the entire building is framed in the viewfinder.

    Tilting the entire camera upward to include the whole building will make the vertical lines on the building appear to come closer together nearer the top; shifting just the lens will prevent that from happening.

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    I used this image as one of several in a magazine article about autumn foliage; and the wardens of the church liked it so much that they contacted me about using it for their calendar. They also wanted me to photograph their stained glass windows, for an anniversary project; but I just explained to them how to keep the parallel lines in their photographs from converging, and that for what they wanted, they could probably get away with using a wide angle lens and cropping the image appropriately; I then referred them to the CiC article on shift/ tilt lenses on this site.

    I didn't hear back from them so I assume they went ahead and had the real estate brokers who were church wardens handle that project using my suggestion. They had been planing on bringing a cherry picker/ lift bucket into the church so that they could photograph the windows at a level which would have prevented the distortion of parallel lines, until I pointed out the simpler option to them...

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Of course, when using the shift function of the PC lens to create a panorama, nothing says that you have to do this in a horizontal plane! Indeed, with the shift function of the lens doing such a fine job of keeping vertical lines parallel, it is a natural next step to consider how a vertical panorama might be appropriate in some cases:

    Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    John you are certainly doing some interesting things with that lens and producing some good shots. That vertical pano works very well and the church shot shows off the autumn colours nicely.

    The only issue I see with these two images is the sky is perhaps a bit bright. I think it could be toned down with pp in the last shot but in the church shot it might be blown. If you use Photoshop, you could try selecting the sky and using a brightness layer with the Use Legacy checked to bring it down to a darker grey.

    Dave

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Perspective Control (shift/tilt) lenses

    Hi, Dave;

    Yes you are right I have been wrestling with the sky in those two particular images. All of the above images are High Dynamic Range, for which I prefer to use FDR Tools. I have Photomatix but rarely use it; in general I like FDR Tools because it tends to be a little more realistic and because I do have the option of controlling what each exposure contributes to the final image, which makes dealing with HDR artifacts (moving foliage etc.) a little easier.

    But the sky color does tend to be problematic at times!

    Generally I blend the HDR image with the best frame of the exposure sequence to tone down the HDR effect. The horizontal pano above was blended with the mid point and one EV unit darker frames of a five exposure sequence; and I still didn't like the sky so I boosted the cyan in the 'whites' using Selective Color.

    With the church photo, the day was somewhat overcast and the sky just wasn't coming out blue for me! There are a few things I could do with it now, were I to re-edit the image...

    Thanks for the critique! Always nice to know what others are thinking.

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