April 14, 2009

labile \LAY-byl\,

1. Open to change; apt or likely to change; adaptable.
2. Constantly or readily undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown; unstable.

I love Mondays and Tuesdays, because since I get those days off from work, I can focus on (extremely more enjoyable) photo projects and my word of the day. For today's, I went downtown looking for a construction site.

Today's project is a do-it-yourself tilt/shift lens. Similar, non-do-it-yourself lenses, like the recently released arsenal of Canon tilt/shifts, can cost over $1,000, and I haven't really got the money for anything like that. A tilt/shift lens works like any other lens, but has a very big advantage (and again, for those uninterested in the technical side of these things, go ahead and click here).

The depth of field (or, area of focus) on any regular lens attached to the camera is like a wall. That is to say, the range of focus will be parallel to your camera body. With a regular lens, that depth of field can be manipulated so that the "wall" is thinner or thicker, farther away or closer to the camera. (For more on camera basics, visit the best reference for basic camera functions. Ever.)

With a tilt/shift lens, the lens can move independent from the camera body, allowing that "wall" to move be manipulated in ways a normal lens wouldn't allow. Now the "wall" isn't necessarily parallel to your camera body. It can be at any reasonable diagonal, which can cause severe blurriness in whatever parts of the photo you choose. It works like the "bellows" of a large-format camera.

My do-it-yourself brand of tilt/shift is a little less sharp than what I'm sure the Canon lenses look like. But the concept is there, and it works well. (I used a lot of sources for reference on this, but here's the one that I think helped the most.) The most expensive part of this project was finding a medium-format lens (I sort of regret going with the cheapest I could find: a $70 Bronica from ebay), which focuses farther from the censor than a 35mm lens, allowing me to bring it away from the camera for tilts and shifts. To connect it to the camera, I just used black cloth, a body cap with a hole in it, and a lot of gaffer tape.

Hopefully I'll be able to use this lens for more than just today's project. I hope to bring you sharper focus with the next one, but for now, go out and take some labile photos, and send them to me in an email!

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