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Thread: How to do this shot?

  1. #1

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    How to do this shot?

    Hello friends.

    I've pretty much been teaching myself how to operate my 4x5 (a Sinar F2). A friend told me to not worry about all the levers and stuff and just do straight shots. That's exactly what I've been doing. Here are some sample shots:


    A pond


    That white house in Golden Gate Park


    That thing between the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum...

    But now, I want to start doing more "advanced" shots. That is, I want to start moving those levers, doing tilts and swings if I have to. Anyway, I live in San Francisco and I want to shoot the Ferry Building. I know that one of the advantages of the 4x5 is that you can put a tall building such as this one on the full plane not in perspective as you would if you were taking the picture with a 35mm camera. The other day I went there trying to get the shot (I knew that I would probably not be able to do so, but I didn't care), raising/dropping the front and rear standards, etc, and, sure enough, I wasn't able to get all of the building.

    Anyway, can you guys give me step-by-step instructions on how to get the shot? This is what I want to get:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Of course it wouldn't be an aerial or "from the top" shot. It would be ground level, but I want to get what they've captured in the image above: the tower and the structure below with the three arches in the middle (the box, as I call it). If the information I've gotten is right, the tower is 245 ft tall. So I don't know how far back I have to be in order to get all of it. Probably very far. Anyway, I hope you guys can help. Thanks.

  2. #2

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Check here http://www.largeformatphotography.in...s/general.html. I have browsed the Simmons books and hope to spend some time with it, and my 4x5 in the near future to try and get comfortable with the movements.

  3. #3

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Check here, too. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/

    Basically, all you need to do is pick the right spot and use front rise while keeping the back parallel with the building.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  4. #4
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: How to do this shot?

    For that shot you have to get high up -- as that is how that photo was made -- not through keeping the back parallel to the building. The camera was probably level -- not looking upwards. Note that you can see the top of the roofs...and the bay behind the building. No amount of camera movement will bend light...though there are some experimentation going on with a camera that can see around corners!

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/c...ners-0321.html

    So you won't, as you mentioned, get anything close to that shot from the ground. But what lens(es) do you have? How big of an image circle (diameter of the cone of light projected at the film at a given focusing point) the lens has will determine if you can get enough rise to include the top of the building and still have the back parallel to the building.

    I suggest leaving the film at home, and just go out and make practice set-ups. See what the camera (w/ movements) and lens can do. Unless you want to burn film, I would just start playing with the camera and its movements. What you see on the GG is exatly what goes onto the film, so no use wasting film...unless you got lots of cash and also want to practice your exposures.

  5. #5

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    For that shot you have to get high up -- as that is how that photo was made --
    No, Vaughn, I do not want to do a "from the top" shot. I want to shoot it at ground level. Thanks.

  6. #6

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    You still have to stand in the right place, and sometimes that means renting a high-boy lift or building a scaffold. Or not getting what you want.

    If you want to make geometrically accurate photo of a tall building, say 100-feet tall, then ideally your camera lens would be placed 50-feet off the ground, pointing at the middle of the building. Oftentimes photographers are unable or unwilling to get their cameras into the perfect position. In the most common scenario, if you are shooting from the ground, making a front rise allows you to capture the height of a tower without gross distortion. You still need a wide enough angle lens to "get everything". And if you look closely, the shadows and recesses of the building will betray the camera's low position. But the overall effect will still be overall accurate, especially compared to the typical "point my digital camera up" type of snapshot.

    Shift operates the same way as rise/fall. If your camera is set up level and parallel to the subject (both horizontally and vertically) then nothing will change focus or distort as you use them. You use the rise/fall and shift movements to achieve the best composition from your position.

    Tilts, like swings, control focus and distortion. That's lesson two and another $50. But knock yourself out with those rise/fall and shift knobs and levers first!

    The sample photos you present are good examples of photos that rely on depth of field rather than camera movements. In an awful lot of cases, there are no useful camera movements to use - that's life. You still have the big film as a benefit.

  7. #7
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Judging from the position of the horizon, the photo of the Ferry Building was shot from about 110 ft above the base of the building. Judging by the size of Yerba Buena Island, if shot on 4x5 film and uncropped, the lens focal length was about 240mm. The camera would have been close to 500 ft. from the building. These are very rough calculations. There appear to be obstructions that would prevent making an uncluttered shot from that distance at ground level. In the many decades since visiting San Francisco, it would have changed so much that I can't advise on a good camera position. E. Van Hoegh is right. You would have to use a shorter lens and move in closer. The lens would need enough covering power to use a lot of vertical shift.

  8. #8

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by macandal View Post
    I want to shoot it at ground level
    Then all you need to do is level the camera, then use rise or fall to position the building in the right vertical position within the composition - that will keep the vertical lines of the building from converging (that you would get by pointing the camera up or down).

  9. #9

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    The lens would need enough covering power to use a lot of vertical shift.
    The one thing that strikes me in the responses so far, is that to simplify the use of rise and fall, everyone suggests leveling the camera first. That may not provide sufficient rise, if the camera is close to the building. The way to increase the rise is, if I remember my terms correctly, "displaced rise." You level the camera horizontally, but point it upward. Tilt the front and rear standards so that they are vertical. Then use rise and fall as you normally would. If the lens has sufficient covering power, this will increase the effective rise versus the "level camera" approach.

  10. #10

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    Re: How to do this shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lewin View Post
    The one thing that strikes me in the responses so far, is that to simplify the use of rise and fall, everyone suggests leveling the camera first. That may not provide sufficient rise, if the camera is close to the building. The way to increase the rise is, if I remember my terms correctly, "displaced rise." You level the camera horizontally, but point it upward. Tilt the front and rear standards so that they are vertical. Then use rise and fall as you normally would. If the lens has sufficient covering power, this will increase the effective rise versus the "level camera" approach.
    With a field camera this is what you'd have to do. With a Sinar F2 you have several inches of displacement built in.

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