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Thread: tilt or not to tilt

  1. #1

    tilt or not to tilt

    When shooting on a canyon rim in Canyonlands last weekend, I was unsure of what amount of tilt, if any, to apply to my shot. I employed the iterative method of focusing on the near, tilt to get near bush in focus, etc. I was using an 80mm XL at f32. My result was less than satisfactory. The entire bottom part of the canyon was out of focus. Should I instead have not used tilt and just stopped down the f-stop. Suggestions?

  2. #2

    tilt or not to tilt

    Posting the image would help prompt good replys. Just guessing, but is your image looking down into the canyon with the horizon near the top? And you tilted the lens down? If so, the plane of sharp focus starts under the tripod and angles up and away from you while the lens axis points down and away. Therefore the lens axis and the PSF intersect rather than complement each other. Depending on how close the near bush is (no jokes about the near Bush who would be about 500 mi SE of Canyonlands) no tilting may have been best with an 80mm lens. Sometimes tilting up solves the problem of looking down.
    John Hennessy

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    tilt or not to tilt

    Derek-- With the 80mm lens depth of field should not have been of much concern. You should focus on the far, not the near, and then use the tilt sparingly. If you were trying to get the slightly distorted foreground used often in landscapes. then you needed to use back tilt, not front tilt. As far as f stop is concerned, you might consider using f16/22 to ensure focus holds. Again with that lens depth of field should be pretty nice. hope this helps. Bob

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Harbor City, California

    tilt or not to tilt

    When you tilt, you establish a plane of sharp focus other than vertical. You will have depth of field above and below that plane which is very narrow in front, but gets larger when distant from the camera. To set that plane, you need to find an imaginary intersection where the plane of the camera back and that of the lensboard join an extension of the plane you want. With a little practice, you can visualize the intersection quite well, even when the intersection is below ground level, which is often the case.

    If there are objects in the subject that are far off the plane of sharpest focus, particularly if near the camera, they will be out of focus, just as is the case when the lens is vertical.

    There are several books which cover the use of camera movements much more thoroughly than is possible here. Some are:

    View Camera Technique by Leslie Stroebel

    Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons (A frequent contributor to this forum.)

    The View Camera by Harvey Shaman

    A User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

  5. #5
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    tilt or not to tilt

    I've played around with that scenario myself a few times and what you tried sounds logical but it doesn't work in that situation. I've also taught view camera off and on for nearly twenty years and seen that most people try to use way to much tilts and swings, thereby causing problems with areas that are off the plane of focus such as the canyon bottom. Steve Simmons and I teach a great workshop in the fall that goes from Chaco Canyon to Canyon de Chelly then to Mesa Verde and we see situations like this all the time. My opinion is to use tilts and swings very sparingly (starting at like an 1/8th of an inch) and know what kind of DofF you get at various apertures by practicing with Polaroid. An 80mm lens on 4x5 at f32 has an extraordinary amount of DofF!

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  6. #6

    tilt or not to tilt

    The first question I'm surprised no one has asked, do you have a base-tilt front standard or an axis-tilt standard? If you have a base tilt, then you focus an the far and tilt to bring the near into focus. With an axis tilt, you focus on the near and tilt to the far. There are rules as to when you can not use the tilt, so it pays to read the above mentioned references. Also, aside from tilting the front standard when shooting down, after leveling the camera and making sure both standards are perpendicular, I aim the camera down the canyon to frame the picture. I then move both standards to parallel the far canyon wall. Unless there is a near object in the frame, then you just focus the camera to make certain everything is sharp. Remember, the smaller the aperture, the greater the chance for refraction, which causes loss of sharpness. In 4x5, this limit is f:22 before you start to see this. You really should read the references, paying attention to finding the proper point on the rail for placing the focusing standard after finding your near and far position.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    tilt or not to tilt

    You perhaps just didn't accurately state what you did (or maybe it's just that the situation you were dealing with isn't clear) but FWIW you wouldn't focus on the near and then tilt to get the near bush in focus. If you first focus on the near you tilt to bring the far into focus.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    tilt or not to tilt

    I don't have too much to add to the good advice others have given, but I would like to correct one statement. While it may sometimes be useful to tilt the lens up in a case like yours, it is not necessarily true that the plane of exact focus tilts up if the lens is tilted down. One thing that is not often explained very well is just what determines the plane of exact focus. With the lens to film distance fixed, the tilt angle determines the position of the plane of exact focus. But with the tilt fixed, as you change the lens to film distance, i.e., as you focus, the plane of exact focus hinges on a certain line called the hinge line. If the lens is tilted down, the hinge line is below the lens, and if the lens is tilted up, the hinge line is above the lens. But either way, the plane of exact focus can swing in a wide arc about the hinge line and could in principle point either up or down. Of course, in practice just what is possible will be limited by the allowable bellows extenstion. With the lens tilted down, you would need to move the rear standard quite close to the lens in order to tilt the plane of exact focus down, and with an 80 mm lens, that might be difficult or impossible.

  9. #9

    tilt or not to tilt

    Ernest said, "You will have depth of field above and below that plane which is very narrow in front, but gets larger when distant from the camera".

    Is this true? Surely the depth of field remains constant ether side of the plane of focus nu matter how far away from the camera you are. I'm only a beginner really but thats how I have always understood it. Can anyone confirm if the above statement is true. And if it is, your challenge is to explain why :-)

    TIA, Nigels.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Harbor City, California

    tilt or not to tilt

    Nigel, think about infinity. You can obtain depth of field such that very distant objects still appear in sharp focus, even though the camera is focused on something much closer. On the other hand, objects significantly closer to the camera will be out of focus.

    You can try this out by setting your camera parallel to a wall with a conspicuous pattern like a brick or shingled wall. Tape a pencil or something else to focus on onto the wall about four feet in front of the camera. Focus. Now see how many bricks or shingles behind the pencil are sharp and how many in front are.

    Trying it with tilt would be easiest with a helper. Tilt so that a distant building and something on the ground close to the camera are both in sharp focus. (You need a lens with a lot of excess coverage to do this.) Now have your friend stand far enough behind the near object that all of him is in the picture. You will probably find that his head is not in focus. Have him walk toward the building and his head will come into focus and if he goes further, even an upraised hand will be sharp.

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