Night Photography: Shifting Perspective at the Abandoned Hospital

Rear entrance, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital -- by Joe Reifer

Rear entrance, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital — by Joe Reifer

The image above was exposed for 20 minutes at f/9.5, ISO 100 with in-camera noise reduction on a Canon 5D Mark II. Unlike my previous images from this location, this photo was made without the benefit of moonlight. I was testing a new 24mm tilt-shift lens that offers the benefits of perspective control for shooting architecture. By using 10mm of rise, the vertical lines of the building are straight without any need to correct the image in post-processing. Correcting perspective in Photoshop is easy enough, but you lose pixels in the process.

Having a lens with rise and fall, which are the proper terms for shifting up and down, also proved to be quite useful for dialing in compositions for interior architecture photographs of this building. Instead of spending a lot of time raising and lowering the 3 leg locks on the tripod, or risking stability by adjusting camera height with a tripod center column, compositions were quickly fine tuned using a little bit of rise and fall or shift. Have a look at the new images of the theater, morgue, and flooded chapel in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital gallery.

10 thoughts on “Night Photography: Shifting Perspective at the Abandoned Hospital”

    1. Basim – the first version of the 24mm TS-E is a lackluster performer on full frame cameras. I’d actually been considering getting an Olympus 24m shift lens, which is sharper, especially when shifted. When the 24mm TS-E II came out I had a bit of sticker shock. Since 24mm is my favorite focal length, and the 24mm TS-E II is reportedly the sharpest 24mm lens for the Canon system, I recently sold another L prime and some studio lighting gear to finance it. No regrets.

  1. Yeah, this is the way architecture should be photographed. Buildings falling over backwards seem damn silly to me. But then I’m still using a view camera.

    1. Hi Kent – If Canon’s first 24mm tilt-shift was sharp, I would’ve been photographing buildings properly for years now. For night photography, I’ve learned to appreciate the effect of buildings falling over backwards sometimes. The buildings are often falling down, and they appear to be falling backwards into the sky — which hopefully has some streaking clouds or star trails. The technical limitations just became a natural part of my aesthetic. I wonder how this will change now that I’ve got a tilt-shift lens.

  2. I know you’re accustomed to manual focus at night already, but how was it with a T/S? I’m always looking for elevation to counteract falling over backwards buildings, but it would be nice to have an alternative when no hills or fire towers are available!

    1. The focusing scale on the 24mm is not extremely detailed, but much better than a zoom. The marking at 3 meters is really all you need for most exteriors. Hyperfocal distance on a 24mm lens at f/8 means everything from 6 feet to infinity is in focus. With a little bit of testing it’s easy to dial-in. Not sure how much I’m going to use tilt, but having some rise available is long overdue. For Nikon folks you’d need a D700 and 24mm PC-E – that’s supposed to be quite a sharp lens.

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