Try A Tilt/Shift Lens For Funky Focus - 4/28/08
Use tools the “wrong” way to shift the plane of focus and make unique photos out of everyday shots
Architectural photographers have long used view cameras with movements to adjust the plane of focus and control perspective in their photographs of tall buildings and tight interiors. In the digital era, though, those movements are unavailable on dSLRs. Unavailable, that is, unless you have a special lens.
A tilt/shift lens provides similar movements to a view camera, but in a typical 35mm style dSLR lens. This allows architectural photographers to correct for the same distortions with their digital gear and maintain precise control of focus and perspective in the small format digital format. But that tilt/shift lens can be used for fun stuff too.
Rentals from a local photo supplier are a great way to experiment with a tilt/shift lens. I pay only $35 per day, and on Fridays that includes the whole weekend-enough time to get to know any lens. However you get your hands on a tilt/shift lens, the first thing to do is ignore everything you're supposed to do with it. Open up the aperture to minimize the depth of field and start shifting and tilting the lens until the plane of focus is nowhere near parallel with camera sensor. It will quickly become clear how those little movements make big changes in the look of the shot. Use extremely shallow depth of field (not to mention highly quirky selective focus) to put the point of interest exactly where you want it, and don't worry about vignetting and precision and all those things the lens is made to correct-just let loose and have some fun.
If you'd rather own a lens of your own, look into one of the three models of Lensbabies that are available for many dSLRs. These funky plastic lenses do what tilt/shift lenses do-except without any precision. That makes them perfect for throwing the plane of focus way out of whack and putting it right where you want it.
Even simple subjects and plain old lighting can deliver unique photographs when the plane of focus is shifted. From portraits to landscapes to family snaps, this unique look can turn almost any scene interesting by eliminating all that unnecessary extra information that can distract from the real focal point.