Switzerland Through a Tilt-Shift Lens

Swiss flag flying off the back of a steam ship on Lake Lucerne

(Click on images for a larger view)

OK. So it’s been three months since we went to Switzerland, but I’m not done posting images. I’m just catastrophically slow at updating my blog now that I have my own business (by the way, check out our killer website, designed by HeyDay Creative).

On top of that, our little family has decided to move to a bigger house. Where this house will be, we don’t know yet, but getting our current place ready has been pretty consuming. The plus? Eventually, there will be new wall space in a new home to decorate with enlargements of Switzerland.

Weggis and Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Switzerland still sneaks up on me and blows me away with what we saw. Will I ever see a landscape more beautiful than the Berner Oberland? Will I ever experience a better network of trains? Will I ever attempt to eat a three-foot-long coiled sausage bathed in brown onion sauce?

The answers are: No. No. And hell no.

Steam ship crosses Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
For the last three major trips we’ve gone on — Mexico, Kauai and Switzerland — we’ve rented a couple of lenses from BorrowedLenses.com. Each time, we’ve made sure to rent a tilt-shift lens.

Now I have never pretended to be the most technically aware photographer. I couldn’t begin to accurately tell you how the optics inside these lenses work. All I know is that a tilt-shift warps the field of focus so that you can manipulate the scene in all sorts of wacky ways. With a normal lens, the field of focus is always parallel to the front of the lens. With a tilt-shift, you pivot that plane in all sorts of weird angles.

There, that’s the best I can do to explain it. Wikipedia is more eloquent.

Vitznau and a motorboat on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

On Lake Lucerne, we took a day-long boat tour, and that’s where the Canon 45mm TS-E really came most in handy. As paddle-wheelers and charming villages passed by, I set the aperture to a narrower depth, pivoted the lens down (or sometimes on a diagonal) and fired away.

Sailboat on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

While tilt-shifts can often miniaturize a scene, I find that they can actually show a place in a way that is more true to how the eye sees it and how memory imprints it. Take for instance, the image above. In my memory, the hills, the water, the trees — they are all splashes of color, nothing more. But the structures, the boats and mostly, the feeling — that’s what resonated and stuck with me most. A tilt-shift can capture just those memory burners. They’re fun images to share: “this is how it looked, but this is how I remember it.”

Wengen in the Berner Oberland, Switzerland

The same goes for this image of Wengen. No other shot I took of this town showed just how nestled in the valley it really was. A standard 45mm wouldn’t have done it as well.

To that, I say “yay, tilt-shifts.”

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