Tilt-shift Q&A: See Seattle from a New Angle

This month we highlight the creativity and, um, small mindedness of tilt-shift photographers who mak

Category: Arts + Events Articles


This month we highlight the creativity and, um, small mindedness of tilt-shift photographers who make real-life landscapes look like scale models. We swapped emails with Erynn Rose, a Seattle photographer embracing this trend to find out more about this interesting photo genre.

What is tilt-shift photography?
Official tilt-shift photography is the use of special camera lenses that tilt angles and shift up and down from the frame of film being exposed. By changing the placement of the camera lens, it can change the area of focus and allows for sharp focus on a small area of the frame. Another way of saying it is forced focus -- taking a scene and forcing only one part of it to be in focus. The result is similar to what a photo of a scale model would look like.

Describe the process.
There are two ways of achieving the look. You can do it in-camera with special lenses (all with varying levels of affordability, but Lensbaby makes a variety of affordable options to give it a try), or in post-production. All the photos I've done have been done in post-production with the GIMP, an open-source alternative to Photoshop. Starting with a photo in sharp focus, you create more levels of the same image, but blurred in different stages. Figure out what part you want to remain in sharp focus, then blend the levels together as seamlessly as you can, with the focus decreacing away from the one sharp area.

How many tilt-shift photographers are there in Seattle? The country?
I couldn't make a reliable estimate for how many people do tilt-shift photos. Anyone can do it, and do it well with just a little practice. I'd call it more of a tool, than a skill. There are a small handfull of people I've seen who share their tilt-shift views of Seattle on Flickr, and a lot more around the country.

What makes a good tilt-shift landscape/subject?
I have found the best place to shoot for tilt-shift is from high above your subject. Just like you'd be looking down on a scale model, taking a view from above and making it resemble the scale model helps force the viewers perspective. Many of my favorite shots were taken from the Space Needle or Kerry Park.

How did you discover this miniature trend?
I had come across several different tilt-shift photos on the internet before finding a couple online tutorials and trying my hand. After posting a couple attempts on Flickr, they quickly became the most viewed photos on my stream.

You mentioned that you work on your photos during your downtime at work, do your bosses ever get mad at you?
Well, the main idea is not getting caught. :) My job is mostly listening. I've been doing it for about twelve years now, so I've gotten pretty good at multi-tasking while listening.

What is the craziest/wackiest thing you've ever tried to miniaturize?
Last summer I went up on the George Washington Memorial Bridge during the Fremont Solstice Parade and took some shots as the parade went under the bridge. Structures lend themselves better for the fake model look, but since the parade has can already mess with your perspective, messing with your perspective of the parade can make an interesting shot.

How can people see more of your work?
All of the tilt-shift/forced focus photos I've made are available for viewing at my http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiveminutebreak/sets/72157603907932054/ target=_blank>Flickr and I have my own site, erynnrose.com that has some of my favorite photos and links to othe places you can see my work.

How do strangers respond when you tell them about your hobby
I've gotten a lot of g