Tilting Squares into Rectangles

When I sell TTV images I want to have a range available. The current plan, and don’t hold me to this, is some very large montages for £100 and above, some nicely framed prints for £20-30 and some budget entry-level pieces for a fiver, aimed squarely at the casual browsers at the market stalls. The problem is it’s very hard to find budget square frames - everything at the low end is a variation on 6×4 inches, the standard size for prints. How can one squeeze a square picture into a rectangle without all that space on the sides looking a little odd? I’ve been playing around with putting two TTVs on one print (a diptych) but I think I’d rather save those for the larger prints.

Today I got a nice comment from a fellow Flickr user by the name of Macquillage of Curiosity who also dabbles in the art of the TTV. Take a look at this one:

© Macquillage of Curiosity

A little tilt helps the image fill the rectangular space. Very nice.

Obviously the TTV image has to lend itself to a tilt and if I have a problem with this it’s that I’ve always thought of my TTV pics as being seen straight. I’ve probably discarded pictures that would be perfect like this and gone with ones that by definition aren’t.

Still, having a scan through the files I found a couple which could work and spent a few minutes in Photoshop tilting them. Click through for the original on Flickr.

This one sort of works but I suspect the edge of the TTV needs to be more distinct. (It’s also not a great photo, but this is just an experiment.)

This one is a lot more satisfactory. I suspect I’m finding it more satisfactory because it allows me to align the image properly and that appeals to my anal symmetry loving self. But there’s something of a bish-bash-bosh of the lines starting with the guitar and working out. Also the shift from white through blue to black is rather pleasing.

Interesting that the two pics I went for were from music events where I’m less able to compose a shot and more likely to be swinging free and hoping for the best. Maybe this’ll be how I do my live music photos from now on. Or at least some of them.

Anyway, thanks to Ms Macquillage for her inspiration. Go check her photos on Flickr and if you like them, tell her.



When I posted this, Matt Murtagh (who knows about such things) said it “looks like something out of the Photo Secession” which, since I am one who doesn’t know about such things, meant nothing to me. So I looked it up.

Proponents of Pictorialism, which was the underlying value of the Photo-Secession, argued that photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Pictorialists believed that just as what made a painting distinctive was the artist’s manipulation of the materials to achieve an effect, so too should the photographer alter or manipulate the photographic image. Among the methods used were soft focus; special filters and lens coatings; burning, dodging and/or cropping in the darkroom to edit the content of the image; and alternative printing processes such as sepia toning, carbon printing, platinum printing or gum bichromate processing.

The movement was a reaction against the introduction of the consumer camera and an attempt to distinguish fine art photography from the sudden wave of amateur snapshots resulting in a “secession” from the New York Camera Club. It’s all rather fascinating stuff and sets up the next 100 years of confusion and debate over what constitutes an “art” photograph.

Still, I think Matt was simply referring to my photo looking like a photo from that era and I think he means this one, The Flatiron by Edward Steichen, taken in 1904:

If I can make photographs even vaguely as good as that then I’m a happy bunny.

That said, the Photo-Secession movement is slightly relevant to why I do TTV. Back in September 2006, a few weeks after I made my first contraption, I wrote this rather rambling account of what it all meant. It’s a bit contradictory (I was still figuring it out) but a simple truth was already apparent to me:

If I point my expensive Nikon D70 at a tree and snap a photo then I’ve got a photo of a tree like any other photo of a tree. If I point my TTV contraption at the same tree from the same angle I’ve got a mini masterpiece.

The question I was asking myself was, is this just a novelty thing or is it something fundamentally more important? I’m not looking to document reality with my TTV photographs. The photo up there isn’t meant to say “this is what that tree looked like at that time.” I don’t know what it’s supposed to say exactly but I know I’m not taking these photos to mirror reality. Sure, there’s a novelty to the process and I enjoy the absurdity of it all but I’m going through that in order to make images that cannot be made in any other way, images that hopefully resonate with people. It is easier to do this with a 50 year old camera covered in cardboard and duct tape than with the state of the art digital camera but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Anyway, here’s a few others from the archives which I think fit the Photo-Secession theme, or at least are similar to my weeping tree above. (Click through for full size.)

Levity II Luminarium 09


What’s interesting is these were all taken under somewhat trying circumstances. The first was inside the Architect’s Of Air‘s Luminarium which is like photographing inside a balloon. Next we have a shot of my bike covered in dirty plastic with the sun shining from behind. Third is a long exposure of an audience standing in the dark and lit by the stage. And finally there’s a barrel in a fish tank at the Sea Life Centre. All four would have produced interesting results no matter what equipment was used. Perfect conditions aren’t always the best conditions.

All change

I was on the top floor of the Sainsbury’s car park in Kings Heath a few days before Christmas. A planned walk home had been scuttled by the discovery of some possibly perfect frames in Poundland and I was waiting for Fiona to finish her doings so I could cadge a lift. The sun was setting and the trees were looking nice against the horizon so I got to work. Moments after this photo was taken disaster struck.

The Last One

I slipped on the slushy ice and let go of my TTV contraption. The box itself was fine - it’ll take more than a fall to break one of those beasties - but the top camera, my trusty if occasionally flaky Fuji S7000, went skittering along the concrete making that clacking noise that electronics make telling you they ain’t coming back from this one.

Thankfully I was able to get the images off the card but the lens barrel was shattered. I wouldn’t be using this camera again and, because the contraption was built specifically for it, I probably won’t be using that either. After a little over three years my old friend was gone.

Still, it wasn’t the end of the world. The S7000 was a good camera but it wasn’t great and the charm of the roughness and compression artifacts was fading for me. I was wanting more control over my images, particularly in post-processing, and that meant shooting in RAW through a decent lens. I’d been playing with some with some new contraptions to go with my Nikon D70s but there was never the impetus to finish one. Now there was. And here it is.

It’s not much to look at. The main thing is to get the length right and see how the Nikon behaves with it. Once I’ve got a handle on that I’ll start looking at ways to strengthen the body and attach an attachment to attach the Nikon on via the tripod mount. But for now I’m just getting used to how the Nikon focuses and metres through the Duaflex.

The day after building it I took it down the river path for a test drive. Here’s some of the photos I took. It was a very sunny day so I was able to test a full range of apertures confirming a suspicion that area in focus decreases as the apertures widens. So if you want a crisp edge to the square (as I tend to do) you need to be at around f5.6 or smaller. Fine on a sunny day, probably not so fine in a dark room. That said, this was never a problem with my old contraption as the camera fit so snugly into the tube that it worked like a monopod. Once I fit the Nikon to the new contraption I should have the same effect.

The difference between the old and new was so dramatic I got a little worried for a while, thinking I’d lost that grimy DIY feel and was hurtling towards the curse of the “perfect” digital photo. Suddenly there was detail and clarity in my TTV. It just felt… wrong.

But of course it wasn’t wrong, just different. And having been out a couple of times I’m growing to like it a lot.

Splitting Nikki in three

Friday night saw me in a pub with friends. I had been intending to get some TTV shots around the city but, y’know, pub, friends…

Still, after a few beers I broke out the contraption and blinded a few people with the flash gun. Here’s my favourite:

Tri Pugh 2

A portrait of Ms Nikki Pugh (artist) taken with the three-way splitter stuck on the top camera. This really is true TTV as I haven’t modified the bottom camera at all - just pointed a strange lens at it. So there.