29
Dec
2009

Lake Time Lapse

This is just a fun time lapse in HD of the lake behind my house in Virginia. I was testing the export to video feature in Lightroom 3 Beta. The video isn’t that exciting because there were no clouds.
Lake Time Lapse from Paul Gardner on Vimeo.

18
Dec
2009

From My Feet to Infinity

It has been a long time since I have picked up my camera or had any reason to be really excited about photography. That feeling has now changed with the arrival today of a Nikon 24mm PC-E Tilt/Shift lens. I have been wanting to try this lens for a very long time to see what it could do for me. Originally I was trying to get a D3s and the 24mm PC-E on loan from Nikon but the D3s was not available so they sent just the 24mm. The lens came in the mail yesterday but before I played with it I decided to do some research and learn all the optical theory behind a perspective correction lens. As of lately all the forums are showing the same thing over and over again; tiny miniature looking scenes achieved by an extreme tilt upwards. I am convinced that most of the people taking these kinds of shots have no real, true understanding of what is going on with the lens to achieve that effect. Or even worse they don’t know what the lens can really let you accomplish besides making things look small. Here is my obligatory miniature parking log photo. The effect is not quite as exaggerated as some photos because this lens is much wider than the usual 45mm or 85mm PC-E lenses.

8 Degree Tilt up, F/3.5, 24mm, D3

The effect is cool but its nothing to write home about. I wanted to know how this lens could make my landscapes shine. Without getting into the gory details of how the optics work; I learned that with the proper settings you can get a nearly unlimited depth of field, or at least enough to get foreground and backgrounds in a landscape completely sharp and in focus. Now I see why the great landscape photographers use large format technical field cameras. A little tilt goes a long way to bringing everything in the shot together.

Here are a couple examples of what this lens can do. I shot all these outside my house. The first shot in each series has zero swing (tilting side to side in landscape orientation), wide open aperture f/3.5 and focused on the foreground subject. The second shot shows the effect of tilting the lens to move the plane of  focus to the orientation I wanted to get the entire subject in focus. The third shot shows a decrease in aperture size from f/3.5 to f/32 to extend the depth of field.

0 Tilt, f/3.5, 24mm, D34 Degrees Swing, f/3.5, 24mm, D34 Degrees Swing, f/32, 24mm, D3

Notice in the first shot the very front of the fence is in focus but the shallow depth of field does not allow the far end of the fence to be in focus. The tilt rotates the plane of focus counter clockwise about the vertical axis until it is at the same angle as the fence relative to the forward direction of the camera. Notice the depth of field is now shallow left to right in the second image. The left wall and right side of the image are not in focus. The third shot is f/32 which extends the depth of field perpendicular to the plane of focus which is running down the fence line. In the third shot almost everything is in focus; front to back and side to side. This is not possible with a traditional lens.

0 Tilt, f/3.5, 24mm, D35 Degrees Tilt, f/3.5, 24mm, D35 Degrees Tilt, f/32, 24mm, D3

The same concepts are in play in this sequence of shots. With a standard lens it is impossible to get the pen, the remote and the picture on the back wall all in focus at the same time, especially with the pen being only a few inches in front of the lens. I focused on the pen in the first shot and the tilted the lens down until the plane of focus crossed the pen, the remote and through the back wall in the second shot. The first and second shot are at f/3.5 and again you can see the narrow depth of field in both except that the first is narrow front to back and the second is narrow up and down. In the second shot the depth of field ends about halfway up the computer screen. To solve that I stopped down to f/32 and the depth of field extended all the way up to the painting on the wall. Again, not possible with a traditional lens.

I am really looking forward to taking this lens out in the field for some landscapes. After playing around with it for a few hours I can definitely see the potential of this lens to change the way I take landscapes. Something that I discovered about this lens is that I have to spend much more time at the camera thinking through the shot I am about to take. The lens is completely manual in every aspect so it forces you to get back to the basics of composition, focus and exposure.; there is no point and shoot with a tilt shift lens. I know that I have gotten away from the basics and have relied to heavily on the incredible auto-focus and metering systems of my D3. I am finding a lot of excitement in stripping down the camera and making all the critical decisions on my own.