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Thursday, 03 August 2023


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I agree with you about absolute corrected verticals - especially with architecture. Even though the brain knows it is looking at a 2D image, I suspect that there is some dark recess there that still twigs it is looking 'up'. unless you can manage to position the camera horizontally, half way up the building.

There are also issues with things like (e.g) recessed windows where the perspective correction doesn't take effect, and the brain probably detects that someone is trying to pull a fast one.

"... justified his preference for straight verticals in terms of what was normal in view camera work. With a view camera, you can correct geometry in-camera."

Except if you photograph in Florida, where the telephone poles survived a hurricane and can do more than just lean. Sometimes you have to accept what mother nature has done with the landscape.

Here is a recent example shot last week with an Ebony 4x5 and 75mm lens:

click here

Look at the telephone pole on the left in view under the top of the pavilion. The only way to "fix" that would be to retouch it out and then the wires, etc. The photo would then become unauthentic of the area in which Hurricane Michael hit in 2018. There are lots of interesting-looking telephone poles in the area. It might drive someone up the wall if they want them to be straight. ;)

I'm more curious about how the "Outlaw" banner gained an extra letter in the vertical correction process.

For once I completely agree with something someone said on the internet! ;) I do like the truly vertical poles in the first adjusted photo but dislike that everything in the bottom 1/2 to 1/3 of the frame is squished. In the second image, I suspected that light pole was never truly straight and tended to prefer the original. And finally that image on Flicker... yikes!
I tend to make some correction for perspective but try and stop well before it is unnatural. My rule is if the perspective being wonky is immediately noticeable, make it unnoticeable, not noticeable is simply a new way.

Yes! I played with view cameras well after I started shooting 35mm, and while I can see the appeal of movements, I almost never used them.

I shoot 4x5 and 6x9 uncorrected even now, but that's certainly due to considering the lens choice as part of my intent - fisheye photographers get it:) It's an intersection of honesty - 'this is what this camera saw' and artifice - 'look at this cool distortion', but it's where even in reportage photography the art creeps in.

If I look at the photos on a small display, like my phone, and can take them all in at a glance, I prefer the straightened verticals. If I look at the photos on a large display, like my computer, I prefer the original versions, as I can't take them all in at once, and as my eye wanders up and down the frame, the perspective seems more natural. To me, Mike, this says that given your preferences for not straightening the verticals, you should probably print them nice and large, and/or set them up for the viewer to examine closely!

With AI you could just tell Photoshop to apply the Johnston correction, or apply the Moose correction. Easy peasy.
If you can adapt to it, you need never fear the future.

I spent some time just a few days ago trying to correct some verticals and decided I liked the uncorrected version better. The vertically-corrected building made the full rainbow in the sky look...weird.

I suggest that Moose never tries to correct verticals on some of our English churches, because sometimes they ain't vertical. Or even parallel!

For example, it's fairly common to see arcades, those rows of arches separating the nave from the side aisles, leaning away from the nave. External walls can lean out too, and often have huge buttresses added later to stop them falling over.

To add to the fun, additions to the original build aren't quite at right angles, though they are supposed to be.

I used to try to get everything squared off in processing, but in the end it drove me mad and I just had to admit defeat. I don't even worry about it now; I just pick a couple of likely looking "verticals" and let everything else fall where it may.

The real estate photographer in me insists on corrected verticals, but the pictorialist likes the framing effect of the poles in the Mennonite Boys pic. Agree about the "looks wrong" Flickr pic, too. We had a spectacular cirrus cloud display ahead of a cold front come through yesterday and I took some pics with my 7mm wide angle on my Olympus which had a foreground of bright yellow emerging wattle flowers on trees that were "precariously leaning in". ( It's late winter here in Australia.) After correction in Lightroom, I lost a lot of the top of the photo, losing parts of the clouds, so the corrected version was definitely inferior.

I frequently do correct verticals now that it's so easy. I owned a 24mm shift lens as far back as 1987, so that I could correct verticals then (and a view camera from 1982). One of the things we did in printing the Lincoln photo that was in the print sale here (thanks again!) was correct verticals -- which some people agreed with and others didn't (surprise!).

But not always and not always entirely. I've seen the "illusion" or whatever it is where sometimes perfect exact correction looks over-corrected. I've seen scenes where an unexpected thing, like that telephone pole for example, were at an unexpected angle, and correcting that makes subtle or grotesque distortions in everything else.

I strongly disagree with Moose's first example (your road photo). The hedge and corn get crushed down into squat things and the whole top/bottom balance of the picture is messed up.

The second example (race track) seems to bother me less, although as you verified it actually distorts the scene since that poll wasn't straight. Some of the same crushing down happens, but it doesn't to my eye damage the photo as much. Still prefer your original.

i agree with you. corrected verticals in buildings look ugly. you cannot have converging perspective horizontal lines without the above the horizon part of the building to get gradually smaller since its farther away (higher) than your vantage point. if you manage to have a photo straight in front of the building without showing any of the other sides is more palatable. it looks like it was taken from far far away with a telephoto lens.

Non vertical, verticals, in architectural shots is my pet hate too. Maybe because as a building professional I am used to looking at architectural drawings and Archicad renderings.

I think your two shots did not really need correcting, particularly the first one, where the leaning telegraph pole adds some drama to the shot. They are not pictures of architectural subjects.

Architectural photography is my photographic passion right now, and I have acquired a set of shift lenses and a tripod with a geared head. Getting it right in camera, does seem to have a different look compared to fixing the verticals in post. Maybe because you get the composition you want, right from the start.

But I hate with a passion those travel shots of buildings with wonky verticals that you see posted everywhere. It is just sloppy, lazy photography.

With my Z7, hand holding with my shift lenses is very easy with the in camera level. Shifting does not fool the meter either.

Why are shift lenses drifting out of production? It is said, that my main workhorse, the Nikon 24PC has been discontinued. But thanks to a months long repair after I dropped one, I have two of them, just in case.

I much prefer Moose's corrected versions.

Images with tilting or converging verticals scream to me that the photographer was hand-holding a simple rigid camera and had to point the camera upwards to get the subject within the frame. They could do no better.

For me, that tilting and convergence dominates over the subject. They obscure the natural spatial relationships within the frame and marks a departure from reality that disturbs me.

And that colour photograph of the tall building on Flickr is a terrible example to use as a justification. For sure, it's weird, but that's not because the building is vertical. It's weird because the lower part of the building appears to be leaning to the right while the upper part appears to be vertical. The photograph was made using a normal Canon 5D MkIII and 85mm lens and the convergence and tilting was corrected later using software. It was corrected badly. THAT'S why it looks wrong. There's even a mis-join visible on the left side.

Tall subjects are always best photographed with a camera capable of parallel lens shifts and lenses with oversized image circles, or a shift lens of some sort. And a tripod.

For tall subjects, there's a right tool for the job.

It is commonly said that shift cameras or shift lenses allow a photographer to 'correct' convergence or tilting. That statement is entirely wrong and misleading.

Rather, a shift camera or shift lens allows the photographer to avoid the convergence and tilting that would otherwise occur. They can keep the verticals vertical by keep the camera level and then shift the sensor and compositional frame downwards within the oversized image circle,and get the top of the pole or building within the frame, all nice and vertical.

Sure, some poles and buildings depart from verticality, and I've photographed plenty of them, but they're the exception, not the rule.

I agree with Moose! And with you. I really, really like to see things that are vertical, reproduced as vertical. Within reason, as you say.

But also, I was born with a built-in spirit level. I hate tilted horizons. Water has to be level! It's so bad that I often download images and correct the tilt, for no reason - I'm the only one seeing it.

I don't get it. I would never allow an image of mine to be published with a tilt.

That tower in Pisa?

The first cameras I worked with were the Linhofs, Sinars, Plaubels and Cambos at Art School. Photography was still beta science back then in the seventies. A mixture of chemistry and physics.
We all wore white laboratory coats and spent most of our time on formulas and setting up and taking apart the equipment.
As graphic design students we were all taught to behave as children of Mondriaan and that nothing was more exciting than straight lines.

Some years later after I had earned my first money I bought a Canon FD 35mm f/2.8 TS (tilt shift) lens for my F1 and was very happy with it for a while. What I liked most that I could take pictures of the books and reports I designed showing both the front and the spine and at the same time keeping everything straight. Being able to shoot interiors and church towers without any distortion seemed a big plus too.

After using that TS for some years I felt that the pictures I took with it seemed very boring. Almost no one saw what was so special about them, and when they did they didn’t care. Later, when working together with professional photographers for architects who wanted their work documented with corrected photographs I felt the same. These images led to the dullest visuals I ever made.

During the years I must have done everything that can graphically be done with photos. But in the end I prefer the ones that are as honest as can be. Imperfection is great and usually adds rather than it disturbs. Retouching images is a plague nowadays.
For many post-processing has even become more important than taking the picture itself. That’s why so many landscapes at Flickr look as if the Armageddon is nigh.

For the first one, the main element for me is the second pole from the right, and in taking it down changes the feel of the image greatly. The diminishment of the pole pulls the image very much to the right. Perhaps there's a slight midpoint where it lives more comfortably.

As to the second, I'm not sure which I prefer, but again they feel like different images. The shortening of the silhouettes seems to pull the attention more to the mist. I think I prefer the original too...

I also noticed in "First example" that the house and clouds were shortened noticeably. I would prefer your photo because houses don't look like that, but telephone poles can be crooked in real life (as you discovered when you revisited the Mennonite photo scene).

The "Second example" doesn't add any noticeable effects and lessens the slight "tunnel effect" of the telephone pole leading into the racetrack. It does add an additional item at the top of the pole, just to the right of center. I would crop that out if it were my photo. Additionally, the (advertising?) boards are straight in the "Second example". To me, the straightened pole and boards serve to show the boys are (more) outside the race track as observers. YMMV

I'm with you Mike re converging verticals. Generally I hold the camera parallel to the ground so I don't have to correct them (and frame accordingly obviously), and I, too, dislike "fully corrected" verticals. They look unnatural, although they are de rigeur for architectural pictures. But that is a specialist type of photography and they are usually devoid of people, and are often CAD generated. If you must tilt, then tilt boldly. I have no idea why Moose felt it necessary to "correct" your shot though. The idea that electricity lines are perfectly at right angles to the ground I found rather amusing - where does he live in the planet perfecto where this is normal? Having said this, there is nothing much worse to my eye than a wide angle shot of a city street showing converging verticals simply so the photographer could "get it all in." We all have our dislikes I guess.

I am a fan of 24-25mm wide-angle lenses. Sometimes when a vertical element is near the edge of the frame, correction moves it off the adjusted photo. I have switched to using a 21mm (on full frame) where that extra little bit give room for vertical corrections.

Another consequence of perspective correction is the exaggeration of lens effects at the edge of the frame. Since the degree of correction is most at the edge of the frame, and often in the long dimension of the image, any weakness in the image rendering will be more noticeable, e.g., especially chromatic aberration in color images, focus, etc. I too developed a preference for "corrected" verticals shooting architecture using 4x5, in-camera controls.

Now, using APS-C, it can be quite intrusive - especially with sharp, dark building edges against a lighter sky. Now I try to shoot with the longest lens that will capture the scene, and even upgraded to a lens with better correction for CA.

I think that the advent of the phone in photography, with its wide angle lens view, has changed what is acceptable in a two dimensional representation. Our brains used to tell us that the verticals must be vertical, but now we are used to seeing all those leaning verticals on phone images, we tend to accept them as they really are. I have a very successful (in amateur exhibitions anyway) picture of the nave of Reykjavic Cathedral, complete with leaning verticals. It is similar to the change in portrait perspective. The old rule was to use an 85mm lens for portraits but now even 35mm is common.

Shorpy, the website of old photos often has images of multistory buildings made with a view camera and the photographer took great care to get the verticals perfect. When I see those images I am struck by the fact that they look unreal. When we look up we expect the verticals to converge. Our brains interpret the lines as vertical and when they are 'precorrected' our brains are tend to overcorrect and give the impression that the verticals are spreading rather than converging. At least that is how it appears to me.

My school of thought is, if one is to go straightening verticals (and horizontals for that matter) in terms of what was normal in view camera work, then at least straighten the planes that are parallel in reality.

Thou shalt not remove small distractions in post!

Doing so violates the contract of authenticity that photography implicitly makes with its audience.

The contract goes like this, "This image was mechanically produced by light reflected from objects in the real world at a specific moment in time."

Sure, depending on the mechanism/electronics at play a photographic image may be distorted compared to what a human eye would have seen at said moment, and such distortions may be intentionally employed by the photographer for artistic effect. But this, again, is understood by viewers as inherent to the medium.

"One man's meat" cannot include cloning details out of an image capture. Photography is not just an aesthetic exercise. That's what painting and collage are for! (Jeff dismounts his high horse.)

P.S. moving an element slightly to restore its relative position in an image after slightly correcting perspective is allowed. :-)

(See my Website link for more about this beef. I often include germane images there.)

Well, that's fun, thanks!

I may have misstated my opinion with the view camera analogy. But hey, I'd just returned from and Ansel Adams exhibit. \;~)> *

I think my real point is that I'm not much interested in what past/other prints look like, but in what the subject would look like in the virtual image in my head if I were standing where the camera was. For me, that's a print or web gallery image's job (for straight photography)

"And 35mm photographers have to learn to live with the sometimes wopplejawed geometry the fixed lens captures. If you try to make everything rectilinear, it will just drive you crazy. It's much better just to learn to live with what the camera gives you."

Here, we simply disagree about process, not desired result. You propose compromise to avoid extra work. I like doing the work, as it seems worth it for the end result.

A couple of examples:

Here, a straight shot of this interesting house would be impossible without ladder, bucket truck and tree trimming. Absent a view camera on this casual walk (or ever, in my life), I corrected in post. Surely the wopplejawed geometry is not what I saw in my head when taking the photo!

Far less problematic, I just like these buildings corrected. That's how it is in my head when I recall standing on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Photoshop tool you use is indeed, in my experience, close to or fully impossible for multi-perspective distortions. I don't use it. I do Edit=>Transform, with its Perspective, Distort and Rotate sub functions. Alt-{quote key} adds a programmable grid.

Yes, it's possible to really mess things up, as with any powerful tool, but it can also make corrections nothing else I know of can.

"However, in the "Mennonite Boys" picture, I had a memory of the scene that made his version look not quite right to me. So on a trip to Watkins Glen a couple of days ago I swung past Dundee to look at the location again. And, sure enough—that telephone pole on the left is not straight in real life! . . . here, Moose's desire for rectilinearity has led him into literal error! That telephone pole needs to slant in the picture for it to be accurate."

I wondered about that, as the other hints at verticality and squareness were possibly wonky. I've added a couple of other options the Second Example link.

"The house in particular becomes more squat, and loses its proportions. This might just be a consequence of him having to work from a small published JPEG, and it might be something he could avoid if he had the full file to work with."

Nope, I was well aware of that, and here's that YMMV again, I thought it looked more natural, like a real house, after correction. But, I wasn't there.

Thanks again, talking about photography is quite enjoyable for me.

*BTW, it included one print, one I'd never seen before, with wild perspective distortion — looking down at a man on his porch. I suppose St.A. didn't have time for adjustments.

Of course in the old days, I would have raised the top of my easel by a couple of inches and made BOTH the utility pole and the fence pole vertical. No disputing tastes.

I occasionally correct wonky verticals, but in general they don't bug me a lot.

Wonky horizontals, on the other hand, drive me absolutely insane. Literally the first thing I do when processing photos is to make sure the horizon is level - or, in the case of pictures without a horizon, some central item like a windowsill which really needs to be horizontal.

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