South Yuba River, Old Hwy 49 Crossing, Tilt-Shift Simulation

ISO200, 26mm, f/11, 1/40 sec
South Yuba River State Park, Nevada County, CA

So for today’s post we are going to have a little fun creating a simulated tilt-shift photograph since I really don’t want to spend $1100-1600 on a lens for this purpose.  Though it is possible to produce something similar in-camera using the Nikon D7000 I am now shooting with.  The original photo was shot in May of 2009 and sat in my archives as it was NOT a very good day for shooting with the sun beating down during mid-day.

(Click through on the image to see fake tilt-shift in 700px)

Anyhow, the purpose of a tilt-shift is mainly for controlling perspective in architectural photography.  Unless you are far enough away and perfectly straight on with a building, there will be convergence or divergence of lines on the building.  For instance, if shooting from the ground, the building will seem as though the sides are converging while looking up.  A T/S (Canon) or PC-E (Nikon) lens can prevent that.

Of course, there are other uses such as keeping objects in one focal plane in focus and everything else out of focus.  When cityscapes are shot from high above, it can appear as though the city is a toy miniature city.  (See this video.) (A bunch more here.)

Since I do not have PC-E lens, I can always simulate it through Adobe Lightroom, by adjusting the image through use of graduate filters functionality.  Obviously the higher you are above a city or the object, the better the results.  This photo is not great representation of T/S, but is passable.

The bridge is the old Highway 49 bridge crossing the South Yuba River.  Built in 1922 and last used for vehicular traffic in 1993 when the modern bridge was built.  I was standing on the new bridge to shoot the old bridge.  During the summer, local kids will jump from the bridge and into the swimming hole below.  And this particular stretch of water is considered an expert run for kayakers especially during spring run-off.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 26mm, ISO 200, 1/40 sec, f/11

South Yuba River, Old Hwy 49 Crossing, Tilt-Shift Simulation.  Nevada County, California. May 14, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.


9 thoughts on “South Yuba River, Old Hwy 49 Crossing, Tilt-Shift Simulation

    1. I know! I ready to see a little toy car or train coming across! It’s really amazing how reducing sharpness in localized areas can give the impression of a very shallow depth-of-field, producing this T/S or miniature effect.


      1. It’s funny how easily our minds can be fooled – even the water in the shot looks like that fake water model railroaders use so my mind is just completely convinced that I AM looking at a photograph of a model instead of an actual river and bridge and etc. Maybe I am just too gullible?


        1. It’s really just how our brains are wired and how our eyes convince us. A real fun experiment is to stare at one object on your desk, the area of focus is VERY limited, but when you’re on top of the Eiffel Tower (and the size of the city is much like being laid out on a desk) and you focus on a building, the area of focus is still very wide, it’s not just limited to the area immediately surrounding the building. So when a photograph is manipulated with very shallow DOF, you’re brain tells you it’s just a model on top of a desk.

          And it’s just cool to see how water in real life looks like fake model water. It reminds me of the old 60’s and 70’s movies where they use miniatures in a tank of water to mimic an ocean battle. Like Jason and the Argonauts where the splash of the water just looks a bathtub and not the ocean!

          More fake looking water T/S video (certain scenes really sell the fake water feel):
          Really cool T/S video of cargo trucks:


  1. Great use of the tilt shift effect, I never though of doing it in Lightroom using graduated filters, I’ve always done it in Photoshop which can be a bit of fluffing about (though the latest version now has an actual tilt-shift filter)


    1. Thank you Pierre. I was initially a little worried the various elements would all blend together color-wise, but it ended up with nice separation (bridge versus the green water/trees).


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