Thank God for the APUG community. I've had no shortage of complications in transitioning from digital to film.
Here is my latest dilemma. I shoot landscapes mostly, and always use a tripod and a cable release. From the hundreds of photos I shot last winter, probably 60% or more of the compositions are crooked. When I composed the images, they were always symmetrical or had a certain line/form. I've taken art courses and studied photographers prior to film, so I understand quite well what I'm looking for and what I composed and the results are different.
I'm not sure, but I'm imagining this is not unrelated to other problems I've had with my fe2, with blurred images, ect.
You might find a small bubble level to be of some help.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
They are crooked on the film or on the print?
If on the film perhaps you need to use a focusing screen with crosslines for reference - if your camera has that option.
Due to an eye condition I have, I tend to tilt my head to the right slightly (just a couple of degrees, but it's enough to be noticeable in the pictures). I have found that a focus screen with a grid is very helpful in "reminding" me to level things when photographing. The FE2 does take interchangeable screens, and the one with the grid is Type E.
I had this problem for years. Didn't really pay attention until someone commented about slightly crooked horizons. I went back and looked closely at past photos and realized it was true.
Originally Posted by rthomas
Looked in a mirror and realized my eye sockets themselves are not perfectly horizontally aligned. One is slightly higher than the other. Don't know if that's the cause. Maybe I'm like Dr. Frankenstein's Monster. Could also be an inner ear defect, I suppose. But my eyesight is fine.
So I fitted my Nikons with the same gridded 'E' type screen mentioned above. It's used for architectural work. That did the trick. But now when the grid says it's correct, it still feels wrong to me. And when it feels right, the grid says it's wrong.
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
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I think black easel blades and a piece of plain white (non-photographic) paper in the easel help this problem. That way you can tell better how it is cropping as you adjust the easel. Also, putting the negative right-side-up in the negative carrier projects it up-side-down on the easel. Seeing it that way can sometimes make the uneven horizon more evident.
Easiest is to shoot with a focusing screen with a grid. I also use a simple grid lined paper (graphing paper style) that I custom make from this great website: http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/ you can input the sizes you want for the grids, and choose whatever style you like, from standard boxes to triangles, and print it. I drop this graph paper onto my easel, align it with my blades on both sides, and use that to help get nice straight lines in prints. For lots of tripod work a nice bubble level makes things easier. I use a simple inexpensive 3 axis type and it works fine. there is also a digital LED level with blinking level indicator lights for I think $30 bucks which might also be a nice investment if you use it a lot.
yes, a grid would help... but a bubble level helps more, especially when the horizon when lines aren't level with horizon, or they are at a strange angle which throws off what you think is level...
I used to have this problem much more often than i do now, but using a digital camera with a digital level, has helped me a bunch... especially when looking up or down, you tend to compensate for wide angle distortion or what not by turning the camera slightly... It 'looks' right at the moment, but when you print full frame, which might be your intention, it's quite upsetting to realize you weren't holding the camera level to the horizon.
cropping does help, but it becomes annoying, when you end up cropping things at the edge of the frames that you intended to use compositionally.
I have a very similar condition, which my optometrist calls "right-eye heavy", where landscapes are always tilted down on the right-hand side. She says it comes from the way your eyes process scenes, when both eyes are open, you naturally compensate but since you close one eye to focus... She also said only photographers complain about it.
Bubble levels and grids are the only things that work for me, since I know it is not level but I don't see it.
Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.
I carry a small pocket sized carpenter's level. You can get one at a hardware store or Walmart for a few dollars. I have several so that one lives in each of my camera bags. Using it eliminated my tilted horizon problems.