Boiler (Tilt-shift)

TCampbell

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Having more fun with the tilt-shift lens... I found this old boiler in Greenfield Village -- lots of rust and I knew I had to capture the texture and make a B&W with this.

The first time I did this, I didn't have my tilt-shift. I could not get a satisfactory depth of field (remember... I'm going for texture so I don't want this going mushy on me.) That was last fall. So this spring (actually just a couple of weeks ago) I headed back, but this time I brought the tilt-shift lens.

There's a bit of a tendency for people to use tilt-shift basically backwards (deliberately shift the plane of focus to make a very narrow DoF to create a "miniature" effect.) That's a bit easier because you don't have to be careful about angle settings. I wanted to use the tilt for it's intended purpose... bring the plane of focus in line with my subject's surface to maximize the DoF. That's a bit trickier and takes some practice with the lens (there is a method for doing this by eye and also a math formula which allows you to calculate the precise tilt angle (I can share that formula if anyone is interested.))

So here's the image...


Boiler by Tim Campbell1, on Flickr (you can see this is in a much larger size by clicking to view it at Flickr)

I don't want to bias anyone's opinion, but there's one aspect of this image that does bother me. So without telling you what it is... I'm considering one particular edit. But I'd like to hear other suggest what they might do (because if I say what it is, you'll probably all gravitate to it.)
 
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Derrel

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Good use of a T/S lens Tim. Maybe apply a darkish vignette, or crop that off? Either way would work. Maybe cropping it off and leaving just the boiler would actually strengthen the photo, by making it sort of a one-plane image? Which T/S did you use? Is this the Canon 24 or 45? I'm kinda considering the new, low-cost T/S one of the third party makers is set to release this summer.
 

tirediron

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Good use of a T/S lens Tim. Maybe apply a darkish vignette, or crop that off? Either way would work. Maybe cropping it off and leaving just the boiler would actually strengthen the photo, by making it sort of a one-plane image? Which T/S did you use? Is this the Canon 24 or 45? I'm kinda considering the new, low-cost T/S one of the third party makers is set to release this summer.

Linkage/ more info svp?
 

gsgary

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Good use of a T/S lens Tim. Maybe apply a darkish vignette, or crop that off? Either way would work. Maybe cropping it off and leaving just the boiler would actually strengthen the photo, by making it sort of a one-plane image? Which T/S did you use? Is this the Canon 24 or 45? I'm kinda considering the new, low-cost T/S one of the third party makers is set to release this summer.

Linkage/ more info svp?

Samyang T-S 24mm F/3.5 ED AS UMC Lens - Samyang UK
 

amolitor

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I bought a Sinar 4x5 with lens, film holders, and a carry case for less than half that. And it tilts too!
 
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TCampbell

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This was with the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II.

There is a formula for the tilt angle.

The angle of tilt (in degrees) = arcsine(focal length ÷ distance). The distance is measured from the lens to the focal plane and is in millimeters (since the lens focal length is also measured in millimeters.)

E.g. if you wanted to take a photo of a long table full of food from a low angle (say... 16" above the table surface) then the height (distance measurement) would be roughly 40cm (400mm).

That'd be: angle = arcsine(24 ÷ 400)
or: 24÷400=.06 The arcsine of .06 = 3.44 (or about 3 1/2º of tilt)

If you lower the camera closer to the table -- say by half, now it's arcsine(24÷200) or 6.89 (about a 7º tilt angle). The farther your lens is from the plane of focus, the less you need to tilt it to bring it into focus. However keep in mind that this is just a 24mm focal length.

Go to a higher focal length (e.g. say you pick the 90mm). With 90mm, the same table experiment works out to a 13º tilt-angle!!! That's a problem because most tilt-shift lenses limit you to about 8º. The 90mm wouldn't be appropriate for that table. BUT... if you were trying to take a photo of a nice stream and getting all the stones and moss in tack-sharp focus and your camera & lens are on a tripod roughly 5' above the water surface (your plane of focus) then it'd be arcsine(90÷1524) (1524mm is 5') or a tilt-angle of about 3.39º (just shy of 3 1/2)... so the 90mm would be great for that (you could even lower the camera a couple of feet and it would still work.)

It's a bit of math and while you could sit there in the field with a measuring tape and a calculator, there's an method to focus a tilt-shift lens.
1) With the lens not yet tilted, focus on a distant object that you want in sharp focus.
2) Identify a closer object in the field of view which you want in focus and _very_ carefully adjust the tilt angle until you feel that nearby object is in sharp focus (note there is no such thing as an auto-focus tilt-shift lens so this is always manual. Although... my focus points will light up and/or beep if the camera thinks I've achieved focus.)
3) Look back at your original subject (the distant one). It may no longer be in focus and you may have to gently tweak focus to bring everything back in sharp.

It takes a bit of getting used to.

When I first started, it was a bit frustrating and I wasn't getting good results (unless I just got completely lucky -- as will happen from time to time.) I thought... the lens has these index marks on it to indicate the angles... there must be some math I could learn. So I went in search, found an article that explained it, punched some numbers on the calculator, found the angle, adjusted the lens, and upon focusing was pleased to see that both near and far objects were pleasantly focused all the way through the plane even at f/3.5. Then I read the technique for adjusting it without the math and found that I could repeat that too... but the math suggested to me that certain focal lengths of tilt-shift were better suited based on the distance from the plane of focus. Use a shorter focal length when you know you'll need to be close to the focus plane (e.g. within a foot or two). Use a longer focal length when you know you'll be farther from the plane.

BTW, I did not know any of this when I bought my tilt-shift. I "reasoned" that I'd probably use it for architecture and since buildings are big and I am small and low to the ground, I'll "probably" want a lens with a modestly wide-angle. That's how I ended up with the 24mm.
 
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TCampbell

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BTW, Derrel basically hit on what it is about the photo that's bothering me. I'm distracted by the left side of the frame even though I _want_ your attention clearly on those rusty rivets and bolt heads ... which are all the way over on the right side of the frame. The small sunlit patch of grass in the lower left drives me nuts.

When I crop it, then it becomes a rusty surface with rivets and bolts -- so you no longer necessarily pick up on the fact that it's a boiler. Then it becomes more about the texture and pattern and less about what it really is. That's my conundrum.

BTW, here's that same boiler, taken last fall. This time with the 70-200mm. (I always leave the EXIF intact although Flickr strips it from the "image" it is visible on their website if you do the action -> view EXIF. This was a different time of day -- completely different lighting. I toyed with the B&W RGB filters to enhance the nuances.


Boiler Face by Tim Campbell1, on Flickr
 

amolitor

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I actually just eyeball up the Scheimpflug Principle, mostly. If you see my standing around behind the camera waving my hand vertically (film plane) and then at an angle (focus plane) and then frowning at my lens, you know I am "calculating" a tilt or a swing. This is probably much harder with a T/S lens on a small camera, though, and looking through the finder and fussing is probably the way to do.

If the thing tilts/swings around the center, your first focus point should probably be mid-frame, no? That point should remain in focus as you tilt. Then tilt until point #2 is in focus. You still have one degree of freedom left, but you probably want to have adjusted that after setting the first focus point and before tilting ;)
 

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Well, you've already said it now, but I assure you, I had noticed it before I read any of the comments, including Derrel's. My eye goes straight to that window in the back and then the patch of light in the lower left corner. I love those bolts, but my attention just doesn't stay there. Now granted, MY attention never stays ANYwhere for very long... :D
 

amolitor

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I apologize, by the way, for nattering on about technique and ignoring the picture.

I quite like it, but the problem with is is real. If you crop that out, you have nothing left but an interesting texture. It's a genuinely interesting texture, but it's not much of a picture. I'd be interested to see what happens if you showed us a bit more on the left, and made that window BE the point of interest. Is there stuff off to the left that would support that? Obviously you don't have much room off left, since everything goes OOF very very fast, but still. I think placing the focus on the window and on the near point of the boiler could produce something.
 

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This is a skilled use of tilt shift, but I'm not a massive fan of the composition. It comes across as overall more of a repetitive texture. It lacks clear, large-scale shapes to frame the scene.

In other words, if you squint a bit or make this into a thumbnail, it would look like just a gray box, which IMO is a sign that the pattern and detail are too local in an image. Images should be interesting even at 80x60 pixels or so

I think it would be more successful if more than just that one wall of the boiler dominated the frame, in order to include more lines and shapes.
 

vintagesnaps

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What about cropping the bottom edge of the photo? That might get rid of the patch of sunlight without really losing that great pattern you created with the bolts. If I crop horizontally I usually do a crop vertically as well to keep the same balance as the original so I might consider cropping the edge just slightly on the left too - I don't think I'd want to lose that left side totally though, that's so much a great part of your photo and the overall composition.

I have an original Lensbaby and a 2.0 which are like tiny bellows in the way they're used compared to what you have; they adjust forward and back manually to focus then tilt by hand - fun to experiment with.

Cool photo; both images of the boiler work well in B&W and it's obviously a subject that could be fun to revisit.
 

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I think the best thing to do is to revisit, and forget that you have a T/S lens until after you have chosen the frame. I've used LF movements for about forty years and now I use T/S lenses almost every day so it's easy for me to concentrate on the lighting and framing without being conscious that I have a T/S lens. I get the impression that having the lens has lead you somewhere that is more of a demo than it should be.

There is a formula for the tilt angle.

The angle of tilt (in degrees) = arcsine(focal length ÷ distance). The distance is measured from the lens to the focal plane and is in millimeters (since the lens focal length is also measured in millimeters.)

Is it worth adding that the distance is measured from the lens to the hinge point (ie where the desired plane of focus intersects the image plane)? That allows for the angle between the desired plane of focus and the film/sensor plane. Imagine what happens as they tend to become parallel...
 
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TCampbell

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Thanks everyone for your comments.

I think the best thing to do is to revisit, and forget that you have a T/S lens until after you have chosen the frame. I've used LF movements for about forty years and now I use T/S lenses almost every day so it's easy for me to concentrate on the lighting and framing without being conscious that I have a T/S lens. I get the impression that having the lens has lead you somewhere that is more of a demo than it should be.
The lens is definitely a bit of a learning curve. I'm at the point where I'm now able to make it work (within the reasonable limits of what it can do) and it's no longer about fussing until I get lucky. Shifting is easy... it's the tilting that takes a bit of care. As it is a manual focus lens and my eyes aren't nearly as good as they once were, sometimes I *think* I've nailed the focus and I'll import the shot and realize it's a bit soft. I will "play" the lens a bit while watching the focus points to make sure the camera is agreeing with what my eyes see.

I'll definitely be back. Greenfield Village is part of the The Henry Ford museum. This village has buildings from the 1600's through the early 1900's - lots of interesting things to see here. Several old boilers happen to be laying out in a yard next to an old machine shop (the building is early industrial revolution with machines are belt-driven running off a steam-engine -- it's pre-electricity.)

In early morning this face of the boiler would be in full sun. In the afternoon it's in full shadow (but would have the sun highlighting the top of it.) The building in the back faces north-east... so it would be lit in morning but would fall into shadow in the afternoon (village hours are 9:30a-5p so there's no "golden hour" opportunities here.) I may have to pop over when we have a bit of overcast just to cut the harsh edgy sun.

I hadn't considered deliberately adding more of the building into the frame -- I'll take some shots and see how that works out next time I'm there.
 

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Good thread. Been gone all day. I was thinking--this might look interesting rendered very,very high-contrast, almost Kodalith-like, or maybe as if it were printed on something like TP6 B&W (very high-contrast) enlarging paper. I took a quick look at it in a different way, just slightly rotating it, so that a small amount of the window and brickwork was eliminated, adding a vignette, then toning it a cool,dark color and adding a little digital fill.

$8954018793_49c4858b3c_b_Seussical Jr.jpg

Is this any better? Or just a weird re-work?
 

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