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The Shifty Photographer

Journal Entry: Sat Nov 19, 2016, 6:56 AM
Best Viewed on Full Screen


Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a tilt shift lens for my Canon cameras. Its official designation is a Canon TS-E 24 mm f/3.5L II lens, and it has uses in landscape photography, architectural studies, macro and portrait work, and some very smart but rather off beat areas such as being able to photograph mirror reflections without actually being seen in the image - as per my trial run in the ID image Da(v)Id.



Da(v)Id by Okavanga


What is a tilt shift lens? All such lenses on the market, Canon or Nikon, or others, are marvels of optical engineering. Their function is to allow the lens elements to shift from side to side or up and down - the shift function - and to allow the lens elements to tilt from their normal parallel configuration with respect to the sensor plane. Because the lenses can rotate about its optical axis, the tilting can take place in a vertical or horizontal manner, that is up and down or side to side. Note that the camera does not move when using the shift and the tilt functions.

The shift function is used extensively in architectural work. Check the view of MacLellan's Castle below, on the left. This has be obtained by having the lens in the "zero" position. In order to have the full view of the castle, I needed to tilt the camera and lens upwards with the result that the castle looks to be falling over with the upper portion out of perspective with the lower areas. This is a typical shot of a building with a normal lens. Now look at the next image. Ignore the dramatic effect of using Nik's Silver Efex Pro to add a bit of contrast and mood, but look at the structure itself - in almost perfect perspective. This is achieved with a tilt shift lens by carefully aligning the camera in the horizontal plane, and then using the upward shift control to bring the whole structure into the view finder or, better, LiveView. The resulting shot has lost the distortions.


MacLellan's Castle -Normal View by Okavanga  MacLellan's Castle by Okavanga


The wider and taller the structure, the greater the distortions of perspective become when using a normal lens. In the second example of the castle, the rear of the building, taken with the shift mechanism in operation, no such distortions occur. There is a possibility that the lens has actually overdone the corrections. Partly that comes from our eyes not being used to seeing such structures with the correct architectural perspective, and partly from my standing a tad to close.


MacLellan's Castle 2 by Okavanga


By way of a short digression, this castle, MacLellan's Castle, is in the town of Kirkcudbright southwest Scotland, and it was built in the late 16th century (late 1500s). It functioned as a real defensive castle for the locality until the mid-1700s when it fell into ruin. You can visit today, and explore its many features. To digress upon the digression, and in response to my good friend fotoponono 's recent discussion with me about the origin of names, the name of the town Kirkcudbright, pronounced "Kir-could- bree", comes from a corruption of the Gailic phrase Cille Chuithberit meaning the chapel (church or kirk) of St Cuthbert who resided and preached here long, long ago.

Another use for a tilt shift lens is in landscape photography, especially for short focal length lens like this 24 mm lens. The next image gives a simple example. This is a view of the Merse Sands near Dalbeattie, deserted, windswept, austerely beautiful even with some man-made detritus. The distant hills are about 2 kilometers away. You could ask why is the tilt shift lens any better for this work than a straight forward wide angle lens, and in most regards that would be a valid point. However, if you enlarge the shot on your screen and look at the bottom of the image, say near the wooden struts of the broken crate you should see a possibly remarkable view - it is in (sharp) focus. Now just about all other lenses would not allow this, even if stopped down to f/22 (this is at f/8) because there is some small distance between the lens and the image objects that normally remain unfocused. (I'm not going into the horrors of hyper focal distances and depth of field in this post.) With a tilt shift lens you can (carefully) use the tilt mechanism to tilt the lens downward, in this case by 1.5 degrees, and that has the effect of bringing the foreground into sharp focus. Note that tilting here refers to the lens elements being tilted with respect to the plane of the sensor, not to tilting the whole camera and lens. Once you have done this, you need to carefully refocus to the distance (the infinity setting) and then check the tilt angle - a bit of iteration - to get the best balance for near and far focus. Note also that tilt shift lenses are always manual focus lenses - you really need to be able to use your own vision to get that perfect long distance focus.


The Merse Shore by Okavanga 

 Merse Country by Okavanga

The Merse Country shot gives another example of this with the near and far focus pretty well spot on - check the zoom view to spot the JCB digger in the far distance, and the detail in the sand at the bottom of the frame.

Finally, a couple of more arty shots, again using the tilt mechanism to bring the near distance into good focus to present the ephemeral patterns of the wet sand among long disused posts for fishing nets.



Merse Waters by Okavanga 

 Merse Sands by Okavanga


This has been a very mild introduction to the use of a tilt shift lens. Such lenses are not easy to use, they take a lot of learning, and the theory behind them is quite daunting to say the least. Once I get some more practice and can do some of the more clever things, I shall report back with another post.

Cheers

David



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:iconscooby777:
Scooby777 Featured By Owner 8 hours ago  Hobbyist Photographer
Hi David!  I thought you would love this capture, by Pajunen.

Tower Bridge London by Pajunen
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Okavanga Featured By Owner 1 hour ago
Many thanks for that, Sheri. Faved and commented upon.

David
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Placi1 Featured By Owner 11 hours ago
Thank you kindly for the faves, David!

László
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Okavanga Featured By Owner 1 hour ago
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AveragePhotographer Featured By Owner 15 hours ago  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the faves! :)
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Okavanga Featured By Owner 1 hour ago
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iriscup Featured By Owner 16 hours ago
Christmas-Birds- by vafiehya  Thanks for the Fave by Sugaree-33  
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Okavanga Featured By Owner 15 hours ago
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Thank-you-for-favs by KmyGraphic   Thanks so much! ChristmasGlobe by KmyGraphic   
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Okavanga Featured By Owner 23 hours ago
My pleasure!

David
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