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To Level Or Not To Level......  
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 5738 times:

All,

I was processing an image just now and finally decided to start a debate concerning something that's concerned me for a while now.

It's good form to use verticals to level a shot, but as we know some are more reliable than others. Light-poles and other 'loose' structures aren't effective and often even some larger, more stable structures aren't either.

This shot recently gave me a bit of a headache...


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Photo © Karl Nixon



I always level using the original, full-size file for accuracy. Now using the buildings in the background the shot looked positively unlevel - so much so that I was advised in the feedback forum to use the apron as opposed to the verticals (pretty much unprecedented I know and certainly contrary to house rules). The re-edit looked far better but I found the unlevel buildings a touch distracting - as did whoever screened it as it was rejected for 'level'. Accepted on appeal but it does beg a very important question: are we aiming for technically level or aesthetically level?

One thing I've noticed over the past few years is just how 'out' steel hangars can be - you know, the 'Meccano' type that look as though they were thrown up overnight. Which brings me to the image I was processing a few minutes ago...

http://www.airliners.net/addphotos/b...0.9107hb-jzu_ema_040113_kn_303.jpg

Levelled using an example of one of those flimsy hangars. Now if you look at the main landing gear you can clearly see this interpretation of level puts the aircraft on a starboard-to-port slope, with the aircraft 'listing' (to use a nautical term) to the left. But given that this is a wide-angle shot the verticals of the hangar suggest that this image requires CW rotation, as the perpendicular lines of the structure lean inward more at the right frame-edge than they do at the left. Knowing that the ground at this location is perfectly level I can only conclude that the hangar is the rogue factor here. But in which direction should we be looking in situations like this? What proportion of viewers will deem the image unlevel due to the ground and what proportion level by the hangar?

I'm not looking for a 'this is right, that is wrong' approach as I believe this is entirely down to opinion and preference. There can be no right or wrong. But it does open an interesting debate as to how level is perceived here - and offers sympathy and justification to those who may have had images akin to my examples rejected.

Karl

45 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinemjgbtv From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 819 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 5715 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Thread starter):
look at the main landing gear you can clearly see this interpretation of level puts the aircraft on a starboard-to-port slope

How do you level using the main gear? Unless the camera is at the same height as the gear won't perspective make the more distant gear look higher when it is lower than the camera?

In my opinion if it the aircraft looks 'right' and there is no obviously contradictory fixed reference then that should be good enough.

Marty


User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4772 posts, RR: 26
Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 5714 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Thread starter):
I was advised in the feedback forum to use the apron as opposed to the verticals (pretty much unprecedented I know and certainly contrary to house rules

Say what?!

My method of leveling always starts with the horizon and figuring out where the "imaginary" level horizon is from one side of the frame to the other and use the ruler tool to draw that line and rotate the photo. Then I use verticals to check that it's level and make minor adjustments accordingly.

I don't like starting with verticals because they can continue to indicate "level" after making many rotational adjustments. I cross check verticals and horizontals, starting with horizontals first.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlinedendrobatid From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 1664 posts, RR: 62
Reply 3, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 5701 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD SCREENER

Quoting Silver1SWA (Reply 2):
My method of leveling always starts with the horizon and figuring out where the "imaginary" level horizon is from one side of the frame to the other and use the ruler tool to draw that line and rotate the photo.

Essentially I do the same but simpler.
I use a crop tool with no presets and set a crop I like. I then drag a side of that cropped box close to the datum I am going to use. Go to the corner of the box then click and rotate until it is level against my datum. Drag the side of the box back and double click on the image and it will be levelled and cropped.
Takes far longer to type than to do. I have used an example that I had saved from a discussion on this same subject quite a long time ago (You may even recognise it)  
How to level


My memory is good (for my age) - the same image has already been discussed here
Talking About Level..... (by JakTrax Apr 26 2012 in Photography Feedback)
Mick Bajcar

[Edited 2013-01-05 13:13:09]

User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4772 posts, RR: 26
Reply 4, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 5680 times:
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Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 3):

I've seen you mention that you level and crop in one step before but thanks for showing it in more detail. That's rather brilliant. I could never get the crop tool to be reliable for leveling but now I see how you make it work. Thanks!   



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined exactly 11 years ago today! , 9802 posts, RR: 26
Reply 5, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 5629 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Thread starter):
Levelled using an example of one of those flimsy hangars. Now if you look at the main landing gear you can clearly see this interpretation of level puts the aircraft on a starboard-to-port slope, with the aircraft 'listing' (to use a nautical term) to the left.

That doesn't make a whole lotta sense, as mjgbtv pointed out. Unless your camera is at exactly the same level as the bottom of the main gear, or you're directly in front of or behind the aircraft, they will "appear" to slope to one side or the other.

In the case of your image, it appears your camera is above the gear, so the gear should appear to slope down to the aircraft's left (the viewer's right).

Quoting Silver1SWA (Reply 4):
I've seen you mention that you level and crop in one step before but thanks for showing it in more detail. That's rather brilliant. I could never get the crop tool to be reliable for leveling but now I see how you make it work. Thanks!

Heh, same here. Never figured out how to do that. Seems so simple....

Thanks Mick!



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 6, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 5509 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 5):
Unless your camera is at exactly the same level as the bottom of the main gear, or you're directly in front of or behind the aircraft, they will "appear" to slope to one side or the other

You're talking partially about the rules of plane of vision here; and whilst I agree that the starboard MLG should from this angle be slightly higher, it shouldn't be as high as it is in relation to the port MLG. Having studied a few of my images from this position it is clear that the hangar behind is doing funny things. The aircraft in my example does appear to be on an unnatural incline, sloping from starboard to port.

Another good example is the huge BA hangar at LHR, which crops up in the background if you shoot from the Cains Lane spot on the A30. This structure certainly isn't level, and although you can get your images to 'feel' level I've often wondered what true level actually is here.


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Photo © Karl Nixon



Like I say, I'm not looking for advice or explanations. I rarely get level rejections and have a very keen eye for this sort of thing. I guess I'm seeking to collect opinions on whether the EasyJet shot is level; an experiment to see who comes up with what.

Cheers,

Karl


User currently offlineje89_w From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 2360 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 5484 times:
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PHOTO SCREENER

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 6):
I guess I'm seeking to collect opinions on whether the EasyJet shot is level; an experiment to see who comes up with what.

Feels right. To be frank, I think you're over-analyzing this a bit too much.


User currently offlineptrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3906 posts, RR: 19
Reply 8, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 5473 times:

Hi Karl.

For me, there's not too much difference between what's right and what the screeners think is right, especially in leveling - generally speaking I have a healthy repect for their eye of judgement.

Based on my experience I would immediately pick the apron line as a horizontal on the Merlin shot, and for the Easyjet shot I would carefully select a central vertical - I'd say it needs some CCW but not sure.

Using plane parts at camera level works for this type of shots.

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Photo © Peter de Jong



I don't get many level rejections, but there are photos where I'm clueless about leveling, and I sometimes end up not uploading them.

Peter 



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 5473 times:

Quoting je89_w (Reply 7):
Feels right. To be frank, I think you're over-analyzing this a bit too much

Indeed. But that's the point. I'm just trying to determine whether anyone else sees what I do. Yes, it's very marginal but it's something I pick up on every now and again. I'm not looking for advice or critique - I just find it interesting that each individual sees things slightly differently.

There exist images which no-one will ever be able to say with any certainty are level or unlevel. For me my example is kind of odd because it looks level by certain references but not by others. I honestly can't say whether I think it LOOKS level or whether it FEELS level.

Strange.....

Karl


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 5470 times:

Quoting ptrjong (Reply 8):
I'd say it needs some CCW but not sure

Yes, there are times when I look at it and think the same. The slight 'list' from starboard to port seems to suggest CCW needed - but the verticals of the hangar appear to hint towards CW (taking the lens distortion into account). The vertical at the right edge of the frame leans inwards much more than the one at the left (the latter actually looking almost perfectly perpendicular).

It's a funny old business is levelling! Goes to show, sometimes it has to 'feel' right rather than actually be right.

Karl


User currently offlinedendrobatid From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 1664 posts, RR: 62
Reply 11, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 5456 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD SCREENER

Quoting ptrjong (Reply 8):
I don't get many level rejections, but there are photos where I'm clueless about leveling, and I sometimes end up not uploading them.

Peter
Your comment made me laugh.
As I am sure you are aware I like to get new stuff for the database and this one is not on.
Now try and level it - I have given up !
I wonder how anyone would get on with it and have attached it big enough for anyone to have a go  

Mick Bajcar
Try and level this one!


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 5451 times:

Mick, that's precisely the kind of example I'm talking about. My point being: how the hell is anyone going to know when that's truly level??? All about the 'feel' I guess but since we each interpret that differently.......

It also appears that - despite any barrel distortion - there are some very unlevel structures in that hangar!!!

Karl


User currently offlineAlexC From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2007, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 5445 times:

By the looks of that one Mick you should have had time to put the camera on the tripod and level it by using a spirit level in the hot shoe. No argument's then! OK, so that's going a bit too far in this instance, but I often used to do that taking shots of buildings with a PC lens to avoid converging verticals which makes them appear to be falling over backwards.

Alex


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 14, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 5431 times:

Quoting AlexC (Reply 13):
but I often used to do that taking shots of buildings with a PC lens to avoid converging verticals which makes them appear to be falling over backwards

All very well - until you get to Lukla - or even Birmingham's 'roller-coaster' runway!


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Photo © Karl Nixon



Karl


User currently offlinemjgbtv From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 819 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 5426 times:

Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 11):
I wonder how anyone would get on with it

I would give it some CCW. I don't know much about construction, but I believe that leveling is fairly important with bricklaying so I would trust the verticals on that wall more than the steelwork. I think it would also 'feel' right with some CCW.

Marty


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 16, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 5423 times:

Quoting mjgbtv (Reply 15):
but I believe that leveling is fairly important with bricklaying so I would trust the verticals on that wall more than the steelwork

I'd agree but I doubt anyone could argue with the fact that even the most solid of structures can lose their shape or otherwise shift over time.

Like me I think Mick is just putting forward another example as opposed to seeking advice on how to level. Let's face it - it'd be a tough challenge for anyone to technically perfectly level his shot!

I guess the purpose of this thread is to demonstrate just how unreliable the structures upon which we rely on the most truly are.

Karl


User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4772 posts, RR: 26
Reply 17, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 5407 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Reply 16):
Like me I think Mick is just putting forward another example as opposed to seeking advice on how to level. Let's face it - it'd be a tough challenge for anyone to technically perfectly level his shot!

Sounds to me like Mick offered the shot for anyone willing to give it a go.

I'm away from my editing computer for a few hours but upon first glance I think his shot needs quite a bit of CCW rotation. I can tell just by looking at the floor and confirmed by the brick work and the window.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 18, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 5 days ago) and read 5396 times:

Quoting Silver1SWA (Reply 17):
Sounds to me like Mick offered the shot for anyone willing to give it a go

Possibly. But levelling such a shot will only be someone's perception of what level is and I doubt anyone will come back trumpeting, "Hey, here you go, I got it right". Unless there's a true horizon - i.e. an ocean - level is most often left entirely to interpretation. Sure, we can get somewhere close but there's going to be no right or wrong for Mick's image.

I wouldn't like to start saying what's accurate and what isn't but if it were my image I too would exercise some CCW. But that doesn't mean it'll get it any closer to being dead level. Under such circumstances we can only give advice based on our personal preferences and ideas.

Karl


User currently offlineptrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3906 posts, RR: 19
Reply 19, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 5370 times:

Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 11):
I wonder how anyone would get on with i

I would try to make equal the slant of the cupboards on the left, and of the verticals on the brick wall on the right.

(It's hard to do for me now since I seem unable to measure angles in PS Elements - is there maybe some internet tool available that can do this?)



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlinemjgbtv From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 819 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 5347 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 18):
there's going to be no right or wrong for Mick's image

I take it that Mick would like to get this image into the database, so that would be the measure of success that matters.


User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined exactly 11 years ago today! , 9802 posts, RR: 26
Reply 21, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 5318 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Reply 6):
You're talking partially about the rules of plane of vision here; and whilst I agree that the starboard MLG should from this angle be slightly higher, it shouldn't be as high as it is in relation to the port MLG. Having studied a few of my images from this position it is clear that the hangar behind is doing funny things. The aircraft in my example does appear to be on an unnatural incline, sloping from starboard to port.

I understand. I gave it about .15 degrees CW, and it still looked OK to me. But I understand what you're saying.

Quoting dendrobatid (Reply 11):
Now try and level it - I have given up !
I wonder how anyone would get on with it and have attached it big enough for anyone to have a go

Gave it a shot. As mjgbtv says:

Quoting mjgbtv (Reply 15):
I would give it some CCW. I don't know much about construction, but I believe that leveling is fairly important with bricklaying so I would trust the verticals on that wall more than the steelwork. I think it would also 'feel' right with some CCW.

...I think the brick is more reliable, and makes the floor and airplane seem more level as well. I gave it 2 degrees of CCW.

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 18):
Possibly. But levelling such a shot will only be someone's perception of what level is and I doubt anyone will come back trumpeting, "Hey, here you go, I got it right".

Hey, here you go, I got it right  

http://www.vksphoto.com/photos/i-wcqnnxf/1/X2/i-wcqnnxf-X2.jpg



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 22, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5243 times:

Vik,

That looks better but if it were my image I'd prefer it with a touch less CCW. I wouldn't even like to think how A.net would prefer it.......

I just found another good example of mine....


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Photo © Karl Nixon



At first glance it appears to requite CW; but then when you check the verticals actually indicate that it's level. In fact one even suggests CCW required!

The Airport Hotel is a solid, brick building but it does date from around the '40s so has had a bit of wear and tear.

Karl


User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4772 posts, RR: 26
Reply 23, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 5224 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Reply 22):
At first glance it appears to requite CW; but then when you check the verticals actually indicate that it's level. In fact one even suggests CCW required!

Karl, verticals can be misleading. I can check verticals and they will look straight. Then I can rotate the image .2-.5 degrees and they often still look straight.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined exactly 11 years ago today! , 9802 posts, RR: 26
Reply 24, posted (1 year 6 months 3 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 5219 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Reply 22):
That looks better but if it were my image I'd prefer it with a touch less CCW. I wouldn't even like to think how A.net would prefer it.......

I had to estimate it. I measured the verticals on the brick wall, but since it's over to one side, I reduced the rotation a bit. Also wanted to make the floor and airplane look level to my eyes. Pretty much disregarded the steel wall and cabinets in the back.

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 22):
At first glance it appears to requite CW; but then when you check the verticals actually indicate that it's level. In fact one even suggests CCW required!

That one looks perfectly fine to me as it is.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
25 dendrobatid : About the same as I got it but it still feels wrong to me. Might have another go as the aircraft is not on the db.... That is precisely the point. I
26 JakTrax : They sure can! Some buildings simply aren't perpendicular - in fact more often than one might think. Ground levels sink and shift slightly, and found
27 JakTrax : A good example of how we each have a different perspective. To me the Embraer feels wrong (I agree with Mick - especially when viewing the thumbnail
28 Silver1SWA : You're missing my point. I'm not talking about whether a vertical is in fact perpendicular. I'm saying that the same vertical reference will appear s
29 JakTrax : I know what you were getting at, I was just adding my own slant (pardon the pun) to it. In my experience if you zoom all the way in (pixel-peep effect
30 AlexC : But I was talking about taking photos of buildings, not runways. Speaking as a building surveyor, I'd be rather worried if the structure had 'shifted
31 JakTrax : Something has obviously happened, because there's no way that effect can be caused by lens distortion alone. One of those structures clearly isn't st
32 AlexC : The Leaning Tower and the buildings of Venice are special cases. The foundations of Venice are placed on timber piles driven down through the soft mud
33 JakTrax : Just to mention, I wasn't professing to know more about your job than you do - I was simply saying that wear and tear on structures can obviously war
34 Silver1SWA : Well, hard to tell from this photo alone but perhaps there's something with the design of the hanger that is throwing us off?
35 vikkyvik : Looks to me like it's a slanted roof (for drainage, I assume), and the metal wall is perpendicular to said roof, for whatever reason. Like they could
36 Silver1SWA : Exactly. It looks to me that by design, the metal wall in the back is angled outward instead of perpendicular to the ground.
37 AlexC : I think that the only way to sort this out is for me to visit this wretched hanger myself and carry out a survey! Anyone know where it is?!!!
38 Post contains images dendrobatid : Alex I might go back there in May and will take a plum bob, spirit level, yellow hat and high viz jacket, oh and a spade to lean on. If you decide to
39 JakTrax : Those cupboard things at the back lean similarly to the rear of the hangar, so unless they too are designed to stand at an angle there's certainly som
40 AlexC : Oh I do like that Mick. You could hold the levelling staff while I take down the readings. And I especially like the bit about presenting Karl with t
41 vikkyvik : They look like they're bolted to the (leaning) wall, as they are angled off the floor, too.
42 JakTrax : So they appear to be. Only looked at the small version initially. This has to be the hangar design in which case, surely? Karl
43 ZSOFN : Here's one to add to the various other techniques here that may come in handy when there really is no easy or obvious way to find somewhere to start -
44 JakTrax : This is pretty much the same logic I guess many of us apply when we talk about an image 'feeling' level. Since we can rarely be sure an image IS actu
45 AlexC : When I first started taking photos at Old Sarum, near Salisbury, my gut instinct was that the grass landing strip was out of level by quite a bit. The
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