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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Create The Old Masters Look With Modern Gear

Using the latest in software, techniques and hardware can provide you with imagery that will rival the masterpieces of nature photography

Labels: How-ToTechniques

This Article Features Photo Zoom

old masters
Choosing the proper focal length for composition is equally as important as a device for creating perspective. Telephotos flatten a scene while wide-angle lenses add depth. The Masters only had prime lenses so they could be somewhat limited in the choice of focal lengths. Today, zoom lenses give us much more control over framing, perspective and depth of field.

old masters
Because they flatten the scene, teles give the viewer a feeling of distance. This aesthetic was preferred by many of the Masters; they would regularly use lenses in excess of 200mm (150mm is approximately a “normal” lens on large-format cameras; upwards of 200mm is considered to be more telephoto).

Wide-angles are great for presenting scale. Getting up and close is sometimes the best way to give your subject the presence it deserves. However, wide-angles can distort objects and skew perspective. Large background objects like tall trees or gargantuan mountains can have a keystone perspective, like the way train tracks look when they converge in the distance (see the illustration below).

Illustration At Left:
1) Tilting the camera upward results in vertical perspective.
2) Keeping the camera level, without using perspective control, captures only the bottom portion of the trees.
3) Shifting the lens upward results in a picture of the entire subject.

From large-format film to modern digital sensors, photography has changed dramatically, but the principles remain the same. Crisp, sharp images with good depth of field combined with remarkable subjects will provide you with timeless photos that can rival the work of the Old Masters.

old masters

One of the most important devices at the Masters’ disposal was built into their large-format view cameras. Because the cameras, while looking low-tech, actually featured nearly infinite adjustability, early nature photographers could control the distortion in the frame down to the smallest detail. By adjusting the lens plane and the film plane, photographers could take advantage of the Scheimpflug Principle to get almost infinite depth of field (see the sidebar on page 7). Using view camera adjustments also enabled the Masters to emphasize or deemphasize elements in the foreground and background of the image.

Modern tilt-shift, or perspective-control, lenses, are popular these days, thanks to new releases from Canon and Nikon. They give D-SLR shooters many of the adjustments of the large-format cameras that the Masters employed. As the name implies, these lenses tilt and shift to take advantage of the Scheimpflug Principle and to control perspective in the frame.


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