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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shoot Like Ansel Adams With 35mm D-SLRs


Today’s tilt-shift lenses offer unparalleled perspective control

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Ansel Adams
Like Ansel Adams, David Muench has made use of this visual effect for much of his career. On a D-SLR, a tilt-shift or perspective-control lens gives you sufficient lens tilt to create the same effect.
Shooting Like Ansel Adams
One particularly cool advantage that we have with a D-SLR and a perspective-control or tilt-shift lens is that we can handhold and shoot. Adams was restricted to a bulky tripod, but we can move much more freely, watching how the look of the frame evolves in the viewfinder. Naturally, your best and sharpest images will come from using a tripod, but the modern D-SLR and a lens with movements lend themselves to a much more freewheeling style of shooting, and for many of us this makes for more creative images.

With the tilting function, you can pull in subjects that are in close range and those that are distant because the depth of field stretches out and allows you to get everything in the frame equally focused. The shift function allows the image circle to move so you can put a tall subject like Half Dome in the frame without the distortion of keystoning (the keystone effect makes your image look trapezoidal).

Another thing to keep in mind is that when using the tilt function of the lenses, you have to refocus the image because the lens won’t hold the focus you manually achieved before tilting. Also, exposure metering through the lens becomes much more restrictive.

When you’re shooting with a perspective-control or tilt-shift lens, make use of your D-SLR’s depth-of-field preview. Hold down the depth-of-field preview button and slowly stop down the aperture to see the effect in the viewfinder. Adams did this with a loupe on the ground glass and a dark cloth over his head. Take particular care with foreground objects because as you employ lens tilt, the tops of these objects can lose sharpness. Look at the diagram above, and you’ll see how the depth of field changes from what you’re used to with a rigid system.

ScheimpflugA byproduct of lens tilt is the slightly distorted appearance of near objects, which appear larger and more looming, and the relative smallness of background images, which seem to recede more into the distance.

George Lepp, a professional who uses all the Canon TS-E lenses, conducts workshops where he teaches his students how to use them.

“You’re going to have to learn; it’s kind of like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time,” Lepp says of the learning curve involved. “You have to learn how to find the right angle so that you get the right plane to cover the area you want and to put that plane where you want it. It’s a combination of two things—of how much tilt and of where the focus is—so you’re doing two things at once. Number one, you have to find the plane; and number two, you have to find the focus where that plane is going to be. And you do them both at the same time. In a day, you can be doing it just fine. Then each time you use it, you get a little more comfortable with it.”

In practice, Nikon shooter Maynard Switzer uses the shift function on the 85mm lens to gain perspective you can’t achieve with a regular digital lens.

Ansel Adams
Says Switzer, “Say you were shooting something like tall trees, rather than having to tilt your camera up and get the keystone effect with that sort of image distortion, you could rotate the shift 360 degrees. You could look straight ahead and then just shift it straight up to bring in the tree, so you get a perfect perspective.”

The impetus of perspective-control or tilt-shift lenses allows for remarkable images for outdoor and nature photographers, whether it’s rolling landscapes and panoramic stitching of photos or macro work. There’s a groundwork that can be followed in order to achieve the optimization of these lenses that Ansel Adams set forth.

THE LENSES
Canon Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L
• 24mm wide-angle lens with tilt and shift movements
• Manual focus only; restrictive exposure metering through lens
• Automatic aperture control
• Tilt/shift amount: ±8°/±11mm
• Angle of revolution: ±90°
• Compatible with all EOS bodies
• Weight: 1.3 pounds
• Estimated Street Price: $1,100
Canon Canon TS-E 45mm ƒ/2.8
• 45mm medium telephoto lens with tilt and shift movements
• Manual focus only; restrictive exposure metering through lens
• Automatic aperture control
• Tilt/shift amount: ±8°/±11mm
• Angle of revolution: ±90°
• Compatible with all EOS bodies
• Weight: 1.4 pounds
• Estimated Street Price: $1,100
Canon
compare prices
Canon TS-E 90mm ƒ/2.8
• 90mm telephoto lens with tilt and shift movements
• Manual focus only; restrictive exposure metering through lens
• Automatic aperture control
• Tilt/shift amount: ±8°/±11mm
• Angle of revolution: ±90°
• Compatible with all EOS bodies
• Weight: 1.2 pounds
• Estimated Street Price: $1,100
Nikon
compare prices
Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm ƒ/3.5D ED
• 24mm wide-angle lens with tilt and shift movements
• Manual focus only; no 3D Color Matrix meter, i-TTL or multiple flash
• Control aperture with stop-down button or aperture ring
• Tilt/shift amount: ±8°/±11.5mm
• Angle of revolution: ±90°
• Compatible with FX and DX formats
• Weight: 1.6 pounds
• Estimated Street Price: $1,900
Nikon
Nikon PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm ƒ/2.8D
• 85mm telephoto lens with tilt and shift movements
• Manual focus only; no 3D Color Matrix meter, i-TTL or multiple flash
• Tilt/shift amount: ±8.3°/±12.4mm
• Angle of revolution: ±90º (click stops in 30º steps)
• Compatible with FX and DX formats
• Weight: 1.7 pounds
• Estimated Street Price: $1,250
RESOURCES
Canon
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
Nikon
(800) NIKON-UX
www.nikonusa.com

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