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Author Topic: Shooting leveled landscape pictures  (Read 7576 times)

fugu82

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2012, 10:10:50 PM »
Grids are also helpful - either a digital VF grid or one on a focus screen.

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2012, 10:10:50 PM »

triggermike

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2012, 10:29:09 PM »
Shoot conscientiously as level as possible, then level further as necessary in post-proceessing using the level tool.

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2012, 10:48:00 PM »
i wouldn't worry to much about leveling, it's taking your time away from the importance of composition and capturing the moment rather than trying to level the camera while opportunity just passes by. Use your visual and judgement to tell if it's level or not. you can always fix it in post.

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2012, 12:18:35 AM »
how off level are you?  I can't imagine more than a few degrees, if it's more than a few maybe you need to see a doctor to get your ears checked because you have a much more serious problem.  I doubt it's nothing that can be fixed in post just leave yourself some room to level it in post by not framing extremely tight. 

Aglet

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2012, 01:26:41 AM »
I'm also horizonally challenged, especially if I'm not really taking my time.

The built-in electronic levels are great if you can activate them in the viewfinder of whatever camera you're using.  Fantastic for improving the horizontal accuracy of your handheld shots.

When on a tripod, again, the electronic levels display on the LCD is wonderful.  Test it, prior to relying on it, by shooting a known good construction level relative to your camera's level.  I found most of my level-equipped Canon's are within 1/4 degree or less, one D800 is a little off, about 1/3 degree, but I now know by how much and can easily remember to compensate for it now.  i don't think there's a way I can recalibrate it.

TRIPODS are helpful as they allow you to slow down your composition and look at the features.  Calibrate a hot shoe level and your camera against a construction level and remember how to use it in the field.

I found most hot shoe levels are low precision but if you're really bad at getting level, they're helpful.

Obviously, distant water horizons are pretty darn level.
irregular waterlines can't be relied on.
You can use the water horizon to align an edge of your viewfinder to be parallel to it.

if you have reflections in water, of trees or poles or something, then the points of a reflected object should form a vertical line to use as a reference.  E.G.  The tip of a small tree and the reflection of the same point. Only works well if near the center of the frame.  Using wide angle and some vertical tilt wrecks this method and you'd have to do some extra steps to get level.  Wind will wreak havoc with this too.  :D

Viewfinder gridlines are really useful. Activate them if you have them electronically in viewfinder or live-view.  Sometimes a slightly off-level image will be a better composition than a level one so use your best judgement.  It drives me nuts tho, when I see tilted water horizons or leaning buildings in peoples' photos.

Replaceable viewfinder screens with grids are useful too, adding one to my 5D2 really helped as you now have reference lines closer than viewfinder edges to work with and they can really aid as composition guidelines for those who like the "rule of thirds."

If you don't have any of those to work with then the AF points can be lined up for horizontal and vertical references.

However...
Some cameras (coff coff, D5100, coff) have some sort of problem where the viewfinder's AF points vs the final image coming off the camera are not parallel.  Both of my D5100s are off by nearly 1 degree in the same direction!  I didn't notice it for a while until I started shooting some water scenes.  I wasn't using liveview and the on-screen gridlines as I was trying to conserve what was left of my battery for more shots. So I leveled the water horizon carefully to the outermost AF points.  All those shots were consistently clockwise from level by about 0.8 degrees.  ARGHH! I've yet to send them in to see if they can straighten them out, likely the reflex mirror is a bit tilted as everything else seems to be optically well aligned.  I now have to try use them as follows: compose, level, then rotate body clockwise the amount of alignment error to the best of my ability to compensate - drives me nuts when I'm in a hurry.

In some cameras the sensor may be tilted relative to the body so you have to do some testing to see how yours behaves.

Best feature I found is Pentax K5 - it will rotate the sensor assembly +/- a degree or more to maintain the sensor level to its artificial horizon so you can concentrate on composition and the camera will make sure the shot comes out level.  Only possibly with a sensor-shift body like the Pentax.  I often wish I had the K5 for that feature alone.

And one last thing... PRACTICE.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2012, 06:38:03 AM »
Both of my D5100s are off by nearly 1 degree in the same direction!  I didn't notice it for a while until I started shooting some water scenes.  I wasn't using liveview and the on-screen gridlines as I was trying to conserve what was left of my battery for more shots. So I leveled the water horizon carefully to the outermost AF points.  All those shots were consistently clockwise from level by about 0.8 degrees.  ARGHH! I've yet to send them in to see if they can straighten them out, likely the reflex mirror is a bit tilted as everything else seems to be optically well aligned. 

Minor random point, but it's unlikely to be the reflex mirror (light for AF passes through portions of the reflex mirror that are beam splitters).  Most likely, the focus screen is not straight - could be the mounting bracket is off, or the screen isn't seated properly.  Not sure if the D5100 has a user-replaceable focus screen, but if so, you could try adjusting that.
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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2012, 07:10:58 AM »
Both of my D5100s are off by nearly 1 degree in the same direction!  I didn't notice it for a while until I started shooting some water scenes.  I wasn't using liveview and the on-screen gridlines as I was trying to conserve what was left of my battery for more shots. So I leveled the water horizon carefully to the outermost AF points.  All those shots were consistently clockwise from level by about 0.8 degrees.  ARGHH! I've yet to send them in to see if they can straighten them out, likely the reflex mirror is a bit tilted as everything else seems to be optically well aligned. 

Minor random point, but it's unlikely to be the reflex mirror (light for AF passes through portions of the reflex mirror that are beam splitters).  Most likely, the focus screen is not straight - could be the mounting bracket is off, or the screen isn't seated properly.  Not sure if the D5100 has a user-replaceable focus screen, but if so, you could try adjusting that.
+1 a focus screen not properly seated can cause all sorts of issues with focus too.
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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2012, 07:10:58 AM »

Aglet

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2012, 12:39:33 PM »
Both of my D5100s are off by nearly 1 degree in the same direction!  I didn't notice it for a while until I started shooting some water scenes.  I wasn't using liveview and the on-screen gridlines as I was trying to conserve what was left of my battery for more shots. So I leveled the water horizon carefully to the outermost AF points.  All those shots were consistently clockwise from level by about 0.8 degrees.  ARGHH! I've yet to send them in to see if they can straighten them out, likely the reflex mirror is a bit tilted as everything else seems to be optically well aligned. 

Minor random point, but it's unlikely to be the reflex mirror (light for AF passes through portions of the reflex mirror that are beam splitters).  Most likely, the focus screen is not straight - could be the mounting bracket is off, or the screen isn't seated properly.  Not sure if the D5100 has a user-replaceable focus screen, but if so, you could try adjusting that.
+1 a focus screen not properly seated can cause all sorts of issues with focus too.

I don't know if the 5100s focus screen is interchangeable, I haven't checked.
But here's what I've done to check the relative alignment of things.

I've spent some time trying to find the cause of the problem before I send it in to Nikon.


I've tested 5 D5100 bodies, 2 of my own.
4 of them had significant right-rotation issues of between 0.5 and 1 degree.
1 (store demo) was nearly perfect.


First, i set up a 3 ft straightedge (construction level) on a table, leveled it then aligned a heavy tripod with geared head, etc. to test the cameras.   I used an old Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, chipped for modern body metering compatibility, for the tests; It's an excellent lens, very flat-field and very low distortion.

I aligned the outer AF points to the straightedge then used the gearhead's vertical axis to compare the AF points to the viewfinder top and bottom edges.  No discernable misalignment, essentially parallel.

turn on live-view and electronic alignment grid.
The straight-edge, aligned to the viewfinder edges and outer AF points, is now tilted relative to the electronic grid lines.

That determined the viewfinder/AF point misalignment to the sensor.

I then set a D5100 on a gear head tripod and lined it up as well as I could and took photos of the body and mount/mirror-box, mirror down and then locked up, using a Rebel with a 60mm macro on it.  With the lenses and mounts as parallel and coaxial as I could align them, I took a few shots to examine in more detail in PS.

This last part was not the most precise type of measurement I could hope for but what I found was that the top and bottom of the D5100's sensors were also about perfectly parallel to the camera body base.
Sensors were also in good alignment to the mirror-box edges.

What I think I could see though, was a slight angular difference between the edge of the camera body (and hence the sensor) and the edge of the lowered mirror.  This was about half the angle of the overall rotational error. (overall error = 2x mirror-angle-error seems to make sense)

I can not adequately check whether the whole penta-mirror+viewfinder assembly is in proper alignment to the mirror box.

When examining what a I can see of the mirror pivot points, actuation and return spring, there's enough asymmetry there that, considering the cost-point of the camera, it's possible for the return spring to slightly lift one side of the mirror and cause a bit of a tilt in the viewed image versus the sensor-acquired image.

I also tested the AF point accuracy while I was at it, more out of curiousity as I often use the 5100 for macro and close-up work.
Using the finely adjustable 105mm macro lens (LOVE those smooth old manual lenses!) I manually focused a target under each AF point to get the AF confirm lamp to stay on, then checked the focus using magnified live view.  Every one is impressively spot-on.

With all that done, about the only conclusion I can draw is that the mirror hinge points on either side are slightly out of alignment or the whole focus-screen viewfinder assembly is a bit out of alignment.
Either way, at this time I don't know enough about the camera's construction to mess around with it and, since they've got plenty of warranty left, I'm going to send one in for repair and see if they can accomplish a fix.  If successful, they can work on the second one.

I also found that Imaging-resource noticed this same problem when reviewing a 5100 for their site and a few similar complaints scattered around some photography forums.  When speaking to Nikon, I did not expect them to confirm a known problem of this sort, and they did not. But the person I spoke to eagerly encouraged me to send it in. marked for his attention.  I'll do that next week.

Since I had all the equipment set up, I then tested all my camera bodies for viewfinder to live-view level accuracy and also compared all the cameras I have with in-body electronic artificial horizon ability to the construction level.  This is how I found that all my Canon's were very good or at least close-enough to rely on, and my D800 has a slight calibration error.  But now that I know what the D800's error is I have a method to compensate for it in the field that is very quick and provides acceptable results.

Yup, being horizonally challenged caused me to spend a few hours doing this but that's provided me with useful information to get the best level out of my equipment in the field and leaves me with nothing to blame other than myself for not getting it right. 
Except for the D5100s; I can still blame them!  :D
They've got no easy way to compensate for the rotational error except for me to remember to do the entire composition then try to judge how much to rotate the body to make the image come out where I want it to.  Or use live-view a lot more and run my batteries down much faster.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 12:41:41 PM by Aglet »

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #23 on: August 23, 2012, 01:22:22 PM »
I never use the electronic level on my 7D - far too sensitive, nor the bubble spirit-levels on my tripod or monopod, instead, I find it easier to correct in post with the Ruler tool in PS. Your time is better spent getting your composition & exposure correct than your camera level.

EOBeav

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2012, 03:13:46 PM »
I never use the electronic level on my 7D - far too sensitive, nor the bubble spirit-levels on my tripod or monopod, instead, I find it easier to correct in post with the Ruler tool in PS. Your time is better spent getting your composition & exposure correct than your camera level.

+1
In landscape photography, when you shoot is more important than where.

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Aglet

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #25 on: August 23, 2012, 10:08:48 PM »
I never use the electronic level on my 7D - far too sensitive, nor the bubble spirit-levels on my tripod or monopod, instead, I find it easier to correct in post with the Ruler tool in PS. Your time is better spent getting your composition & exposure correct than your camera level.

+1

-1.3

SERIOUSLY?!?... :o

That's like, "I only taxi my airplane cuz I don't want to fly."

Now one certainly doesn't need to perfectly level every shot, but if you're shooting landscapes, I'm sure you could spend a few seconds to level your camera, especially if you're on a tripod.  Helps to maximize what your get from your final image in post.

dr croubie

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #26 on: August 23, 2012, 11:28:38 PM »
I never use the electronic level on my 7D - far too sensitive, nor the bubble spirit-levels on my tripod or monopod, instead, I find it easier to correct in post with the Ruler tool in PS. Your time is better spent getting your composition & exposure correct than your camera level.

+1

-1.3

SERIOUSLY?!?... :o

That's like, "I only taxi my airplane cuz I don't want to fly."

Now one certainly doesn't need to perfectly level every shot, but if you're shooting landscapes, I'm sure you could spend a few seconds to level your camera, especially if you're on a tripod.  Helps to maximize what your get from your final image in post.

+3.14

This conversation is starting to remind me of this article at Luminous Landscape.

it's not a trade-off between 20 seconds of composition OR 20 seconds of levelling a camera.

It should be 20 seconds of composition AND 20 seconds of levelling.
Levelling is part of the composition and thinking about the shot.

Or to quote from that Luminous Landscape article:
"Relax, Bors. The landscape isn't going anywhere."
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EOBeav

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2012, 12:35:56 AM »
Or to quote from that Luminous Landscape article:
"Relax, Bors. The landscape isn't going anywhere."

No, but the light is. And I'm not saying don't spend 20 seconds making sure it's level. I'm just saying get it close and then tweak it as needed. It's an important element to get right in the field, but not at the expense of paying attention to other things. I just don't see the need for a specialized level like that.
In landscape photography, when you shoot is more important than where.

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2012, 12:35:56 AM »

Aglet

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2012, 01:09:01 AM »
Or to quote from that Luminous Landscape article:
"Relax, Bors. The landscape isn't going anywhere."

No, but the light is. And I'm not saying don't spend 20 seconds making sure it's level. I'm just saying get it close and then tweak it as needed. It's an important element to get right in the field, but not at the expense of paying attention to other things. I just don't see the need for a specialized level like that.

Well, if that works for you. :)
I won't harp on it, you've got some fine examples on your photoblog.

I've occasionally rushed to capture the light and had to level in post.
And occasionally I've missed the light setting up my tripod.
But if I have the time, I'll utilize all the precision my equipment will afford me.  And I'm still learning to slow down and be deliberate and try to create art after decades of rushing to capture fleeting moments with documentary precision.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 01:21:22 AM by Aglet »

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Re: Shooting leveled landscape pictures
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2012, 01:09:01 AM »