Choosing alignment reference point

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by wally_hess, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. The photo attached is of a cabin built in 1820. Due to its age it has
    no straight lines - the roof sags, the walls are not plumb. In
    setting up this shot I tried to use the near building corner to align
    the perspective, which leads me to my general question.
    In doing an building shot, how does one select the reference point to
    use to ensure that the horizontal / vertical lines are correct, ie
    not cocked?
    I used a 8x10 Cambo which has gridlines on the GG which did help, but
    my trouble, I found, was in choosing the correct plane- should it be
    the building base at the ground, the building vertical corner, the
    door frame, etc, or all of them ?
  2. I would use a level to make sure the camera back was plumb (vertical) and level side to side. Beyond that...let the chips fall where they may.
  3. Wally,
    I get this problem quite frequently, probably because we have lots of interesting old buidings here! My usual aproach is to level the camera, and then compose. At this point I look for at least one major element that is true - this gives the eye enough information to understand that others are crooked. If, however, everything is out, and there is no horizon to help I'll pick one aspect and adjust the camera so that appears vertical/horizontal. from experience, I find if I choose a vertical wall/pillar etc that is on the 1/3rd or 2/3d of the image, the composition looks ok.
  4. I agree with Ken. I have shot a lot of sagging barns and buildings and always just level the camera, make sure the back is vertical and shoot.
  5. This may not be as specific as you'd like but, if it looks wrong, it is wrong, no matter what rules you've followed. OTOH the above guide lines are a very good place to start. Don't be afraid to shoot several ways so you can choose later. An armchair question- if the building is leaning backwards, should you correct the verticals so they don't converge? It all comes down to what you want the print to say.
  6. Leveling the camera, i.e., making sure the back is vertical, will make sure that vertical lines in the scene will be parallel in the image. I agree with those that say you should then let lines fall were they may as is true in the scene.

    There is always the additional problem of making sure the lens axis is perpendicular to any building facade, if indeed that is what you want. There are some relatively complicated ways to do that, but I just rely on what I see on the ground glass, rotating the camera until what shold be equal distances on left and right look equal in the image.
  7. I think the key point is to be sure the composition is both technically and visually accurate. Leveling the camera and making sure the back is plumb handles the technical aspect - that way, whatever is square will generally appear square. The viewer's eye, however, can play tricks when the variance from square or plumb is subtle. There is, for example, a "fun house" in the Santa Cruz area at which balls appear to roll uphill as a result of clever construction. Thus, it may be necessary to choose the composition and camera placement such that the resulting image "reads" correctly for the viewer. Including other assumed-vertical elements in the composition may help in some cases.
  8. Just as a remark: whether you are printing in a wet or digital darkroom, you can
    always rotate slightly the projected/digital image relatively to the paper so that it
    looks the best.

    The frame will of course be reduced, but if the angle is small, then the slight
    difference in framing may be acceptable. A good thing to do when in doubt is to leave
    some extra room around your subject when shooting, so as to be able to rotate
    without loss at the printing stage.

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