Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Last week I was in Miami for the first time for the 2010 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention. Since I still had the lenses I rented for my camera with me, I decided to play around with the tilt function of the tilt-shift lens in order to do what Wikipedia refers to as "miniature faking." This is a technique used notably by photographer Olivo Barbieri.

Where the shift function I wrote about in my previous post is helpful in correcting perspective, the tilt function can do some pretty funny things with the camera's depth of field. It tends to blur out the edges of the photograph and keep only one small area in focus, which simulates to a degree the appearance of macro-photography. It is especially effective if the photo is taken from a slightly aerial view in order to further add to the illusion that the photograph is of an architectural model or a diorama of some sort.

I discovered a couple of addition things through my own experiments that help add to the illusion of the photograph:
  • Architecture makes a really good subject. (OK, I admit, architecture always makes a good subject!)
  • The photograph should include objects both close and far away.
  • People can help if they end up being in the blurry portion of the photograph, although they tend to ruin the illusions somewhat if they are too much in focus.
Sure, with digital photography, all of this could be done post-production with Photoshop. But somehow the photography purist in me likes to think that the art of a finished print begins with the initial image captured by the camera in the first place.

Mini-City Hall

Mini-Bacardi from Biscayne

Mini-Bacardi from Plaza

Mini-Bacardi Annex

Mini-1111 Lincoln Road Garage


Mini-Plaza Aerial


Mini-Lifeguard Stand





Saturday, June 5, 2010


Next week, I am traveling to Calgary on business and will be using the opportunity to take some construction photos of Eighth Avenue Place. In order to capture some more professional-looking images, our office photography guru suggested I rent a couple of lenses for my Canon EOS Rebel XSi. I rented a tilt-shift lens and a zoom lens.

After a brief lesson when the lenses arrived at the office on Friday, I packed up and brought them home to "play" with for the weekend. On Saturday, I went with my two oldest children to Yale's campus to photograph the Beinecke Rare Book Library. Beinecke has always been one of my favorite buildings on campus, and I was excited to photograph the building with the new set of eyes, so to speak.

Although I had a nice time playing with the zoominess of the zoom lens, my new favorite lens has got to be the tilt-shift! It seems to be an especially exceptional lens for photographing architecture as it maintains proper perspective, and makes architecture appear...well...more architectural.

This photo shows the Beinecke as it would appear in a typical photograph. Because of the low position of the tripod, I had to tilt the camera up to see the whole building. However, with the plane of the lens no longer horizontal and parallel to the actual horizon, vertical lines appear to converge toward the top of the photo. (And, yes, I did pick Beinecke also because it has a gridded facade on which it would be easier to gauge the perspectival quality of the photograph.)
In order to get the parallel verticals back to vertical, I tilted the camera back down to horizontal. Because the "horizon" of a camera lens will always be in the center of the photograph with a typical lens, the only way to accurately represent a perspectival view is to keep the camera horizontal. But, as you can see, keeping the shot perfectly level cuts off the top of the building and gives me way too much foreground for a well-composed photograph.

Now for the fun part. Using the shift function of the tilt-shift lens, I shifted the lens up, which moves the horizon down in the photograph. However, because I did not angle the body of the camera up, the proper perspective is retained. Verticals remain vertical, and parallel horizontals appear to converge toward two vanishing points in the distance. Just like they taught you to draw a perspective in architecture studio!