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Image of the Day: Wednesday August 20th August 20, 2008

Posted by Team SnapVillage in image of the day.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Image: 43-00509562
 “closeup of a rail track”
Contributor: otisthewolf                     

Why we like it:  A beautifully simple overhead composition. Otisthewolf effectively uses the rails and the rail ties to create a wonderfully textured grid above the gravel fill. The worn steel of the tops of the rails is a nice subtle blue-gray highlight.

I’m always a fan of architectural precision in photographs with strong horizontal and vertical lines. Crooked horizons, tilting buildings, and curved walls drive me crazy!  😉


If wonky angles drive you crazy too – here are some tips to help keep your straight lines straight:

  • Use a tripod:
    • This is obvious, but it’s difficult to line-up your image carefully without a steady means of support. Get in the habit of toting a tripod wherever you can.
    • Use a precision head. A good ball head can work, but I prefer a nice three-way head so I can adjust and lock down each axis separately. When shooting architectural details I use the Manfrotto 405 Geared Head so I can precisely “dial” in my camera position.
    • Tripods with built-in bubble levels help, but you may also want to get a bubble level that slides into your hot-shoe.
  • Use grids when post-processing:
    • Turning on grids and rulers in Photoshop will help you keep a critical eye on the straight lines in your image. View menu -> “Show” and then select “Grid”.
  • Watch out for distortion!
    • Many non-professional lenses tend to suffer from barrel distortion (horizontal lines bow outward from the center) at the wide end. Some poorer lenses also display pincushion distortion (horizontal lines bow inwards toward the center) at the telephoto end too.
    • Photoshop CS2 or CS3 comes in to save the day (again) – start with the “Lens Correction” tool under “Distort” in the Filter menu to help straighten things out. Use the “remove distortion” slider to correct this – slide to the left to correct barrel distortion, or slide to the right to correct pincushion distortion. Make sure that you’ve checked ‘preview’ and ‘show grid’ at the bottom of the image display. For the most precise results – you may need to manually enter a number in the distortion correction box.
  • Serious problems? Not a Photoshop user or want an alternative workflow?
    • Consider other tools for serious distortion and perspective problems:
      • PTLens – solid tool for correcting a multitude of distortion and perspective issues. Available as a standalone program or a Photoshop or Aperture plugin.
      • LensFix CI – Photoshop plugin and standalone app that includes a lens correction database covering 500 camera/lens combinations. Also available as a plugin for you Aperture fans.
      • DXO Optics Pro – complete image enhancement suite – with automatic optics and geometry fixes for most popular DSLR / lens combinations.


How do you keep your straight lines straight? If you got other tips leave ‘em in the comments!


– Brian



1. Phil Bill B - August 20, 2008

I use a level before I take any photos to ensure straight lines.

2. alexander deak - August 20, 2008

yeah that’s really great – was i eh, des mocht hundert! (falco)
great shot.

3. ivan gabrovec - August 20, 2008

man sieht, dieser fotograf hat auch ein “grafisches” auge. klare formen, abgestimmte farben und interessante strukturen sprechen an.


4. Bill L - September 5, 2008

Interesting composition. I always love seeing ordinary scenes in a new way.

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