Tilt Shift, Live View, Desert Sunset

Here are two photos from an “early season” desert visit to Clark Dry Lake, just for sunset. I had noticed these nice dried-up runoff “channels” in the mud before and thought that they’d be a nice compositional element to play with, so I brought my 24mm tilt-shift (T/S) lens with me to play a little bit.

I like this lens quite a bit — it’s rather sharp (when stopped down by one or two stops from its maximum aperture, f/3.5) and I’ve grown fond of the shift feature more than the tilt feature. It allows compositions from a high camera position, looking down and including more foreground, without introducing perspective distortion.

This doesn’t matter THAT often in landscape photography (and not at all in this kind of photo, actually…), but when you have some trees or other verticals in the frame, it looks pretty odd when you have to point the camera down. These “movements” (as they’re called on medium and large format cameras) and the effect they have are largely unknown to DSLR users I think, and their effect isn’t appreciated enough. Once you’re aware of perspective distortion, you can’t help but find it hideous though, when you see it…

The problem with this type of lens is: there’s no auto-focus, and manually focusing through the viewfinder remains my biggest struggle with it. It just isn’t possible to accurately judge sharpness in the viewfinder, and even more so when you’re using the tilt function to adjust the focal plane.

Switching to Live View is an option because I can zoom in and then judge the focus. But looking through the viewfinder, the image occupies a large part of my vision, and I actually have to move my eye around to check every corner of the frame — but in Live View, I’m looking at a screen that isn’t even half the size of my cellphone’s screen. :-/

What’s more, through the viewfinder, I’m using my “far vision” and with Live View, I need to use my near vision… and thus, my reading glasses. :P I don’t know if an electronic viewfinder would make a difference, but given the choice between Live View and an optical viewfinder, I’d choose the optical viewfinder every time.

Last not least, here’s a view of Coyote Mountain, which I couldn’t line up with the dry channels in the previous photo, unfortunately, so I tried to find a different composition with another leading line and different channel:

The twilight colors in the desert always astound me. I’ve kept the white balance in the photo at “daylight” (for my D800, that’s 5050K with a +8 tint) and it’s fairly accurate for what I saw in person. I don’t know where the purple tint in the twilight sky comes from. I’ve only ever seen these particular colors appear after sunset in the desert.


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4 thoughts on “Tilt Shift, Live View, Desert Sunset”

  1. I have been debating whether to sell my T/S lenses for awhile given their low usage. But your post reminds me of some of their special uses that I don’t put to work enough.

    I tend to like a bit of purple tint in many landscapes, I am not sure why. It seems to add a calming feel IMO.

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