View Full Version : Widelux FV, paint-by-number....

06-25-2008, 12:02 PM
I shot a family reunion, group panoramic photo last weekend. My family, my mom's side, the Adams and the Simpsons in Wabash IN.

Here's the pic:

What I'll share here (the paint-by-number part) is that the shot was set-up entirely with drafting skills and spreadsheets. I don't think I even looked through the viewfinder before taking it. Although I did get worried a second after, moved the camera back a foot, and took a second shot. Then another foot back, and a third (final) shot. No need - the first one was *the one*.

I've been frustrated with my Widelux FV where the viewfinder is concerned. It's inaccurate, very much so. It doesn't accurately show as much image as will be in the finished image. Finally after over 2 years of ownership, I decided to make the best of it, and solve the issue, at least when shooting groups in an arc.

I made a pair of spreadsheets. The first was a spreadsheet that for a subject of known height and distance, would give me what the image height would be on film. This confirmed that at 11' (the fixed-focus distance of my WL), an adult human would show up from head to toe.

Next spreadsheet was how long an arc would be, at R11', and what the chord would be from one arc endpoint to the other (23' arc length, 19' chord length). This data allowed me to use old-fashioned drafting skills, an orange string, stake, and surveyor's rule to lay out exactly where things went.

I didn't test ahead of time, as I don't have access to a group whenever I want. Instead I volunteered my photo skills at an upcoming family reunion, offering to shoot a group pano, using them as guineau pigs, and make the resulting pics available for sale to anybody after. If no sales, no harm, no foul - I'd end with a nice pic for my portfolio.

Anyway, worked like a charm; almost perfectly. The pic you see is slightly cropped at the sides, cropped a bit at top, and not at all at the bottom. Were I doing it again, I'd look through the viewfinder once to aim the center of the viewfinder at people's bellies / belts, just to get the toes off the bottom of the pic. OTOH, I like the pavillion in the back - that's where the reunion was, so it's fitting.

But the best news: a buddy (Patrick Dempsey on Photo.net) and I came up with a way to set this shot up *fast.* Requires 4 stakes, and 6 pieces of rope a bit more than 11' long. He gave me the nudge, after reading about my spreadsheet for the 11' arc, arc length, and cord. Together we refined the following concept:

Designate one stake as the tripod stake (pt. A), and tie 4 of the 11' pieces of rope to it. Designate / mark another stake as the midpoint of the arc (pt. B), and tie the other end of one of the ropes to it. The last two stakes are the endpoints of the arc (pts. C & D); tie them to the pt. B stake with 11' rope.

What we'll end up with is a pair of 11' equilateral triangles, back to back.

Then that 6th piece of 11' rope will be a measuring device to double-check distance, tie it to the tripod stake.

Now tap in the tripod stake. Pull the arc midpoint stake taut, 11' away, and tap it in. Now pull one of the remaining two stakes so the ropes are taut to one side, and tap it in. Do the same on the opposite side of Line AB, and tap that stake in. In about a minute, you've defined the tripod point, arc endpoints and arc midpoint. Explain the process to the group as you go, that they're going to be posed in an arc roughly along BC and BD. Then pose the people along Lines BC and BD, and finally use that 6th piece of 11' rope tied to the tripod stake to fine-tune their position into a perfect arc.

Coach the group on smiles and what to do with their hands, level the camera, verify the camera is aimed a hair down at bellies / belts instead of at eyes, have assistant pull stakes and get them out of pic, and take the shot. Done.

Quick, fast, easy; and hard to make a drafting mistake, even under the pressure of setting this up, once the tool above is made (in the calm comfort of your living room, no pressure there).

Hope this helps somebody. Once you've got the numbers of where your swing-lens camera is focused to, and can create the spreadsheet, the above info would work for a Noblex or Horizon owner, too.

David Brown
06-25-2008, 01:43 PM
Were I doing it again, I'd look through the viewfinder once to aim the center of the viewfinder at people's bellies / belts, just to get the toes off the bottom of the pic.

Just a "gut" reaction, but: Can I assume that you had the camera on the tripod at eye height? How about putting the camera at belt height (or just above) and leaving it level to the horizon. That would eliminate the potential for the curved horizon line we get anytime these cameras are tilted. Or have I not thought this through? ;)

06-25-2008, 04:06 PM
David; you're correct, my camera was roughly at eye level. Slightly below, so I could see bubble level, but just slightly.

When I mentioned aiming down towards belts or bellies, I was thinking that would prevent me shooting up subjects' noses, which might happen with the wide lens and belt-buckle camera height. So my concern for a nice portraits w/o pig noses is taking precedence over what I hope is just mild distortion of horizon.

Trigging it out, aiming at bellies from eye-height (assuming 18" dip / 11' horizontal distance) instead of eyes would be about a 5-degree dip. I dunno if that would be noticable in the pic (odd curvatures), or not.

I think the next group I shoot, I'll find out. I'll try both ways (camera at eye-height aimed towards belly, and camera belly-height but level) and check the results, see which one is more pleasing to the eye. I'm guessing that as long as a group shot has the group covering most straight architectural lines, it's a non-issue - but time will tell.

I'm still learning this swing-lens stuff.... :)

06-29-2008, 06:14 PM
Hi all,

About a week ago, I wrote about taking a group pano of 20+/- people, laying out a 120-degree arc first, and composing on the ground instead of the viewfinder.

Patrick Dempsey on Photo.net chimed in that a fast way to set the arc up, and the shot,would be stakes and string, forming 2x 11' equilateral triangles, back to back. That would give the 120-degree Widelux sweep, plus the 11' fixed-focus distance.

Well, the contraption now exists. Attached below is a photo of the Dempsey Shooting Rig.

The orange stake is where the tripod would be. All of the orange string / ropes are 11' long, forming two equilateral triangles back-to-back.

The yellow stakes define the two arc endpoints and the arc midpoint.

The white rope is about 14' long, and has two knots on it, one at 11' and one at 13' (where the blue dots are) for adjusting the arc "just right." Logic for two knots being that if the 11' radius arc isn't quite enough, I can fine-tune everybody back to about 13' radius.

It's small and fast to set-up. Compact so I can take it on a motorcycle if I want. About the only problem I've had with it so far is it tangles a bit. I'm going to think a bit on that - it may be that perhaps carabiners on the stakes, and loose 11' lengths of rope, are a better refinement. But for now, I'm happy.