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Author Topic: Camera club's obsession with level horizons  (Read 999 times)

Offline SimonW

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Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« on: February 13, 2017, 04:28:08 PM »
I've often wondered why they always say horizons must be level. Surely if the horizon is hills, trees, buildings, or even a coastline which is receding to be further away at one side of the frame, it need not appear level? But to my mind I would expect verticals to always appear vertical.

My photo of Flying Scotsman on the Forth Bridge was taken from a lower elevation, and it might also be that the railway does in fact rise slightly to meet the land. Clearly my verticals were vertical (the shot is actually cropped from the original which shows buildings below the bridge all with vertical walls).



 Yet a judge has told me I should have distorted the image to make the railway level. I tried this and it now looks wrong to me, though I can't say exactly why.



OK, the shot was never going to win a competition anyway, but any comments on it, or on the more general level horizon question are welcome.





Simon Warren
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Offline jinky

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2017, 04:52:29 PM »
I must admit I have a thing for level horizons myself but usually to do with seascapes and things that are obviously meant to be level. I must admit in this case neither image offends my sense of perception but the altered one is better to me somehow. That said I would not have highlighted the issue in the first place as your first image clearly shows you took it from a lower elevation and thus it is right! I think in other images I don`t always get the slightly off level  approach. To me a jaunty angle should be obviously so  to make me appreciate it is deliberate rather than me wondering if the photographer just did not notice. In your image I had no such thought is seeing the original.

Offline Beaux Reflets

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2017, 05:23:55 PM »
I tend to think horizontal horizons only really matter when there is something in the image telling the viewer that something is wrong; example 'the tipping sea on the horizon' to keep the jetty wall level, when in fact that scenario has ignored the aspect of Perspective !

As you can see two Elevations of brickwork and the underside of the ironwork, I would expect to see Perspective.

That said; In your second edited shot you need to  'click and drag' the bottom left corner downwards a bit, to re-adjust & stretch the image, until the height of the whole iron framework appears more even, and does not taper. This will give the 'horizontal effect' that would be achieved if you had photographed flat on, at "a right angle" to the track (which of course would have tighten the perspective of view in the elevation to narrow the arch)

 ;)

Going back to the original image.

Personally, if wanting to 'level' the ironwork; I think I would make the adjustments by dragging the left hand side of the image frame downward (as in a parallelogram using the Deform tool), so as not to loose the top of the archway from view, and then stretch to even out the height of ironwork (if necessary) and attend to the sky loss top left accordingly (stitching to Layer below).
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 09:11:38 PM by Beaux Reflets »

Offline Oldboy

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2017, 07:05:33 PM »
Some lenses distort the vertical and horizontal lines in a photograph. This is why Perspective Control lenses cost a fortune to buy.  :tup:

Offline StephenBatey

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2017, 07:55:27 PM »
You use shift lenses to bring things back when the back of the camera isn't square on to the subject; it's a matter of having a larger image circle than the format requires to allow shifting that makes the price high rather than any better corrections per se. All lenses will distort (even shift lenses) if you go far enough off the lens axis - which is why wide angles have a bad press for edge distortion when it's only a result of their having a wide angle of view and hence a lot of the image well off axis. It's remarkably simple to demonstrate why three dimensional objects are distorted in this way (and lines of bricks aren't, if the lens is well corrected) using a diagram; in words, I'd rather not even begin to attempt it.

If the bridge had been "corrected" for height by dragging out to make the top and bottom parallel, it would have had a knock on effect on the width of the girders, which would then be themselves distorted. You can't win in this situation; you either take great care to get the camera back vertical and parallel to the bridge or you get some departure from mathematical exactitude.

I don't know why camera club judges pick up on this; from what I've read (never having had any personal experience) they probably can't devote enough time to an image to make a reasoned assessment, and need some quick and easy rules they can apply regardless. On one forum, I recall a judge saying that even if the club gave him the opportunity to see the images beforehand, to prepare himself, he never took it; preferring the spontaneity of a two minute chat to being thoroughly conversant with the image and perhaps working out why the photographer did it that way. Usually, it's easier to assume that the photographer got it wrong, than to take to time to ask why they did it that way.

Offline Beaux Reflets

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 09:03:16 PM »

If the bridge had been "corrected" for height by dragging out to make the top and bottom parallel, it would have had a knock on effect on the width of the girders, which would then be themselves distorted. You can't win in this situation; you either take great care to get the camera back vertical and parallel to the bridge or you get some departure from mathematical exactitude.

I don't know why camera club judges pick up on this; from what I've read (never having had any personal experience) they probably can't devote enough time to an image to make a reasoned assessment, and need some quick and easy rules they can apply regardless. On one forum, I recall a judge saying that even if the club gave him the opportunity to see the images beforehand, to prepare himself, he never took it; preferring the spontaneity of a two minute chat to being thoroughly conversant with the image and perhaps working out why the photographer did it that way. Usually, it's easier to assume that the photographer got it wrong, than to take to time to ask why they did it that way.

I agree there may be minor recognisable changes by dragging from fixed points, but with a high resolution, dragging the whole by the side of the frame effectively without increasing or decreasing its length, in theory you are just swapping information to the next adjacent pixel (just as occurs in rotating an image) and the difference in girder widths etc., will not jump out.

Offline StephenBatey

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2017, 09:10:09 PM »
I suspect that your method isn't having the same effect as my attempts using the filter->distort->lens correction, as using that I evened up the heights of a row of columns at the expense of making them progressively fatter along the row. I saw it as having the same effect as tilting the paper easel in a darkroom - the short columns were enlarged in both height and width.

I stand corrected, and may try this method (free transform tool?).

Offline SimonW

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2017, 10:28:52 PM »
Interesting comments, thanks guys. In fact, as many other photos - even of the complete bridge - show, it is far from symmetrical and the railway does in fact have visible upward incline going north because of the height of the land either end. (The shot is of the north end). But perhaps the distorted shot is artistically better! Personally I prefer accuracy.
Simon Warren
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Offline anglefire

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2017, 06:43:44 PM »
Personally, I have an issue with water being off level - but other things it does depend - as has been said hills tend to not be level!

Buildings should be vertical - or very much not - there is nothing worse than a slightly wonky building.

The Original image here looks "right" to me - the adjusted one looks wrong - going down hill actually.

I do have a real problem getting my horizons level as I have astigmatism - but the level thingy on the camera helps a bit. And if that doesn't work, then photoshop sorts it!
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Offline Paul Montgomery

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2017, 05:43:24 PM »
I'm with Angelfire on this one - to me, the original one looks more 'correct' (and more pleasing).
I guess its all down to personal preference...

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Camera club's obsession with level horizons
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2017, 01:02:42 PM »
IMHO the original is the better of the two - the angles give it both dynamic movement and look more natural.
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