The Vanishing Act

 

Supriya Joshi tells you how to use your wide angle lens to create the phenomenon of vanishing perspectives.

You do not have to be a magician in order to create illusions. With the aid of a wide angle lens, you can dive right into vanishing perspectives. But how do you make things seem as if they are vanishing into the distance? Let’s find out.

Bad weather conditions like fog and mist can greatly enhance a vanishing perspective photo. As you can see in the image, the road has literally vanished because of the fog! Photograph/ Dom Crossley

Bad weather conditions like fog and mist can greatly enhance a vanishing perspective photo. As you can see in the image, the road has literally vanished because of the fog! Photograph/ Dom Crossley

Historical Roots
Did you know that the idea to make frames seem endless using vanishing perspectives emerged in the 1400s? A long time ago, around 5th Century BC, painters had a difficult time trying to show perspective in their paintings.They would simply overlap objects to show the scale and relative sizes of those objects. It was in 1413 when an Italian artist, Filippo Brunelleschi, came up with a geometric method of establishing perspective—by making distant objects smaller than closer ones. It quickly became, and remains, a standard photographic and artistic practice.

Explore every inch of your horizon. You may find vanishing perspectives in the most unusual of places. Photograph/Daniel Borg

Explore every inch of your horizon. You may find vanishing perspectives in the most unusual of places. Photograph/Daniel Borg

What it Means for Photography
Lines that run parallel to each other and give the illusion of meeting at some point in the frame, are called the vanishing point. You could also refer to this phenomenon as converging lines.

The Wide View
The vanishing perspective illusion is best captured with a wide angle lens. It causes exaggerated perspective and an elongation of the field. This will make the scene appear longer or more stretched than it really is. It can also increase the perceived scale of the subject. For example, you could capture a road which will look like it is stretched to infinity!

A wide angle lens will greatly enhance a vanishing perspective, making the image look like a scene from a sci-fi movie! Photograph/Daniel Borg

A wide angle lens will greatly enhance a vanishing perspective, making the image look like a scene from a sci-fi movie! Photograph/Daniel Borg

The Importance of the Grid
Symmetry is extremely crucial to executing this technique in a perfect manner, and the grid can be an invaluable guide. So, before you start shooting, make sure you switch on the grid display. This will help ensure that your frame is completely straight and is not tilting towards any side. Moreover, if you wish to keep the vanishing point in the dead centre, it will help you control the amount of space on either side of the vanishing point.

Long shadows can add a new dimension to your frame, creating two kinds of vanishing points. Photographer/Tony Lam

Long shadows can add a new dimension to your frame, creating two kinds of vanishing points. Photographer/Tony Lam

The Golden Helper
The Rule of Thirds also comes into play when you turn the grid display on.By placing the vanishing point in the frame at the intersection of one of those two lines, you will be able to make a very powerful frame. Another trick to try is to place a human element on the intersection opposite the vanishing point. The idea is to use the guidelines provided by the Rule of Thirds for maximum impact.

You don’t have to go on road trips to capture vanishing perspectives. Your city can provide several opportunities for the same. Photograph/Worapol Sittiphaet

You don’t have to go on road trips to capture vanishing perspectives. Your city can provide several opportunities for the same. Photograph/Worapol Sittiphaet

Your Position Matters
To heighten the illusion of converging lines in a frame— think long, winding roads or even a subway—stand in the centre of the frame and then shoot. However, even off-centre framing, where the path veers off to one side of the frame can also work quite well.

Aeriel landscapes are full of vanishing perspectives. Look for snaking rivers or mountain ranges that look like they are ending right at the horizon. Photograph/Mohamed Arif

Aeriel landscapes are full of vanishing perspectives. Look for snaking rivers or mountain ranges that look like they are ending right at the horizon. Photograph/Mohamed Arif

More than One
There can be multiple vanishing points in one photo. For example, you can capture two sidewalks at each edge of a lane, turning to their respective directions. You can find also find them where pathways fork or where two tunnels begin.

A classic example of off-centre vanishing points, this image makes the viewer seem as if he is standing at the edge of the steps that veer off Yarik Mission the frame. Photograph/Yarik Mission

A classic example of off-centre vanishing points, this image makes the viewer seem as if he is standing at the edge of the steps that veer off Yarik Mission the frame. Photograph/Yarik Mission

Look Up
Vanishing points exist in the sky too, if you look for them. High rise buildings appear to converge when you look up, the same happens with tall trees. So you don’t always need a pathway or railway lines to capture vanishing perspectives.

Create the Illusion
Can you shoot vanishing perspectives when there are no converging lines around you? Of course you can! All you need to do is use the zoom burst technique. First, focus on your subject and set a shutterspeed between 1/10sec to 1/20sec. Then, just as you have released the shutter, zoom in or out, while pointing at the subject. Depending on how fast you rotate the zoom ring, you will get blurry streaks, converging at the main subject. And lo, you will have created a vanishing point instantly!

Using the zoom burst technique will provide you with a vanishing point of your making. Photograph/A Bryne

Using the zoom burst technique will provide you with a vanishing point of your making. Photograph/A Bryne

Keep it Simple
You run the risk of including disturbing elements in your frame while shooting a wide frame. So, keep checking each side of your frame and make sure it is free of clutter and distractions. This may also involve waiting for several minutes to get the frame you have visualised. Creating illusions with your camera can be fun, just remember that simple ideas and techniques can yield really strong images.

Tags: grids, historic context, illusions, lines, lines in photograpgy, Shooting Technique, Supriya Joshi, wide angles