Stereographs are three dimensional photographs visible when two separate images are viewed in a particular way.
- The first image above is a very good example that I took recently on a short visit to Amsterdam. To me this really captured a lot about the city and I think it is far more powerful because of the 3D. The perpective with the tower in the distance is amazing especially when the bell and handlebar on the bike seem to jump out of the image.
Most people will take a little practise to work out how to do this, and many will give up before they do. The first time you see it for real is usually recognised by the “wow” that invariably accompanies it! I’ve also seen too many people fake it, it’s not easy, there’s no failure but it is well worth trying :) This is what our eyes do every day but just at a different focal point. If you have regular working binocular vision then you CAN see these! If you don’t see these at first, persevere!
How to View Stereographs
You will be focusing on a point that is half way between the image and your eyes but seeing the image that is in the background. Let me explain that in a slightly different way. Your eye muscles are focused on the half way point but your brain is focused on the image. It sounds confusing doesn’t it.
hold a pen somewhere around the half way point with the tip in line with some part of the image. Move the pen toward your eyes and focus on the tip – observe in your peripheral vision what is happening in the background as the two images of the stereograph become three. Yes?
Now at one point only you will see the tip of the pen in focus and ALSO the third image in focus. That’s the point.
When a child (or an adult?) did you ever touch noses with another person and move your head slightly to see the other person’s eyes move in a humourous way? no? just it’s me then…
Try rotating your head a little but still focus on the pen – can you see the two outer images rotate as you move? what happens to the center one?
If you can maintain this focus on where the pen is but remove the pen you might now see the center image in 3d, more than likely it’s not there yet because your eyes will want to change focus to the screen not the imaginary spot where the pen tip was. Keep trying.
Most often we initially lack the fine muscle control to maintain the focal point, it gets much easier. Watch out for varying image widths which mean that you have to adjust how much you ‘cross’ your eyes. When I occasionally have difficulty in seeing a new image I pick something in the images that is very distinctive, an obvious fixed point like the snowman’s hat in the image above and then work on simply aligning those two elements in the central image. It takes a second to get the fine tuning and then it ‘pops’ into 3D. (see wow effect above)
How To Take Stereographic images
They are dead easy to take. Simply move the camera to where your two eyes would be. … pick a left eye image - CLICK. Move 2 inches to where your right eye would be CLICK. That’s it. All done bar the photoshop or screen grabber and MS paint to place the 2 shots side by side!
It costs just a few seconds extra to capture any image in a stereographic manner, so I now take them almost instinctively and they really add to my enjoyment of looking back at stuff. Really it’s a significant thing for me and so easy to do with modern memory cards – I love having an iPhone with lots of memory!
- TIP#1 – It’s easier on the eye if the images are taller then they are wide.
- -It is much more strain on the eyes to overlay two wide images so go tall where possible
- TIP#2 – When you arrange the photos side by side you need to put the right eye on the left side of the pair and vice versa obviously.
- -If you view them the wrong way around it will look odd – check them out both ways and pick the better version for you.
- TIP#3 – Try to make the two images as close as possible in composition when taking them.
- -Later on you will have to trim off bits at the sides that aren’t in both images so save time by taking to seconds to define the edges of the shot now as you compose it.
- TIP#4 both images should be of the same size and image quality.
- -Often modern auto-exposure cameras will compensate for even small focus changes so you can end up with two very different images. Photoshop etc can fix a lot but sometimes it just doesn’t work – Take plenty – pick the best.
Here are some more stereographic images that I feel make it particularly accessible (e.g. focus on the end of the tape in the inage below) or just are good examples of using the effect to draw attention to the main object like the video in the image of Paul Phillips.
Feel free to comment and if you want to try to take some images yourself, have a go & send me the results. If you can’t join them or have problems I can do a few.
I’ll be adding these to my facebook stereograph page
BTW Most of these are taken with my iPhone4 & some with my well-loved Nikon D70
Anyway, I have many more that I have collected but I hope that these have been interesting, I’m loving the fact that I can record memories and situations in three dimensions. It’s useful professionally when visualising a work site or a piece of equipment in the design stage (yes it even works on my wee cad programme – more on Sketchup in a different post.