I started writing this in the past tense before even deciding which film to use, in fact, I had not even put this lens on the camera before. The camera in question being the Canon EOS-1 — the first in its well known lineup — and this lens being the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 which I had only played with indoors a few times to try to understand the tilting/swinging of the focal plane.
Shifting is pretty easy to understand. The image circle is more inline with what you’d find on medium format lens which allows you to effectively shift the film plane around within the image circle. This allows for perspective correction of building, for eg, so the parallel verticals of the building don’t converge toward the top. Tilting takes a little more thought. It can be used to either expand the effective depth of field by shifting the plane of focus, or if used more creatively, can be used to selectively blur parts of the image.
The film I chose was Ilford HP5+ since it is capable of being pushed if needed. Darkness of winter is upon us after all. I picked a location that allowed for some perspective control, and allowed for various tilt techniques that I definitely understand now I’ve used it and seen the results…
The location was a park on a hill that overlooked the city and the ocean, and had vertical totem poles which are inspired by the Pacific Northwest First Nations and created by Ainu people, indigenous people of Japan. The large totems symbolize their gods from the spirit world, and the smaller ones the people. Although I see the totems a few times every week and often use them to test cameras or lenses, I don’t think I ever really looked into their meaning until now. Near to the park were trails that took me to the university where I work and study on top of a small mountain.
Simon Fraser University has amazing architecture accomplished in the late 1960’s by Arthur Erickson of Vancouver, British Columbia. The Academic Quadrangle is a union of all academic disciplines in one common space to learn as opposed to how many other universities separate them around their campus. Unfortunately, there was not an active display of sharing in this space due to our social restrictions and online learning in place during this pandemic. Much of the campus is also under construction.
I said at the beginning that I started writing this before I actually went out shooting. I wanted to mention this as I felt really that writing out what I was going to do and where I would do it actually motivated me to accomplish my goals rather quickly. I stuck with using HP5+ as I had planned, but in hindsight, I feel I may have been better off with FP4+ which I also had on hand. It was very sunny and I had intended on shooting wide open. Thankfully the EOS-1 has shutter speeds up to 1/8000th, so the technology came to the rescue in terms of allowing me to achieve the look I wanted from the lens.
Prior to taking the EOS-1 out on this walk, it was getting a ‘bc’ error which is not uncommon with these cameras. The solution, which I found on many sites, was to open the front casing and tap it with a magnet a few times. Voila. I dry fired about 30 times just to be sure, and another handful of times right before loading the film.
The Canon EOS-1 is a wonderful camera to use. It feels nice, looks nice, and even sounds nice. It has only one AF point, right in the centre, which means you have to lock focus on your subject and then re-frame. However, when you use a manual focus lens like the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5, it doesn’t matter if you have even 100 AF points (when using tilt at least).
I enjoyed using the 24mm TS-E lens, but may have tried too hard to tilt and swing without thinking carefully about what I was doing. It can be a great way to isolate a subject or expand the focal plane in a direction you want it, but if you’re just messing around like me you’ll also get a bunch of questionable shots as to, ‘why?’.
A few tilted shots ended up working out very well and were often the ones I planned out, whereas some were a bit more haphazard. It isn’t easy to tell if your focal plane is exactly where you want it when manually focusing and not having the greatest eyesight, so a few didn’t quite line up. However, it focuses very smoothly and can get as close as 0.3m.
One issue with the lens that is that the tilt and shift are 90 degrees apart. i.e. you can’t tilt and shift on the same axis. It is possible to simply take the back off and turn it 90 degrees to fix this, but then you can’t tilt and shift on opposite axes. This is fixed on the current version.
Anyway, I had fun forcing myself to shoot an entire roll with a lens I haven’t really used much before which has a focal length that is much wider than I am used to for a fixed lens. There were maybe a few too many of similar images but I didn’t give myself enough time to walk everywhere I would have liked to. Maybe some of the images are a bit rushed and not well executed, but overall the results are decent… just ignore the hairs and dust from my digitization…
Hope you enjoyed a whole roll!
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