I have written a couple of posts about using my tilt-shift lens set up recently. I wrote about using the technique to give motion and focus to a country road, and used it to take some portraits of an old friend. I thought I would do a post how tilt-shift is typically used. The tilt-shift lens can be angled so that it is not parallel to your camera’s sensor – this gives you a slice of focus and changes the perspective of your shot slightly. It is mostly used to give a feel of miniaturized cityscapes. I don’t live in a city so I went to a scenic overlook in town. It’s a tree covered area that is about midway between the bottom of the hollow that is Main Street and the top of the ridge where the Crescent Hotel sits. Shooting through trees makes it tougher than the shots you typically see – classic tilt-shift is shot from high above and focuses on the tiny details below. It’s all manual – you tilt then focus by hand. You can set the shutter speed and ISO in camera, but the rest is all done by the photographer.
Here’s a little tour of the city I call home at just past the peak colors of autumn – Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of America’s favorite SMALL towns. All of these shots were taken from the East Mountain Overlook, facing west.
At the top of the ridge the Crescent Hotel holds the high ground with a view that over looks the city and surrounding hills
Many cities across the country have a Carnegie Library – Eureka Springs has one and it’s a gorgeous jewel box hidden in the trees.
Down the hillside this yellow house sits on a steep road surrounded by trees
Looking through the trees you can see the Pink House. This shot really gives a sense of miniaturization created by the tilt shift lens.
From this vantage point a church steeple rises above the treetops.
Focusing on the picket fence from the overlook lets everything beyond melt together in a blur of colors. The Crescent sits there atop the trees.
So what do you think of tilt-shift photography – is it interesting or does it make you dizzy?
My bird lens is on the fritz, 9 days at Olympus for repairs and counting. Arrrrgh! Peak fall color hit about 10 days ago so I have not been able to get my leaf shots – it’s something I look forward to all year. The last two weeks have been rainy off and on so shooting days are few and far between anyway. Last weekend a kind of panic hit me – shoot now or miss the whole season. I started by taking a couple of snaps on local roads with my portrait lens – not my favorite for these kinds of shots – but serviceable.
Driving into the light – I like the way the sunlight makes you wonder what wonder is around the curve.
Peak color on my county road. I love the sun coming through the color, but on a hill like this it’s hard to draw the viewer into the scene.
Caution: Curves and Color Ahead! This is my favorite road to drive on in the fall – Magnetic Road. The only place to stop is in the driveway where I am standing, and that’s too bad. The color past that s-curve is unbelievable.
I love this spot – but capturing it is not easy – there are layers of distractions on both sides – finding the right focal point is always a challenge.
Shooting down roads has always been a mixed bag for me. I tend to shoot things that I can isolate like birds or leaves or objects. A scene can take me in, but capturing it effectively can often elude me. I had been playing around with a tilt-shift set up and wondered if I could use it to look into the distance on these country roads – to use it in a way that would help the viewer to get a better sense of what I feel when I am driving down one of these roads – crisp air, crunching swirling leaves, filtered sunlight. Can I take a photo that makes you feel these things?
I know I have explained this before, but just in case – a tilt-shift lens lets you move the lens at an angle so that the plane of focus is not parallel to the camera’s sensor – it gives you a “slice of focus” and lets you hone in on certain objects that you want to highlight. It is often used to distort an image to give it the feel of miniaturization.
Shooting gear that you are not completely comfortable with is often a good thing – it gives you a new perspective – it pushes you to try new things. Sometimes the distortion is unsettling, sometimes it’s almost painterly. For me, many of these shots give a better sense of the feel of the roads in the autumn.
These shots were all taken in the last few days, some from the same locations as the earlier shots.
The tilt-shift lens allows me to focus in on the little house below the curve – the color is vibrant, but not distracting.
The tilt shift allows me to let you see into the space in an uphill shot. Focusing on trees at the curve makes you want to see what else is happening in the distance.
This is one of those spots where you see a road, but it’s hard to get the sense of space. The tilt-shift lens allowed me to focus on the tree in the foreground and that pushes the road back, giving it some depth.
Shooting up a hill into the misty sunlight right after sunrise – I focused on the light area above the road and it created the feeling of a tunnel.
This shot was taken from the same driveway on Magnetic Road – but looking down the hill instead of up – here I focused on the leaves on the ground at the curve. The details beyond, like the fences give the image a deeper sense of space.
Here’s that same angle up the hill on my favorite road. I struggled to choose which details to focus on, even so the blurring gives the feel of racing up the road amidst the falling leaves.
This is a tilt-shift image of the same curve with the tree in the middle of the road – the tilt shift lets me make that lone tree the star of the image – I was hoping for the feeling of going through a tunnel of tree branches and this comes pretty close.
This is the same spot shot this morning at sunrise – this is one of the last days the color will still be vivid, the leaves are coming down fast. The brightness of the sunrise accentuates and adds to the color while adding a blue tone to the shadows. The leaves feel almost like confetti – Autumns last hurrah.
OK – so no skyward leaves or birds amidst the color for me this year. Not having my favorite lens should limit me – but instead it’s forcing me outside of my happy place – and that’s a good thing.
This weekend the real heat of summer settled over the Ozarks. We hit triple digits and in this humidity that an be brutal. I met a friend at a local lake – she was introducing some friends to kayaking. I knew I couldn’t take the heat on the water so I stayed on the docks and played with some newer gear.
This is a shot of the docks taken with my Lensbaby set up, shown at the top of the blog. It’s a tilt-shift system – meaning that you tilt the lens so that it is no longer parallel to the sensor, this gives you a slice of focus that is tilted away from the sensor. This look is used a lot in those photos that look like dioramas or miniatures. I think that look is cool and I’ll probably try it at some point but for now I am interested in experimenting with the shift. I’m not interested in sacrificing composition for a novelty effect.
These shots let you see how the focus is off center – the second one really shows how the focus is tilted when you look at the license plate.
This is a stack of John boats and canoes on the shore. I made the grass near the canoe my focus, letting everything blur towards the edges.
Of course I cannot go anywhere without trying to practice capturing images of flying things and the Lensbaby is just not the tool for that –
Nectar filled blooms
I’m always game to try new things photographically – it pushes you to master a new skill set. I’m just a noob when it comes to tilt-shift, but I’m intrigued and curious about the potential. I think that’s a good thing for an artist.
As I hit the road for the drive home though, the tilt-shift is packed away – my long zoom is in place in case I get a shot at Bambi.