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Tilt shift lens query

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Morning all


I have a question in my head on Tilt Shift lenses that is bugging the heck out of me. I'm hoping that someone here is likely to have the answer.


A lot of my work is done in cities. I always use a tripod for maximum stability and very rarely use the centre column to gain height.


One of my bug bears is having to tilt the camera back in order to fit in certain buildings. I do know about lens correction in Lightroom/ PS but only use it when absolutely necessary.


Monday I was in Paris. To try and correct some of the verticals I started using the centre column to raise the camera up more. In essence, am I doing what the shift part of a lens does? Would I really gain more by having a TS in my arsenal? I know about the DOF thing that can be done but that's another discussion. I'm more interested in the verticals side of things right now.


Thanks for any help!



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You can achieve the same effect using a tripod, of course you would have to have the worlds tallest tripod - you have to factor in distance and height of the building you are shooting.


Example, yesterday I am on a job shooting a house, two story so not madly tall. I am limited in distance from the house that I can shoot (50/60 ft) the exterior frontage - I also need the whole house plus a third top and bottom for the bleed and resizing (it justifies to width in brochures/POS display) plus I need verticals pretty vertical. Even with raising a tipod as high as possible (about 6 ft in that case) I cannot get the house in the shot as required without shifting. If I was able to shoot from further away there would be virtually no issue. The back was shot from maybe 120 feet away and verticals were pretty spot on (I don't want exact vertical for architecture - maybe off by 1 deg reads better).


So the answer is yes and no, mainly no. I use the 17mm/24mm and 90mm Canon shifts. I bust the 45mm and never replaced it.

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I endorse everything Geoff has said but can add that the shift operation is also useful sometimes, when you want to get focus stretching from front to back of - for example - a carpet of flowers, mosaic tiles, etc. or, on the other hand, if you want to limit focus to a very small plane.  My first TSE lens (a 90) was bought specifically for the depth of field advantage and this is an area where even Photoshop can't help!



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There are all kinds of intrinsic problems that come with shooting cityscapes. I owned a Nikon 28PC lens for a long time, but didn't find that it solved all the problems we face. (And, frankly--I didn't really like the look.) 


There are several interim solutions you might consider: look around the area for a possible viewing point you might be able to use. In Paris, the terrace of that department store comes to mind. In Rome I used to chat up a concierge and slip him some money to let me use his roof for a few minutes. In this age of terrorist fear, that would be hard to do.


Here's something very useful that I used to do when there was a budget for such things . . . I would buy a light aluminum ladder and clip a tripod head to the top. Often I could sell it back to the shop. That gave me 6 to 8 feet of extra height. I've also rented van so I could shoot from the roof. A van would not work in a busy city.


The fact is, for general travel stock and cityscapes, the public is used to seeing distortion in photos, particularly with wide lenses. It's best to use the distortions in your compositions. 


Geoff's problem is very frustrating . . . much like my tiny tabletop area . . . he just needs a little more room!

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Thanks Ed.


Paris is probably one of the most unfriendly cities towards photographers. They like to overcharge people and other such nonsense in order to get a photo. One extreme example is I found a great view a couple of weeks ago from one building that is open to the public in the main. However, there was a meeting room which had a slightly different view of the city and the charge...5000€!!!!!!!!!!!!


Contrast this with Italy. Came back a couple of weeks ago and had two situations where I needed permission to get photos. In each one I was given what I needed and came away extremely happy.


Saying that though, on Monday a tourist bus driver saw I was trying to get a photo, signaled to me and very kindly moved his bus :D


At some point a tilt shift will enter my kit but not just yet.

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