January 1, 2001

Tilt and shift.

This homemade tilt-shift lens allows the user to manipulate the lens' plane of focus and compose photos in an unconventional way. On a normal, static lens, the plane of focus is always perpendicular to the camera, focusing on a particular distance from the lens.

But the tilt-shift or bellows system lets you adjust the angle of the lens with the camera, which frees the plane of focus to move diagonally in relation to the photographer. That way, objects at varying distances can be in focus, while others at the same distance are blurred.

The result can give the photographer control over where the viewer's eye goes in the photo by controlling the focus and the degree of sharpness.

My tilt-shift was made with the following ingredients in addition to super glue and gaffer tape:
1 medium format lens: I used a medium format lens instead of a 35mm lens because (a) it focuses farther from the camera so that I can move it easily, and (b) the image circle is bigger, so the light projected from it will cover the whole frame.
1 body cap hollowed out so I can easily mount the lens
Some dryer tube and a T-shirt sleeve to act as the bellows and keep excess light out.

Why do some photos look miniature?

Usually, an image's depth of field depends on (i) the lens' focal length, (ii) the aperture, and (iii) the camera's distance from the subject. When you shoot a wide photo like a landscape, you usually use a wide-ish lens and you're far from the subject, meaning you'll have a very large depth of field with almost everything in focus.

When you shoot something close up, however, the depth of field gets very small, so some things are very sharp while others are out of focus.

Shooting a landscape with the tilt-shift gives the impression that you're close up because of the strange depth of field that you would normally only get with a longer lens close to the subject (like you would see if you were shooting a model town, for example).

New through old.

These square photos came from a "through the viewfinder" idea I took from friend and excellent photographer Tim Broyer. Tim brought me a Kodak Duaflex II, a medium format twin lens reflex camera from the early 1950s.

The idea is to shoot down through the old camera's square viewfinder. That way, I can create a digital image with the old and worn feel of this classic camera (sans Photoshop).

To make shooting simpler, I mounted the two cameras together for some semblance of portability using a piece of a boom stand from a drum set and two lighting umbrella adapters.

I put a piece of dryer tube and a black shirt sleeve between the two to block out extra light. And of course, there was much super glue and gaffer tape.

Surround-sound photos

These double shots are from a Nimslo 3D stereo camera. Stereo cameras have two or more lenses and shoot simultaneously (or, in the case of the four-lens Nimslo, one quickly after another).

Stereo cameras have been around for a while. When printed side-by-side and viewed through a specially designed viewing apparatus, the image appears to be three-dimensional because of the minutely offset lenses.

For me, the Nimslo was ideal for non-3D shooting because of the very small distinctions in the lenses. They shoot just a fraction of a second apart and at angles of only a little difference. The result is two very similar but discrete images that show what each eye may see separately.

These photos were all done on 35mm black and white film, so unfortunately I don't have any digital images to add to this post!