Let’s Roll It!

[ Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, the latest addition to our team is cityscape and arcitecture photographer Takahiro Yamamoto. He's got a very clever eye and has wonderful techniques to share, so I'm very excited to introduce him to you all! I hope you love the articles he posts as much as I enjoyed them! ]

Shinjuku, Tokyo

I’m not talking about sushi, nor about hot rodding your car. I’m talking about rolling landscapes. Yes. Landscapes! See the image above, you can easily roll landscapes, with your iPhone and you can do it as well as Uri Geller bends spoons.

Rolling Shutter Will Show You a New Horizon

You may have heard of “rolling shutter,” a novel method of acquiring images. Most digital cameras have the type of shutter that records the image line by line. The whole image shown in the frame is not recorded in an instant as global shutters do. So there’s a time lag between the top and the bottom, or the two sides of the image you shoot.

I have seen some photos on the Internet which capture propellers of aircraft, or a fast moving train. There also exists a YouTube video of the motion of guitar strings captured by an iPhone 4 placed inside the guitar. Those results looks so interesting. I experienced this myself when I was on a moving train. I was aiming to shoot the landscape outside and on viewing the capture I realized that the landscape was streaming like the ones in some animations. The building, trees and everything was leaning forward.

After I got off the train, I tried rolling my camera and saw what the view would look like. I walked to the shopping area I often visit, rolling my camera and capturing the rolling landscape, for the whole day. It fascinated me! It was difficult to take what I intended at first. Actually, it took more than two weeks to get neat results consistently.

The Brighter the Place is, The Better Result You’ll Get

I’m going to share with you the how-to tips I have discovered so far. After you read these tips, you will definitely want to go out and try your phone’s camera. This technique will work on iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4. If you have android or other phones, try this out anyway, and let me know what results you get. Most of the phone cameras should have a rolling shutter, so I think you will be able to get the same kind of results.

OK. Here’s how to do it.

1. Go out on a sunny day. The brightness gives you a clear rolling image. Even in dark places, the images can be rolled but you will end up with some (camera motion) blur.

In darker places, you’ll get this kind of blur. Of course you can do this intentionally.

2. Find a subject consisting of straight lines. I love to shoot architecture with this technique. It looks the most surrealistic when things that should be stand straight are rolled. You almost feel as though you are a psychic.

You feel as though you are a psychic when you succeed in rolling straight building like this.

3. Roll your camera fast when clicking! Don’t hesitate. You might get weird looks by people around you but remember, you are an artist. Artists are always thought of as weird or strange more or less. But I won’t share the image of how I look here :-p

4. Click the shutter button right before you start to roll your camera. There’s a time lag between your clicking the button and your camera’s capturing, so the best shutter release timing is just before you start to roll your camera. Or maybe you can keep rolling your camera right and left, and shoot randomly. This way you’ll look weirder or sillier but who cares?

Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise?

Here are some results I got for this article. I went out to Ginza, one of the busiest areas in Tokyo, and shot some in one of the main streets, which is transformed into a vehicle free street on weekends. The first one is the normal version. I didn’t roll my camera. See? This kind of images are the ones most people get with their phone cameras.

And the left one below was taken by rolling my camera clockwise. The right one, counter-clockwise. You always have to check how the landscape is being rolled. It affects the result immensely as you can see.


Which Camera App to Use?

What camera app should you use to do this silly dance? Basically you can use any app you like. As for me, I like to use Camera+. It takes time in starting up, but one of the good things about this popular app is that you can set the focus and the exposure on different spots. In bright sunshine, the main object in the frame often gets darker than you want, so this function is so useful. But as I mentioned, you can use any of your favorites. The rolling shutter gives the same effect no matter what you use.

The square indicates the focal point, the circle the exposure point. You can set them separately on Camera+.

Be As Creative As You Want

There are many apps that extend your creativity. The filters and effects in those apps can be added instantly to the images you have taken. What I often use is the combination of the “Clarity” scene mode and the “Ansel” film effect in Camera+. “Clarity” will expand the dynamic range of your images, and “Ansel” converts your images into black and white with high contrast. All the black and white images on this page were processed that way. Here’s the link to my Google+ album, “Rolling Tokyo,” which contains my attempts to roll the landscapes in Tokyo. Please have a look when you have time.

OK, now it’s your turn to try rolling your neighborhood. Go shooting and upload your photos on the Internet and add the URL to the images in the comment section to share your results, if you’d like. Have a great day!

Takahiro Yamamoto is an editor of books and magazines at a publisher in Tokyo, Japan. He is also a photographer whose main targets are architecture and cityscapes, old and new aspects of Tokyo. He has his camera in his bag wherever he goes so as not to miss any clickable moments. You may follow him on Google + at http://gplus.to/takahiroyamamoto


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