Old 12-09-2005, 04:43 PM   #1
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Default Any tips on getting a level shot?

Asides from a semester of photography in high school, I have little experience under my belt. It's been a few years since I took the class and I'm starting to get interested in photography again. Last night I went out and attempted a night shot of the Heartland Flyer and a crossing gate. I was very satisfied with my result, however, it was rejected due to "horizon unlevel." After looking at the image again, it's pretty obvious that something isn't right (with my image)...

This is the image I submitted
This is what it was cropped from (edit: link fixed)

Was the problem here that:
- The camera was tilted up/down as well as left/right
- There was distortion around the edge of the image due to the lens (I was at the widest angle zoom with a relatively cheap digital camera, a Sony DSC-F707)
- Both of the above

If it was an issue with the tilt of the camera itself, how is that corrected? Do you use a bubble level or something?

If it was an issue with the lens, that can be corrected by attempting the shot again but with the subject centered... I think.

I appreciate any input, I genuinely want to become a better photographer.

Last edited by ottergoose; 12-09-2005 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 12-09-2005, 04:59 PM   #2
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Were you using a tripod? Do you have a photo editing software? If so, you can rotate the picture in the photo editing software. Nice shot.
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Old 12-09-2005, 05:03 PM   #3
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It looks as if the distortion from using a wide-angle lens made it appear to be tilted.
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Old 12-09-2005, 05:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsf sammy
Were you using a tripod? Do you have a photo editing software? If so, you can rotate the picture in the photo editing software. Nice shot.
Yes, I was using a tripod (it was a 25 second exposure).

Yes, I have photo editing software, however, if I level the crossing gates the other elements appear to be unlevel (e.g. windows in background building).

Thanks!
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Old 12-09-2005, 05:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brunswickrailfan
It looks as if the distortion from using a wide-angle lens made it appear to be tilted.
Thanks for the input.
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Old 12-09-2005, 08:54 PM   #6
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If that garbage can wasn't there, it would have a better chance
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Old 12-09-2005, 09:14 PM   #7
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It would be great if some things were eliminated. Good luck with that.
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Old 12-09-2005, 09:32 PM   #8
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There is not enough space on the bottom, but too much on the left. (on the cropped one.)
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Old 12-09-2005, 10:44 PM   #9
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I sometimes have problems with unlevel photos but I have a photo editing program that will take care of it. I got the program with my Canon Digital Rebel XT.
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Old 12-10-2005, 10:31 PM   #10
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Wide-angle lens distortons aside, I've found 3 things helpful in getting a level shot.

1. When shooting without a tripod, I'll try to sight my shot to a pole, bridge support, or other landmark that I can be fairly sure is true vertical.
Image © Charlie O
PhotoID: 127205
Photograph © Charlie O


2. My tripod has a bubble level, so that's a big help on night shots.
Image © Charlie O
PhotoID: 82070
Photograph © Charlie O


3. Photoshop. Often, despite my best efforts, or because I'm grabbing a shot on the go, I shoot a pic that's askew. A slight rotation and re-crop works wonders. Most of the time, it's a fixable problem. There have been a few select cases in which I've had to "make a picture crooked to straighten it." Again this is mostly because of disortion at the edges of the shot, or in cases where a banked curve actually made the photo look worse when it's straight. Here, the track banked slightly, so it was better to have the depot "lean" a bit.
Image © Charlie O
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Photograph © Charlie O
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Old 12-10-2005, 11:31 PM   #11
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The problem is that you have cropped out a piece of a wide angle image. With the full image, people can see that verticals point in at the top, which is normal, because you pointed the camera slightly up. Once you crop out a section of the image, without the converging vertical apparent on the left, it seems like your image was not level. No matter how carefully you level your camera, this is going to happen if you do not show the whole image. The only way to correct this is to use a perspective control lens that rises or falls like a view camera. Unfortunately, since they were made for film cameras, they are not very wide angle on a digital (if they even fit).
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Old 12-11-2005, 06:10 AM   #12
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Thanks for the input everyone. I'm going to try to recreate the shot (taking your advice into account) tomorrow.

Edit: I've also resubmitted a version that I tilted a bit in Paint Shop Pro. We'll see what happens...

Edit 2: Rejected due to being too soft, which is fair. I'll be out there tonight try, trying again...

Last edited by ottergoose; 12-11-2005 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 12-12-2005, 03:04 PM   #13
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Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Last night yielded a better result - I've got my first pic approved!

Thanks again for all of the input guys. I really appreciate it.

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Old 12-12-2005, 06:48 PM   #14
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Very nice shot there!!!


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