View Full Version : Landscapes - How much movements do you use?

Peter von Gaza
18-Jun-2008, 13:45
I'm curious, for those of you that are primarily "landscape photographers", how often and how much camera movements do you use? I have a few 4x5 cameras, but the one I take out on all my long trips (back packing and ski tours) is my Toho 4x5 mini - that has NO movements. There have been a few times that I have missed not being able to tilt my lens forward to increase focus and few times that I wished I had a little bit of rise, but not too often. I am, however, looking at simple ways to add a little tilt to my front lens and a little rise/fall to both front and back.

My thing is photographing BIG landscapes and most often I go to great lengths to avoid "foreground clutter". But sometimes, but not to often, I find myself with near foreground or scrambling around in a big forest, where some movements would be beneficial.

I realize that the beauty of large format cameras for many are the movements, but that aside, how much movement and how complex of movements do you really use for you landscape photographs? It seems to me that other than rise and fall and some lens tilt, that all the other potential movements would hardly ever be needed. Or am I wrong?? It just seems to me that we should be able to have a sub 2 lb camera that has all the movements necessary to meet the needs of most landscape photographers. I love my Toho mini because it is ROCK solid, even with my Fujinon 450mm lens and extender. It is super easy and fast to set up, super compact and light! What I really want is a sort of big Mamiya 7 with minimal movements at about 1.5 lbs.

I find myself quite often photographing in very cold conditions where just getting the camera focused is an accomplishment, let a long tinkering with camera movements.

So think of your best landscape photographs and report on what camera movements, if any, you used.


18-Jun-2008, 13:53
I find I have to use at least a bit of movement on all shots for DOF. I shoot 5x7, and I believe as you go up in size you need movements more and more. Probably back tilt (and/or front tilt) and front rise more than anything. If you don't have rise, you can use the angled camera/standards tilted approach. I can't imagine shooting LF without some ability to do front rise, and I do mainly landscapes.


Walter Calahan
18-Jun-2008, 14:06
Only what's needed.

Bruce Watson
18-Jun-2008, 14:21
I'm using the big brother to your Toho -- a Toho FC45-X. I've modified it some, replacing the mount point with an Arca-Swiss quick release plate, adding some levels, replaced the ground glass with a Maxwell screen, etc. and it comes in right at 1.25 Kg. Not bad for a stiff little camera with full movements on both standards! I've been using it for nearly seven years now and it's never given me reason to look for another camera.

To answer your question, I use movements on just about every shot, but as little as possible -- what's necessary and no more. Mostly simple stuff like a little front tilt and some rise. But I'm also a stickler for wanting the trees to look like trees so I want my back level and plumb in most shots, so I find some back tilt convenient. In fact, there have been shots where I had to tilt the bed 30 degrees or so, and use back tilt to regain plumb on the rear and front tilt to pull in focus and even more front rise (all this is part of the joy of the huge image circle on a 110mm SS-XL). Sometimes you need stuff like this when the trees are really tall.

On the other hand, just this spring I captured a nice shot of a curtain of trumpet creepers. It took about 30 degrees of front swing, and most of those blossoms from about 45 cm all the way out to about 250 cm are in nice clear focus. A freaky but cool (I know, I know, only to me) near-far composition.

I don't think I could live without at least full movements on the front standard and I'd really like back tilt and back fall also.

Gene McCluney
18-Jun-2008, 14:32
I use movements (shift-tilt) in almost every shot outside. I wouldn't do it if it didn't result in an improvement to the final image. I like my photos to be sharp over the whole subject area.

Ole Tjugen
18-Jun-2008, 14:33
"What's necessary and no more" can be quite a lot in some cases.

As here in Norway, where the landscape can be almost vertical, and taking a step back can be dangerous...

18-Jun-2008, 15:05
I usually only use front rise (or front fall if I'm up high) and a bit of either front tilt or rear tilt. If I'm in canyons or shooting closer up, I'll use a bit of swing, but usually not much.

Michael Gordon
18-Jun-2008, 15:30
It's helpful to define what type of 'landscape photographs' you're referring to.

All-around sharp focus 'straight' landscape photographs often require little to no movements. I often employ selective focus and shallow DOF. Here the movements may be considerable (http://www.michael-gordon.com/photo.php?id=47&gallery=desert). It just depends upon the effect I'm going for and the story I am trying to tell.

Graham Patterson
18-Jun-2008, 15:39
If I wasn't going to use movements, I'd take my medium format camera. But movements are generally small, and rarely more than one axis.

Gene McCluney
18-Jun-2008, 15:52
If I wasn't going to use movements, I'd take my medium format camera. But movements are generally small, and rarely more than one axis.

You got it. Why have the capability, and not use it, when it would "improve" the image.
The larger you go in format, the more you need movements to manage the narrow depth-of-field. I find myself using whatever movements I have available to me on any particular camera I am using. If I am using one of my press cameras, then I only use front movements, because that is all they have.

Brian Ellis
18-Jun-2008, 16:16
Often use front tilt to alter the plane of focus; use front rise fairly often (e.g. to to keep trees parallel while getting their tops in the photograph); use rear tilt fairly often, to make foreground objects appear larger (to "loom" as Fred Picker used to say) or when the camera needs to be aimed up because of insufficient front rise; occasional front swing with things like cliff walls. However, as I've been using a digital camera more often these days I've found that the only movement I really miss is front tilt. The others can be duplicated or compensated for in Photoshop (actually I've read of a method to duplicate front tilt too but it sounded like a pain to use).

18-Jun-2008, 16:22
I commonly use between 3-8 degrees of rear tilt and some rise/fall and quite often for 'intimate landscapes' I will use 5-15 degrees of rear tilt and possible 3-10 degrees of swing. On a recent shot (a right bugger) I was using a 110 Schneider SSXL and ended up with 20 degrees of rear back tilt, 10 degrees of front forward tilt and 10 degrees of swing. Once I'd done this, I used rear rise/shift to finalise composition. I've only ever done this amount of movement on two shots however (both not particularly successful - but you could say that about a lot of my shots - the first is here http://flickr.com/photos/timparkin/2420912531 and another more 'vista-esque' shot with compound movements is here http://flickr.com/photos/timparkin/2452461803/).

However if you are taking shots in the open with little foreground with the camera at head height, I expect you only need a little rise/fall and about 1-3 degrees of tilt.


Oren Grad
18-Jun-2008, 16:39
Lots of front rise. Occasionally a bit of front tilt. Rarely anything else. The exception is cameras that don't have enough front rise, in which case I'll occasionally use a combination of front and rear tilts to get more front rise.

18-Jun-2008, 17:45
Mostly front rise and back tilt, and twice per year front swing. And of course, the whole system is moving around in my Lowepro.:D

Ron Marshall
18-Jun-2008, 18:35
Usually front rise, and occasionally some front tilt. Rarely do I use movements on the rear standard, except rear fall to complement the front rise.

Peter von Gaza
18-Jun-2008, 20:18
If I wasn't going to use movements, I'd take my medium format camera. But movements are generally small, and rarely more than one axis.

I mostly agree with the statement. My workhorse the last 10 years has been my Mamiya 7 and when I want to go light or I'm in a rush I just grab my medium format gear. However, over the last few years I have used my 4x5 more - mainly because I just love the large negatives and with the current generation of digital printers making very large prints is now feasible and affordable. I like the idea of being able to have a show someday with very large prints (> 16x20). And also my 4x5 kit weighs about the same as my Mamiya 7 kit. If I go with 4x5 I generally bring my Mamiya 7 with one lens which gives me more flexibility in my photography.

The biggest advantage of going 4x5 for me, right now, is that I scan all my negs and print digitally. Scanning 4x5 on my cheap Epson 4990 scanner gives me super fantastic results, whereas scanning 120 negs just gives super results:D .

Frank Petronio
18-Jun-2008, 21:20
I think it depends on style -- it's trendy these days to use shallow depth of field with only the main subject of interest in focus. In which case a fixed - no movements 4x5 with fast Aero Ektar or Xenotar is the weapon of choice (Walter C has a RB Super D modified with an Aero-Ektar.... Probably the ultimate bokeh weapon!)

It's just a counter reaction to the Ansel Adams - Fred Picker approach of having an unnatural amount of things in focus across an unlikely range of distances...

So, given that you do 4x5 with minimal movements and you already have a nice Mamiya 7, you know what logic compels you to do don't you?

Chuck the 4x5 and shoot 8x10.

18-Jun-2008, 23:32
I've used every movement on my shen hao for "landscapes" (front rise/fall/swing/tilt, rear rise/fall/shift/tilt/swing) at one time or another. Sometimes to control perspective on things like trees (I usually use rise or fall instead of tilting my camera), sometimes for focus, sometimes for composition. I've even used shift for capturing two sheets of film to later stitch digitally, panorama style, effectively turning my 4x5 into a 5x7 (with concomitant increase in field of view, ie. wider angle).

In fact even when I don't really need a movement, I usually rough out a composition, go through the routine for focus, then use fine rise/fall/shift adjustments to finalize composition before shooting.

Eric Leppanen
19-Jun-2008, 00:15
My first LF camera was a Toho Mini; like you, I was looking for a 4x5 equivalent to the Mamiya 7, and the Mini seemed to fit the bill. I used to be able to fit the Mini, three lenses, a Readyload holder and loupe into a small Lowepro Photorunner belt pack. What a light weight, rock solid bit of kit! Alas, for landscape shooting the Mini for me was mostly a wide-to-normal camera; lenses longer than 150mm (and sometimes even the 150mm was problematic too) just did not have enough DOF for near-to-far landscape shots without resort to tilt. Even though the Mini had enough extension to support my Fuji 240A. the available DOF limited me to distant or planar subjects. Lack of tilt was the main reason I ultimately sold the Mini and upgraded to more fully featured cameras; I wanted to use longer lenses and frequently needed movements to make that feasible.

I assume you are aware that the Mini can support a limited amount of front rise via use of the Eccentric Lens Panel. For landscape use, I think rise is largely a function of where you live and what you shoot; in the southwestern U.S. where I live, there are lots of deep canyons and tall rock monoliths that need rise to bring to their full glory. If I were living in Kansas, I don't think I'd ever use rise at all.

If one can live with wide-to-normal angles of view, I think the Ebony RSW45 (which I now own) would be an ideal "no frills" landscape camera. While not as light or solid as the Mini, it has front tilt and lots of front rise, is very fast to set up (it is a non-folder) and is still relatively light (3 lbs). The RSW45 can support a 210mm lens via a "top hat" lens board, plus it is a wonderful wide-angle camera (it handles my SA47XL with ease).

I very rarely use swing when shooting landscapes. I use swing quite a bit when shooting architecture with my Arca monorail.

19-Jun-2008, 00:31
Having asymmetric rear tilts mean I use rear tilts far more than I should. One shot in particular had a skewed reflection of the moon as a result of this lazy habit!

Occasionally I might use a little rear swing and I often find myself using front (and less often, rear) shift. I shoot more intimate landscapes than I do vistas so using movements is pretty much par for the course, I find.

Per Madsen
19-Jun-2008, 01:45
Lots of front rise. Occasionally a bit of front tilt. Rarely anything else. The exception is cameras that don't have enough front rise, in which case I'll occasionally use a combination of front and rear tilts to get more front rise.

Same for me with some front drop added. I almost never use sideways shift.

Compared to Ole Denmark is only nearly horizontal.

19-Jun-2008, 02:34
Almost always front tilt, and perhaps a bit of rise or fall, occasionally back tilt as well.


19-Jun-2008, 03:11
I use a Toyo 45All which has only tilt & a little swing on the back, but don't find this problem. Movements should not really need thinking about, but just used as necessary to get the image you are after - so you use what is available as nec. The Toyo + 3 lenses (55mm, 90mm, 150mm) +6x7 & 6x12 RFBs (or film holders) + meter, lupe & film fit in the case I used for a Hasselblad + 2 lenses & Mamiya Universal with 1 lens + other gear as mentioned. Weighs about the same too! Dennis.

19-Jun-2008, 04:52
Movements should not really need thinking about, but just used as necessary to get the image you are after.

I'm going to have to politely disagree as this implies that there is a 'correct' set of movements for every shot whereas in reality the movements that you could apply all trade off certain compromises. An example would be if you were 50ft from a tree with a hill behind it. You could either use no movements and focus on the plane of the tree and stop down enough to get the hill in suitable focus or you could use rear tilt to get the 'middle of the tree and the middle of the hill in focus and then stop down to get the top and bottom of the tree and hill in focus. Both would work and most people would see little difference in the final print. In this case, the choice would be influenced by how much time you have available, do you need a little foreground below the tree perfectly sharp, can you cope with the top branches of the tree not having perfect sharpness, do you want the hill to be slighltly less sharp to allow the tree to stand out? Most of these decisions only arise because you are considering the different ways of focusing.. You might, if you were audacious, swing and tilt to get a slice of the tree and hill in focus?

I think the poster wanted to know, in general, what are people's gut feelings about movements. I know I often overdo movements but that is part of learning what is possible. Maybe when I've used all sorts of different movements I'll realise that I don't really need them (apart from the occasional place where I'll go "Ah! I know what I could do with this compound swingy-tilty-shifty jobby" because I'd used it before)..

Sorry to waffle..


24-Jun-2008, 07:30
I agree with Peter's ROCK SOLID note and use an Ebony SW45 which has a rock solid front end.
I need just a little front rise to clear the road in front and a hint of tilt if there's enything interesting in the foreground. I also use a 5x7 box with a fixed lens that is shifted up two fingers and has a tripod fixtures top and bottom. Got rid of a Linhof 6x17 because it had no front rise. I would be the first to buy Fotoman 8x10 if it had a non-symmetrical front.

24-Jun-2008, 12:27
I find myself quite often photographing in very cold conditions where just getting the camera focused is an accomplishment, let a long tinkering with camera movements.

So think of your best landscape photographs and report on what camera movements, if any, you used.


As I am your neighbor to the west (Alaska) I am quite familiar with photographing in a chillier climate. But I never had big issues with my Wista at -30 F unless it was windy. And then I am more worried about bellows cracking in the cold, than focusing. I always use layered gloves inside mittens for the cold work. So I can pull gloved hands out of mittens, and still have some tactile sensation on the focusing knob while holding loupe with the other. I can usually go a minute or two before needing to put them back into the mittens to warm back up. Same with my hood, I pull it down to focus... then pull it back up when I am done. Yeah, getting the image takes a bit longer, but the clarity of the air at those temps is amazing to capture. With the relative humidity being so low one gets much less atmospheric distortion or "haze".

As for movements… I use what I feel I will need for the photograph in my minds eye. This can change mind you as I look through the ground glass, but I mostly envision my final image before taking it, and just move the camera to best fit that.