When wide just isn’t WIDE enough

As some of you will know, my favourite lens for architectural work is the beyond fantastic Canon 17mm TSE. As well as having a very wide angle of view, it combines almost no distortion (pincushion or barrel) with the unique shift and tilt facilities of this range of lenses. There’s not enough space on the internet to properly explain how these actually do their stuff, but needless to say, they provide me with a highly flexible and accurate way to work.
The most used of the two movements is the “shift” function. To put it simply, this allows the front elements for the lens to move vertically and horizontally in relation to the film (sensor) plane. What this does is allow you to effectively look up at a building without it seeming to fall away from you in what is sometimes called “the wedge off cheese effect”. This works due to the ratios and angles of the light being identical between the subject and the lens as it is to the rear of the lens and the sensor…… phew!!

Canon CPN – 17mm TSE L f4.0

Some people think that the effects of this lens can be replicated in photoshop. To a point this is true, but only to a certain degree and never to the level of perfection that this lens offers, and to those in the know, it is always obvious.

My main love for this small but very expensive bit of glass is its ability to let you use a process and work flow that is possible with no other lens currently available.

Sometimes, especially when shooting confined interiors, it is impossible to get the angle of view with the camera that you can see and envision with your eye.

My most recent application of this technique was when i had to photograph the staircase in a newly restored farmhouse. the hall was both small and dark, which are two things that certainly don’t help in this profession.

My way around this problem was to set the camera on the tripod and compose almost as normal. I had envisioned the image and realised that although i could get the width required, i could not get the height. The way to overcome this?? Simple.

The camera way positioned to be able to cover the middle of the image. This cut off both the top and bottom of what i wanted, so…

For the first image, i shifted the lens downwards. this keeps everything parallel, but brings the floor and the lower steps into the image. I worked out the exposure to be a whopping 8 seconds at f22 (for huge depth of field). Click!! theres he first image done


As you can see, theres a perfectly good lower part of the image, but no top. So, simply, I shifted the lens up past its centre point to nearly the maximum to loose the bottom but include the before absent top of the image. Click!! theres the top, but without a floor.


Now the fun bit!

As with many of these memory hungry functions, even on my fairly modern Mac, the first thing to do is put the kettle on.

In the old days, to join two images in Photoshop, it involved much manual copying, pasting and usage of various of the transform functions on selected parts of the image. this sort of thing could take over a day for one image.

Now, this can be done simply using a one or more of the fantastic auto stitching functions, and now usually as you’ve probably guessed takes about the time of a cup of tea and a KitKat to do. Larger files may even warrant cake, but this is unusual unless like one i did last year involved 10 files being stitched to produce a 150mp image file.

The result is nice. But most importantly, it fulfils two of the most important rules of a good architectural photo. It looks like the item it’s supposed to be and that any post production work done should invisible to the viewer.


A few other minor things were done in that i removed some flaws in the floor and the wood and also remover the edge of a bag that i had missed due to the low light that was sticking out from under the stairs.

If there had been more complicated detail in the image for the processor to deal with then i may have included a third file with the lens set in the middle, but for many reasons , but mainly that the light was fading fast necessitating fast working i decided not to do this.

Hope you like it. A :)