Methods

Equipment
Technique
Editing

In this sec­tion, we bring to you detailed meth­ods and tech­niques relat­ed to sterepho­tog­ra­phy, from begin­ners and sea­soned pho­tog­ra­phers alike. The aim is to share tips and notes on how to get start­ed on spe­cif­ic meth­ods. In oth­er words, your per­son­al DIY stereo guide.


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A Plea for Analog Stereo Photography

written for the stereosite by Matt Infante, USA

I was first intro­duced to stereo pho­tog­ra­phy a few years ago by a cam­era oper­a­tor named Craig Haa­gensen, who shot with a 35mm stereo cam­era. After speak­ing with him and see­ing a few of his slides, I was con­vinced mak­ing stereo pho­tos on film was the way to go. It also made sense to me as I had already been shoot­ing and devel­op­ing pho­tos on my own for a while. I’m not a purist by any means. I also under­stand it’s 2021 and I’m talk­ing about shoot­ing on film. From an edu­ca­tion­al stand­point though, the lim­i­ta­tions it impos­es forces you to learn the basics of expo­sure, com­po­si­tion and how to be more inten­tion­al with your artis­tic choic­es. Espe­cial­ly with stereo pho­tog­ra­phy, every step of mak­ing and view­ing an image is much more involved and expen­sive on film so you real­ly have to ask your­self why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

I per­son­al­ly love street pho­tog­ra­phy and meet­ing peo­ple so as I’m walk­ing around, I con­stant­ly ask how depth would add to a cer­tain moment or scene. Some­times it works and some­times it doesn’t. But think­ing in that way has nat­u­ral­ly influ­enced what I pay atten­tion to. I also shoot main­ly with Kodak slide film. It is rat­ed at 100 ISO, which means my day is planned around where the sun is going to be. Hav­ing a less sen­si­tive film stock has forced me to observe dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties of light dur­ing the day and grav­i­tate towards parts of the city I oth­er­wise might not nor­mal­ly vis­it. I sort of just fol­low the light and see how it plays off of build­ings, win­dows, and crowds of peo­ple. I’ve grown to love shoot­ing in harsh light­ing con­di­tions and in areas that have lots of con­trast and reflec­tions. I’ve even found a few pock­ets in New York City where at a cer­tain time in the day, sun­light bounces off mul­ti­ple win­dows of sur­round­ing build­ings, cast­ing this unusu­al, arti­fi­cial look to a street corner. 

A pre­req­ui­site of mak­ing a good stereo pho­to in addi­tion to an under­stand­ing of depth, com­po­si­tion and light­ing is the pre­ci­sion that comes with the mount­ing process, which demands a lev­el of com­mit­ment and atten­tion to detail. For those who haven’t tried it, it will seem like a big time com­mit­ment but again this is also part of the appeal. Spend­ing an hour or two mount­ing slides is def­i­nite­ly an exer­cise in humil­i­ty as you reflect on all the things you wish you did right. As you get famil­iar with it, there’s a rhythm that devel­ops with the tac­tile expe­ri­ence and it’s pret­ty relax­ing. The secret is just tak­ing the time to research the tech­ni­cal under­stand­ing, search­ing for the gear (most­ly on eBay), ask­ing ques­tions from those who’ve been doing it for much longer, and being patient with the whole process until you end up with your first stereo slide. When I couldn’t find a piece of gear I was look­ing for or if it was too expen­sive at the time, I improvised. 

Light­board set­up with a film cut­ter, stereo pairs and a plas­tic mount
Film chips inside an RBT real­ist mount held in with plas­tic pin bars
Fin­ished 35mm Slides

For a year, I showed peo­ple slides with a cheap plas­tic Ray­dex view­er and a dual LED clip light and it worked great. If you’re handy, make your own cam­eras or view­ers. Devel­op­ing your own film is also prob­a­bly cheap­er in the long run, but I found a trust­ed lab and a New York apart­ment doesn’t accom­mo­date the space for a dark room. 

Plas­tic Ray­dex view­er with a dual LED clip light
35mm Real­ist Red But­ton Viewer
3D World Medi­um For­mat Viewer
3D World Mod­i­fied LED front panel

Below are some of the film cam­eras I shoot with. The 35mm Stereo TDC Vivid is an entry lev­el cam­era that has a cou­pled rangefind­er, which I find eas­i­er and faster to focus when walk­ing around. It has its down­sides like a max­i­mum 1/100th shut­ter speed and an issue of slight­ly over­lap­ping frames. But, it is cheap and easy to find online. The Col­orist II is sim­i­lar and has a slight­ly faster shut­ter speed which helps with scenes that have  a lot of move­ment. The Stereo Real­ist is a great first cam­era as well. The dual Yashicas and the TL-120 are real­ly reward­ing to shoot with as they are medi­um for­mat and view­ing the larg­er frame size is quite some­thing to expe­ri­ence. The ISO Duplex is fun because it’s real­ly small and I can get clos­er to my sub­jects because of the nar­row­er stereo base. 

Stereo TDC Vivid and TDC Col­orist II
Cus­tom built Yashica‑D Twin Rig
ISO Super Duplex 120
3D World TL-120 Medi­um For­mat camera

Over­all, I think the learn­ing curve is pret­ty steep and has been tri­al and error, result­ing in most­ly errors, wast­ed film, and sighs of dis­ap­point­ment. But that’s part of the process and it’s worth it to cap­ture those moments that you feel real­ly proud to share with peo­ple. I think in a time where a lot of our cre­ative con­sump­tion takes place on a phone, it’s a refresh­ing and unusu­al expe­ri­ence for most peo­ple to be giv­en a view­er and a tray of slides. It’s a form of pho­tog­ra­phy that’s meant to be shared in order to enjoy and requires you to stop what you’re doing and give your full atten­tion to it even for just a few min­utes. The respons­es and encour­age­ment I’ve got­ten from oth­ers has been reward­ing enough to con­tin­ue pur­su­ing it. I’m also grate­ful to have found a vast com­mu­ni­ty online and on social media. My bud­dy Dave Ross, who has been a men­tor in many ways, makes some pret­ty wild stereo pho­tos and has been a great inspi­ra­tion and source of guid­ance when I fall into a pit of despair about one of my cam­eras not work­ing prop­er­ly. I would encour­age any­one inter­est­ed in get­ting into stereo pho­tog­ra­phy to start on film and see it through to your first mount­ed slide. You’ll learn a lot very fast. After that, see how you feel and build on it!

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Matt Infante (New York City, USA)

I’m a pho­tog­ra­ph­er and film­mak­er based in New York City and I have been tak­ing stereo pho­tos since 2018. My main role is work­ing as a cam­era assis­tant on tele­vi­sion and movies. Because of that, I love mak­ing images and exper­i­ment­ing with stereopho­tog­ra­phy has been very reward­ing in that regard. The best feel­ing is shar­ing slides with some­one and see­ing their reac­tion of joy and won­der as they put their eyes to a view­er. I hope to con­tin­ue to learn more and meet oth­er tal­ent­ed stere­o­g­ra­phers along the way.

Insta­­gram-pro­­file: stereo.matt
Web­site: www.stereomatt.wixsite.com

The Magic of Hyper Stereos

written for the stereosite by Pascal Martiné, Germany

Introduction

When I start­ed to take my first own stereo pho­tos I soon real­ized that I can kind of adjust the amount of depth by shift­ing the cam­era more or less between the two shots. Like most of us it took me quite a while to devel­op the right feel­ing and reduce the amount of stereo pairs that were not real­ly sat­is­fy­ing. But cap­tur­ing land­scapes was still a chal­lenge when I first heard of so called hyper stereo pho­tos. After my per­son­al dis­cov­ery of stere­oscopy this opened a whole new world once more. Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2020 I had the long await­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to take stereo pho­tos with a drone. But to tell you all about the mag­ic of hyper stere­os it’s best to start soon after the birth of stereo­scop­ic photography.

While stereo­scop­ic pho­tog­ra­phy always had more tech­ni­cal require­ments, includ­ing the cam­era as well as view­ing devices, the view­ing expe­ri­ence sur­passed that of mono pho­tog­ra­phy. This may not apply on por­traits but does cer­tain­ly on trav­el pho­tog­ra­phy, where you could step right into the scene depict­ed in a stereo view.

But when it comes to wide and dis­tant land­scapes their flat­ness is an unde­ni­able draw­back for the stereo­scop­ic effect when a stereo cam­era with lens­es spaced at the same dis­tance as human eyes is used. Watch­ing the fol­low­ing slides through a Brew­ster stere­o­scope would offer a lit­tle more depth than free view­ing them. Nev­er­the­less, one can see that the lack of 3D is already quite bor­ing com­pared to the two stereo slides shown above.

If you ever took your own stereo pho­tos and referred to the dis­tance of your eyes when shift­ing the cam­era between the two shots you may have encoun­tered that all dis­tant objects appear as one sin­gle flat back­ground. The same effect explains why we can­not esti­mate the dif­fer­ent dis­tances of clouds when we look to the sky.

Stereopsis

To under­stand why this is not pos­si­ble we need to con­sult some the­o­ry. The abil­i­ty of extract­ing depth infor­ma­tion from our binoc­u­lar vision is called Stere­op­sis. One of its con­di­tions is relat­ed to the fact that our eyes have a cer­tain dis­tance to each oth­er. Now, if we look at an object (F) both our eyes will imme­di­ate­ly turn towards the object, lead­ing to a vision of the object right in the cen­ter of both reti­nas, result­ing in one sin­gle vision for both eyes (Fig. 1).

The ver­ti­cal orange line rep­re­sents the dis­tance between us and the object. The hor­i­zon­tal orange line is called base­line in the con­text of stere­oscopy, i.e. the dis­tance between our eyes, or the dis­tance between the two cam­era lenses.

One could assume that every object which is as far away from us as object F would cause such a sin­gle vision. But this is not true. If you would draw two rays from equal points on both reti­nas through the two lens­es you would find out that their inter­sec­tions rather cre­ate a cir­cle. This cir­cle is called Horopter (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1: Focussing on an object F caus­es a so called sin­gle vision.
Fig. 2: Every object on the horopter also caus­es a sin­gle vision.

Note that this is only the the­o­ret­i­cal horopter. There also exists an empir­i­cal horopter and a cer­tain neu­ronal tol­er­ance, sum­ma­rized in the so called Panum’s fusion­al area. But we will now focus on stere­op­sis again.

If an object O (red) is clos­er than the horopter its vision will have dif­fer­ent posi­tions on each reti­na (Fig. 3). Those dif­fer­ent posi­tions on the reti­nas cause a dou­ble vision which enables our brain to sense the dis­tances of objects. We also use addi­tion­al tech­niques such as com­par­i­son of size, move­ment, etc. to enhance that sense, but we can ignore that for the dis­cus­sion of stereopsis.

Fig. 3: The dou­ble vision of a clos­er object enables stereopsis.

Let’s take a clos­er look at Fig. 3. For the right eye, the red object will hide point 3. This means that there will be no vision of point 3 on the reti­na of the right eye, i.e. it would not appear at all on the right image of a stereo pho­to. But this does not hap­pen on the reti­na of the left eye. More­over, it’s shift­ed even beyond the vision of point 4. If you would place an object behind the horopter you could eas­i­ly find out that you would have the same result vice versa.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the dou­ble vision method works only for close objects. Here’s why:

Fig. 4: Increas­ing the dis­tance between the lens­es and the object F.

Fig. 4 shows what hap­pens if you increase the dis­tance between us or the cam­era and the object we are look­ing at (ver­ti­cal orange line). The base­line and the dis­tance between the horopter and the clos­er object are the same as in the pre­vi­ous fig­ure. It’s just like you were step­ping back to take a look from fur­ther away. As you can see, the left vision of the red object moves clos­er to the vision of point 3. Ulti­mate­ly, this is what happens:

Fig. 5: If we reach a cer­tain dis­tance between us and object F, the dou­ble vision of the clos­er object in fact vanishes.

The for­mer dou­ble vision of the red object trans­forms into a sin­gle vision. This means stere­op­sis is not pos­si­ble any­more and we are thus not able to sense the dif­fer­ent dis­tances of the two objects — we are just too far away now.

This prob­lem affects stereo­scop­ic pho­tog­ra­phy even more. If you want to take a pho­to of some­thing that is just too large to fit entire­ly on your lens — like a build­ing, a moun­tain, a land­scape or a city panora­ma — the only way is to get far­ther away from the sub­ject and loose the stereo effect. Fur­ther­more, we some­times wish to get clos­er to par­tic­u­lar object but we can’t — like a ship on the sea, an ani­mal or the clouds men­tioned above.

Wait! Didn’t we con­clude that it’s just impos­si­ble to sense depth in dis­tant clouds? Yes, that’s true on one hand, but obvi­ous­ly clouds are also as three dimen­sion­al as a moun­tain. Luck­i­ly, we are not only able to bring back the depth, we are also able to make it vis­i­ble in a way that we have nev­er seen it before. That’s why the title of this arti­cle speaks of magic.

While magi­cians work with illu­sions or dis­trac­tions we will actu­al­ly not do any­thing more than reveal­ing real­i­ty. That means mak­ing stere­op­sis pos­si­ble for dis­tant objects. In the­o­ry it’s quite sim­ple to bring the dou­ble vision back. All you have to do is increase the base­line (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6: Increas­ing the base­line (re)creates a dou­ble vision.

If you want to exam­ine the effects between dis­tance and base­line on your own you can access this fig­ure as an inter­ac­tive GeoGe­bra file online here.

The effect might seem poor in the exam­ple above because the dou­ble vision on the last fig­ure is far less than on the first. But as I said you will use that tech­nique for large build­ings rather than for a still life on a table. So, if you increase the dis­tance to your sub­jects, their inner dis­tances will grow like­wise (while the dis­tance between the red object and the horopter remained the same through all figures).

Historical hyper stereos

It’s time to leave the­o­ry behind to prove that the tech­nique works. And how it works! When I looked through my col­lec­tion of glass slides I can eas­i­ly con­clude that hyper stereo­scop­ic pho­tog­ra­phy is no new dis­cov­ery, but was used for the same pur­pose as today as it was in the 19th century:

Typical settings

There are a few require­ments to take sat­is­fy­ing hyper stere­os such as an emp­ty fore­ground, equal ground, and space to move side­ways. This results in typ­i­cal sit­u­a­tions suit­able to take hyper stereos:

Walk along the riverside
Walk over bridges
Look down from large buildings
Take photos while you’re in a moving vehicle, …
… a plane or watching a movie.
Don’t move at all, but let the scenery move.

In my expe­ri­ence, it does not mat­ter if your base­line is a lit­tle too big — at least in most cas­es I don’t have time to cal­cu­late, or I just don’t know the dis­tance between the cam­era and the sub­ject. That’s why I always shoot a hor­i­zon­tal sequence of 4 to 7 pho­tos, and choose the final stereo pair after­wards. If I take simul­ta­ne­ous stereo pho­tos I leave one cam­era where it is and increase the dis­tance to the oth­er cam­era mul­ti­ple times. That way I can choose the best pair after­wards as well. For more infor­ma­tion about how to choose the base­line I rec­om­mend David Kuntz’s arti­cle Get­ting the Right Depth in 3D Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Hyper stereos taken by a drone

A few years ago, a great pos­si­bil­i­ty for stereo­scop­ic pic­tures went rather unno­ticed when drones became avail­able for every­one at a mod­er­ate price lev­el. Here are a few exam­ples that I took togeth­er with Ihab Zaidan who flew the drone:

Castle Waldthausen, Mainz, Germany
Russian Orthodox Church, Wiesbaden, Germany

Fly­ing high obvi­ous­ly enables you to have an emp­ty fore­ground wher­ev­er you are, and lets you choose the per­fect per­spec­tive. But one of the most impor­tant ben­e­fits is that the remote con­trol allows you to move exact­ly side­ways — no slope of a road, no acci­den­tal cir­cu­lar movement.

Of course, there are also draw­backs and lim­i­ta­tions such as strong wind, flight restrict­ed areas, and the bat­tery of the drone. The con­di­tions of sequen­tial stereo pho­tos also affect drone stere­os – but since you are quite far away and can move rather quick­ly this is not a big prob­lem. I would say it has nev­er been eas­i­er to take sat­is­fy­ing hyper stere­os than with a drone.

A series of more drone stereo pho­tos will soon be added as a cor­re­spond­ing gallery Cas­tles along the Rhine.

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Pascal Martiné (Mainz, Germany)

Pas­sion­ate about stere­oscopy as a col­lec­tor and pho­tog­ra­ph­er since 2016. Admin of the stere­osite. More on About me.

Deep space stereo drawings

written for the stereosite by Vanessa Grein, Germany

Ready for a jour­ney into deep space? Then why not cre­ate your own uni­verse by draw­ing it?

Space and galax­ies have always fas­ci­nat­ed me and when I start­ed paint­ing some years ago I cre­at­ed sev­er­al galax­ies in the clas­si­cal way —  in 2D on can­vas. But when the book Cos­mic Clouds 3D by David Eich­er and Bri­an May was released in 2020, I got the idea of con­vert­ing my paint­ings into 3D by using a depthmap. And I realised that the result was far from sat­is­fy­ing. So I switched from can­vas to dig­i­tal art­work, which has the advan­tage  of being eas­i­er to con­vert into a stereo­scop­ic draw­ing than a tra­di­tion­al one. 

But how can you cre­ate your own 3D uni­verse? My deep space draw­ings were made on an iPad using Pho­to­shop and Pro­cre­ate, but basi­cal­ly any pro­gram which pro­vides dif­fer­ent lay­ers will serve the pur­pose. The lay­ers are the key to cre­at­ing the 3D-effect. 

After start­ing with a dark back­ground, it is time to add the clouds. The eas­i­est way to draw them is by using cloud or fog brush­es that come with the pro­gram. But I rec­om­mend the use of dif­fer­ent brush­es to cre­ate a more real­is­tic look. There are plen­ty of free pre­sets for Pro­cre­ate avail­able, or you can just design your own brush. Be adven­tur­ous and mix dif­fer­ent colours and shad­ows to achieve more variety. 

Neb­u­la Step 1
Neb­u­la Brushes
Dif­fer­ent Layers

It’s impor­tant to not draw all on one lay­er; rather, divide it onto at least two or three lay­ers, which will be moved side­ways at the end to cre­ate the stereo­scop­ic effect. Once the neb­u­la is fin­ished you can put in some stars: Place them using dif­fer­ent sizes and opac­i­ties on dif­fer­ent lay­ers. I use at least five or six lay­ers because I have found that the more lay­ers you can move, the more depth you get.

Neb­u­la Step 2
Neb­u­la Step 3
Left Image

 

When you are hap­py with your draw­ing you can start the con­ver­sion into a stereo­scop­ic draw­ing. Don’t for­get to save the orig­i­nal one because this will be your left image. The right one is cre­at­ed by mov­ing the lay­ers some pix­els to the right. The indi­vid­ual amount you should move the var­i­ous lay­ers depends very much on the sub­jects and the effect you want to achieve. 

Shift­ing
This exam­ple shows how it looks when you only move one layer.
i3DSteroid App

Once you have moved every­thing you can save the right image. Place left and right image side by side onto a new lay­er, or just use the StereoPho­to Mak­er or the i3DSteroid App which works per­fect­ly on an iPad. I pre­fer the app because you I can eas­i­ly check if the 3D effect is good enough or if I have to change some­thing. I am lucky that I can free­view stereo­scop­ic images (par­al­lel only), but of course you can use a stereo view­er as well.

The advan­tage of SPM or the iD3stereoid app is that you can eas­i­ly save the image for par­al­lel and cross view. But I dis­cov­ered that some­times the same stere­opair looks sat­is­fy­ing with both view­ing meth­ods. These are the final results.

Par­al­lel view
Cross view

There is not one right way of doing it, espe­cial­ly because my galax­ies are artis­tic images and not pho­tographs. Some­times it is just tri­al & error until I´m sat­is­fied with the result. And some­time I just delete it and start a new one.

Start your own space jour­ney and always remem­ber: There is no bound­ary in art. Enjoy the process of cre­at­ing some­thing new! 

Want to see more? The space shut­tle is wait­ing for you to take you to anoth­er Jour­ney Into Deep Space!

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Vanessa Grein (Aachen, Germany)

I am Vanes­sa Grein and I work as a spokes­woman in Aachen, Ger­many. My stereo jour­ney start­ed about five years ago but my pho­tos had nev­er seen the light of day until last year. Encour­aged by Dr. Bri­an May, I shared them on Insta­gram and expe­ri­enced a love­ly warm wel­come by the stereo com­mu­ni­ty. Many of the pho­tog­ra­phers have their sig­na­ture styles and I was look­ing for some­thing new. After exper­i­ment­ing a lot I decid­ed to com­bine my two pas­sions  — paint­ing and stere­oscopy — and came up with deep space draw­ings. But it might be just the begin­ning of a new adven­ture.


Insta­­gram-pro­­file: vanessa.grein

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