Posts Tagged ‘shorpy’

The photographers of days gone past, they used view cameras, those lovely wood 4×5 and 8×10 cameras, which gave them the ability to keep their verticals straight.  Not tilted.  Not leaning.

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Basically, if the film plane is parallel to the building, the vertical will stand straight.  But if you tilt the film up, like when you tilt up a 35mm film camera, or a digital SLR or phone, the film plane/sensor isn’t parallel to the buildings, so the tops of the buildings will converge.

That’s why there is that angled brass piece on the back of the camera above–you can tilt the camera up, then reset the back to parallel.

Look at these photos.  See how all the verticals are, well, vertical?  These were made for the FSA–Farm Security Administration, and they often used large view cameras.

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Same with this one.  (This is from the wonderful Shorpy.com web site that I highly recommend.  Click the photos on the Shorpy site to make them load large so you can zoom in on details.)

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You don’t see straight verticals in photographs by cameras without perspective control.  But these were made with view cameras that you could control perspective.

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Those are a far cry from photos made today, with their tilted verticals.

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It’s a look we’re used to seeing, but it’s not accurate to the way they are really, and to me, it’s a sloppy representation of the town/building. It’s a record shot, but not much of a photograph.

There’s a time and place for quick and easy and convenient.  But speed and easy aren’t always the best way to document a location well.  And until you see the difference, you might not even know what you’re missing.

If you want to get straight verticals in your photographs, make sure you keep the back of the camera parallel to the subject, even if you have to lower it down or up to make that happen.

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Ohmigod, is that a Saturn?  And look, remember when you had to pedal your bike!

The year is 2066.

We’re teleporting to different parts of the earth, holding meetings on virtual beaches while sitting at home, and having robots do all the chores.

And we’re using the latest camera technology, which means no camera at all–just look at something and it’s captured.

We’re lamenting not having any photos from the first quarter of the century, since we didn’t bother to print any of our pictures, and they all got lost in dead computers and outdated phones and hard drives that last booted up decades ago.  And some old program, Facehead, or something, that was supposed to save them all.  Yeah right!

Plus, we don’t have any computers that use USB anymore!   How ancient that technology!

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My Leica M2, still going strong in 2066.

As we sit looking out the window, our Leica M2s and M3s and Rolleiflexes still just as functional as they ever were, we load a roll of film and take a walk to go capture some street photos of the day.

The sky is full of PTDs–personal travel devices.  Everywhere, our brains connect with each other through telepathic waves.  Cars have long ago ceased to exist.

And we find ourselves thinking about the good old days.  Like 50 years ago, when things were simpler.  Sure there was that terrible fiasco with President Trump, but thankfully he was quickly arrested and tried for his crimes.  And then President Sanders’ brought all nations together.  War ended and America prospered, which is why we have such a great economy, plentiful jobs and USA-made robots and devices today.

But still, taking photos of present day just doesn’t seem as cool as the old days.  Back then, there were those cool Nissan Rogues, BMW sedans and those crazy Mini Coopers.  God, haven’t seen one of those in years!

What I wouldn’t do to be able to go back in time to 2016 and photograph them.  What a treat that would be.  But that’s crazy talk.

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Look at that old BMW, when they still had wheels!  And drivers!

That’s just what we did in 2016, fifty years ago, when we were enamored by photos of old cars from the 1960s and 1970s.  So busy looking at the old cars, we missed the shots of those cool 2016 cars then.

All I know is I’m glad my Leicas lasted.  And my Rolleiflex.  Because when film made its resurgence in 2022, we were the only ones who knew how to make real photographs.  The rest make memory records, but we make photographs.

Which is why we’re the wealthiest photographers because of our forethought.  Way to go!

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“Ah, look, the good old days.”  (Overheard circa 2016)

Time traveling.  That’s what people will be doing 50 years from today in 2116–looking back on life in 2066 (“Ah, the good old days,” they’ll say.).

That photo of the PTD fuel station that looks like nothing now, just a bunch of hovering vehicles powering up?  Add 50 years.  It needs time to become valuable.  Once time passes, familiar elements fade away.  Buildings change.  The cars, the shops, the cities.  Then the photos take on meaning.

I’m no math whiz, but here’s the equation: [P+T-GP!]   (Photograph + Time = Great Photograph!)  The photo needs to be good, too.  Let’s not forget that.

Ask Stephen Shore.  Or William Eggleston. They both knew the equation.

If I were back in 2016, I’d go out and shoot ordinary things, with an eye to the future.  Because maybe I’m not shooting them for me.  Maybe they’re historical photos for the Shorpy galleries of tomorrow.  (So glad that company is still going strong, with galleries around the world.)

But alas, I can’t time travel.  They say that technology will be ready in another twenty years but they’ve been saying that forever.

I better get shooting!