Have you ever taken a picture of a trees where it looks like they are falling backwards and leaning in ?

Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwood tree,California native plant, East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden

This is due to the natural distortion of wide angle lenses, and you see it frequently in street-level pictures looking up at skyscrapers, or almost any building where the photographer is very close to the subject. The buildings seem to be falling backwards.

Architectural photographers used to correct this distortion with view cameras where the lens and the film plane are not rigidly locked. By setting the film plane in the back of the camera straight vertical, and tilting only the lens upward toward the subject, the parallax distortion can be mitigated.

Now with software tools, the backwards tilt can be easily fixed, and I can happily make pictures of tall trees where they look like they’re growing straight up.  After the photo has been corrected it has to be cropped, as the software pushes some pixels aside and creates an empty space.

Photoshop screencapture showing lens tilt correction on redwood trees

This lens correction  tool is part of my editing software called Bridge, which is part of Photoshop; but it is also available in Lightroom.

In photographing this grove of redwood trees I use my widest lens.  For the technically inclined, there are used two corrections, as you can see in this detail of the toolbar corrections window.

First I use the vertical correction to get the trees to stand up straight and parallel to each other, and then I used a distortion correction because the trees bowed outwards due to the wide lens.

The before and after is pretty dramatic:

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A lovely scene.  I may have lost some of the height of the trees, but they no longer look like skinny toothpicks.




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