Published on: 9th Mar 2016Ever since I changed my normal darkroom for a digital darkroom I have been experimenting with stereo photography. The easiest way (and still the only way I can show it to a full audience of up to 200 people) was to use the anaglyph technique.
Back then (I think it was in 1999 or in 2000) I used Photoshop 5 LE and by using the channel mixer to swap the red channel of the left photo with the red channel of the right photo to create a blue/red anaglyph photo.
Nowadays I use a freeware program called Stereo Photo Maker [http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr/] to do the job for me. Not only is the channel swapping now a one-click affair but it has a very good alignment utility which was my biggest issue when I did the manual Photoshop merging.
Currently stereo photography (also known as 3D photography) is much more popular – more so for motion pictures but also for still photography. Adding to this the new trend for virtual reality where you do not only experience a virtual 3D world in front of you, but a world around you and you may just get immersed in these virtual worlds.
Virtual reality for the masses was made affordable when Google introduced Google Cardboard and the Google Cardboard API. All of a sudden, my stereo photos could fill and area larger than my normal field of view, and I can lookaround in my stereo photos to appreciate them in greater detail. The other benefit of using Google Cardboard instead of anaglyph photos, is the fact that I can see it in true colour. With the anaglyph technique you lose some saturation (because you are removing and replacing colour channels), and in some cases the combination of colours (especially red and orange) just does not work for anaglyph and you need to resort to a monochrome version of the photo.
Before I introduce you to the Fujifilm Virtual Reality accessory let me explain how I stumbled upon it. In the beginning of 2014 Fujifilm lend me a Fujifilm X-T1 for about two months. I especially enjoyed using it during one of the landscape courses we presented. I really got hooked to its ease of use and especially the colours and dynamic range I could get in my landscapes. But there was one huge flaw in the system that I found to be a deal breaker; the fact that I could not change the battery once I attached my tripod plate (and as you know landscape photographers "do it with three legs"). For us that do not understand the limitations of electronic component layout it was just a really bad placement of the tripod mount screw. Doing some research I found that Fujifilm is actually making 3 attachments that solves the problem. They are called "Hand Grip MHG-XT Small", "Hand Grip MHG-XT" and "Hand Grip MHG-XT Large" (you can select the one that fits your hand the best). But they are multi-functional accessories; apart from extending the grip on the camera, they also move the tripod mount screw to the middle of the camera and have a special hole for replacing the battery, but best of all, they have an arca-swiss compatible rail for a quick release tripod plate. So, the day I bought the X-T1 I also bought the "Hand Grip MHG-XT".
On the Fujifilm product page they called this an "arca-swiss compatible rail"and since the early 2000's I was always carrying an "arca-swiss compatible rail" in my camera bag, so you can imagine that this was one of the first things I wanted to test – could this replace my old rail?
For those who have not done stereo photography before, the principle is actually very simple; you need to take two photos, with a slight left-right offset between the two photos. The rule-of-thumb for the offset is the same distance as the separation between your eyes. The average distance between our eyes are apparently 6.5cm (2.5 inches). Then you need a way to show both photos at the same time, but ensure that the left eye only sees the left photo and the right eye only sees the right photo. With anaglyph photos we force the left eye to see only the red photo while the right eye only sees the blue photo. With Google Cardboard the photos are shown side-by-side and the distance between your eyes and the viewer ensures that each eye can only see the photo directly in front of that eye.
With the MHG-XT handgrip attached, I can manage to shift the cameraabout 7 cm from left to right on the tripod and thus it works perfectly for stereo photography.
I tested this during a visit to the Nan-Hua Buddhist temple in South Africa. All the photos were taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 with the MHG-XT handgrip attached.
Below is a set of anaglyph photos for those of you who does have access to anaglyph glasses (this [Ebay link] will give you an idea of what glasses I normally use during a public slide show ).
If you have a Google Cardboard or equivalent viewer you may download my set of side-by-side slides of the Nan Hua temple visit from my downloads page [here] - but you need to register before you can download it.
I also included a set of "normal" photos for those of you who do not care about 3D but would like to see the temple.
(If you have read up to here and did not click on a photo yet, do so to see them in larger format and also to browse through the rest of this gallery)