Live Viewing

At the risk of stirring up a nest of large-format photographers, I’m going to suggest that Live View on a 35mm digital camera is a close cousin to the ground glass on Big Cameras.

Live View doesn’t invert an image and flip it horizontally like a view camera (there’s an idea for a nostalgic Custom Function!), but the larger screen view of the subject scene does, as I learned tonight, allow a photographer wearing glasses to accurately focus and compose without putting an eye to the viewfinder.

My Canon 40D is a crop body, and while the viewfinder’s adequate it isn’t as large nor bright as a full-frame finder. Sometimes, when I’m shooting a series of shots destined to be stitched into a panoramic, that little rectangle feels pretty cramped. Live View to the rescue! Now I’m outside the box, where I focus manually (with magnification if I require it) and can precisely overlap the shots I’m building into a pan. In bright daylight I might duck under a focusing cloth to better see the display. Without realizing it I’ve become more engaged with the subject. Sure sounds like a view camera, doesn’t it?

The shot above is the view from our pasture across Rainbow Valley (I’m lucky to have such a lovely testing ground out my front door). I took between 6 and 9 photos for each of the pans I made, here using a 17-40mm lens set to 35mm (approximately 55mm on full-frame, or normal) in portrait mode. Apertures were f/8 or f/11. I discovered that massaging the exposure in Live View let’s me set it quite accurately: what you see is what you get. The camera was leveled using panoramic equipment from Really Right Stuff, and the final result was assembled with PTGui software. Quick, accurate, and most of all, fun.

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