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Monday, October 1, 2007

Tilt & Shift To Boost Your Megapixels

While tilt-shift lenses can be used for both practical and extreme purposes, they also can be utilized to increase your image file size and creativity in unexpected ways

 Tilt & Shift To Boost Your Megapixels
A juniper tree stretches skyward in the wilderness of Arizona’s Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, its petrified sand dunes magnified through the use of tilt-shift lenses and stitched multiple images.

Why not create your own focal length? This concept rattled around in my head for some time after going digital. Then again, many things rattled around in my head after I went digital. But one concept that rattled louder than others was how to utilize a moving lens mounted on a camera body to achieve multiple formats and compositions. With this in mind, I started using a Canon tilt-shift lens and began combining two offset digital files of the same scene. I began creating new compositions and aspect ratios and also increased the file size of my images all without the use of panoramic equipment.

One of the most important parts of the creative process in landscape photography is finding the light, followed closely by subject and composition. The limitations of working with certain focal lengths also interrupt the creative process by confining the composition. When I mounted my digital camera and tilt-shift lens on a Really Right Stuff panoramic rig, however, the visual possibilities became endless.

Building Composition

As my digital skills advanced, I began to realize that there was no reason to be confined to one digital file taken with one focal length. I now could work with a system that helped me achieve what I aptly call "building a composition." By combining multiple images taken with just enough overlap to stitch together in Photoshop, I could include anything in my desired field of view, both vertically and horizontally.


 Tilt & Shift To Boost Your Megapixels Wild spring flowers that bloom in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, show the amazing depth of field capable by combining multiple exposures and tilt-shift lenses.

The first and most efficient step in this process is to use a tilt-shift lens on just about any digital SLR body mounted on a tripod. Once a scene is located, my first decision is to mount the camera body in a vertical or horizontal position. I do this with the aid of a Really Right Stuff "L" bracket and ballhead on my tripod.

The "L" bracket is useful in that it allows me to switch between the horizontal and the vertical axis without changing the camera position. The camera position is also useful here, as it sets up either a horizontal stitch or a vertical stitch. From either the vertical or horizontal camera position, however, I can create a square composition. The real beauty of using this method is that it’s easy and efficient, creates several more aspect ratios for compositions and increases the resolution of the final image file.

Using this method, I’ve personally enjoyed composing with a square format again. I had worked with a Hasselblad back in college and had forgotten how magical the square format could be. The aspect ratio of the horizontal format also has become one of my favorites of late. I use the Canon 24mm tilt-shift for my work, but the other two Canon tilt-shift lenses could be very useful, depending on your style.


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