Shrinking down Chicago to scale

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Miniature villages are omnipresent as Christmas decorations so that reminded me of one of the rare photographic fads I have never tried: fake miniatures simulating the optical effects of a tilt-shift lens. Avant-garde photographers such as Olivo Barbieri innovated with this technique in the early 1990’s and since it has become very popular as demonstrated by the fact that it appears as ”creative filter effect ” on-board cameras such as the Canon 60D for example. There are myriads of tutorials out there to produce such images. It typically involves selecting an image shot from above, performing lens blur on a reflected gradient and using oversaturation, oversharpening and overcontrast to add a plasticity effect on full-scale objects and structures.

I wanted to emulate the typical Christmas diorama but I do not readily have access to alpine villages so it came down to picture availability. I had shot pictures from two of the tallest buildings in Chicago: the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center. I used those to see whether they could make believable fake miniatures. I think that the results are sort of fun although images that include the horizon and sky are not very believable. Would I acquire a tilt-shift lens for that effect? Certainly not but I am interested in exploring tilt-shift lens technology for their capacity to produce a wedge of focus not parallel to the imaging plane, something that cannot be reproduced by software. Would I take pictures specifically with the intent of producing a fake miniature? Certainly. I might not go out of my way to do so but if I get the opportunity to take shots that lend themselves well to being ”miniaturized”, I would try it again.

Equipment: Canon DSLR 5D Mk II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens, Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L lens, Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens

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