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Old photos- Why do cars look like they are leaning forward at speed?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by banjorear, Sep 14, 2007.

  1. banjorear
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    banjorear Member

    Not that I don't have a school to run (I'm an elementary school principal), but why do the tires & cars look like they are leaning forward when pictures are taken at speed? Is it because they are or is it an optical illusion?

    Kinda like light shining through the backside of the spokes which makes the wheel appear to be spinning backwards?
  2. Von Rigg Fink
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    Von Rigg Fink Member

    hot rod rake? lol optical illusion? most hot rods do lean forward some
  3. RichFox
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    Banjorear; I have always wondered the same thing. The wheels look eliptical. The vertical grill shell apeares to lean fowared. I can see why a drawing would be made that way, to convay speed. But how do photos get that way? Hope someone has the answer.
  4. Brad54
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    Brad54 Member

    YES! I've always wondered this too! There's a particular pic of an early roadster that comes to mind. The wheels are ovals with the top of the oval leaning way forward.

    I thought about a slow shutter speed, but that would make the car blurry, not leaning. Panning would make the car sharp and the background blurry.

    I'm also thinking those early shots were taken with a Speedgraphix or twin lens relfex camera...that might have something to do with it.

    -Brad
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  5. squirrel
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    squirrel Member

    you could do that by having a shutter which works like a window shade with a slit in it, that moves vertically as the photo is taken. Like a Speed Graphic camera, for example.

    the bottom of the picture is taken first, then as the slit moves upward the rest of the picture is taken. So the bottom shows where the car was at the beginning of the shot, the top shows where it was at the end of the shot, and it moved forward during that time.
  6. Von Rigg Fink
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    Von Rigg Fink Member

    oh you were serious..sorry for my humor..sometimes i cant control it
  7. banjorear
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    banjorear Member

    Exactly. That's what I'm talking about. I love it any way you get to it.
  8. clean cut creations
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    clean cut creations Member
    1. The St. Louis MO Crew

    Got pics to share to show your point?
  9. squirrel
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    squirrel Member

    quick google search found this one

    [​IMG]
  10. Mazooma1
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    The old style camera had a "focal plane" shutter. Instead of the lens opeing from the middle of the lens, the shutter traveled from one side to the other to let light in to expose the film.
    So, simply put, even with a semi-fast shutter speed (1/60 second or so) the image (speeding car) would "travel" as the shutter traveled from one side to the other to make the exposure. Wheels, especially looked like they were "leaping" forward because the car, in fact was moving, and as the left side of a subject was "done" being photographed, the right side was still being exposed.
    Still subjects never had this problem, obviously.
    Try Googling "focal plane shutter". Maybe their description will be clearer.
    I've used these cameras for 30 years, and now, even I'm confused.
  11. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

    I'm thinking it's due to a vertical curtain shutter. Basically it's a horizontal slot in a plate that slides vertically past the lens to expose the film. If it moves from top to bottom, it'll 'scan' the car starting at the street and moving up the car as it drops. The latent image ends up inverted on the film in the camera. If the shutter travels slowly enough, the car's motion is registered a little further along as the light exposes the film.

    Similar to this:
    [​IMG]

    I set this pic upside down on my scanner and moved the pic 'forward' while the scanner was moving.

    [​IMG]
    Of course only the car would be distorted, not the background.

    Make sense?
  12. 2002p51
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    That's exactly what's going on. Those old film cameras had a dual blade shutter. Instead of a single blade uncovering, then covering the film. One blade exposes the film, then the second blade follows behind, covering up the film. So what you get for the shorter exposure times is, in effect, just a slit as the second blade follows closely behind the first.
  13. squirrel
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    squirrel Member

  14. Mazooma1
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    Mazooma1
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    a twin lens reflex would not cause this effect.


    Also, you may have heard stories about the panorama graduation photos that were popular from the 1920's until the 1970's. Remember seeing the graduation photos that were long and skinny (8"X30" or so)? Sometimes a kid could get in the photo twice. once at each end of the group. The kis would hear the lens "click" and then run like hel to the other end of the group of students, freeze in his tracks, face the camera and smile one more time. All the while the old fashioned panorama camera would travel from one side to the other on a spring loaded gear mechanism with a "focal plane" shutter, which would allow enough time for the kid to get in the photo twice.
    Now, if the kid picked the wrong side to start with, he wouldn't be in the photo at all, because the camera shutter would be traveling in an opposite direction as the kid.
    This is the drawback of a focal plane shutter. Distorted movement is common with any motion of the subject.
    I shot graduation photos at high schools for over 30 years.
    Wish I had a dollar for evertime I got the finger.
  15. Jeem
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    Jeem Alliance Vendor

    The proof of your correctness(?) is that the building is tipping too. When the car is shot at speed , obviously the thing that is at speed is playing with the shutter. Happy accident. If the shutter moved the opposite way, would it make a speeding car look like it's slamming on the brakes?!
  16. banjorear
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    banjorear Member

    OK, great answers. Is there a way to get the same effect using a modern 35 mm film camera and without digital effects like photo shop?

    Thanks.
  17. Shaggy
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    Shaggy Member

    it's like the rat rodders thinking the cars were all black primer, sure they are black and not glossy, its a black and white photo
  18. Petejoe
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    Petejoe Member

    I too always wondered about this.
    I originally thought it was created on purpose to give the illusion of speed. Now here to find out it was magic!
    Cool looking shots!!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  19. squirrel
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    squirrel Member

    Look into how 35mm cameras work, you might find they have a horizontal focal plane shutter. So, just turn the camera on it's side (the correct side so that the shutter moves from bottom to top) and have at it!

    edit: make sure it's a 35mm SLR type camera
  20. 1950ChevySuburban
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    1950ChevySuburban Member Emeritus

    Interesting how this accidental mechanical situation caused the art community to react to it, by intentionally drawing like this to give the illusion of speed. (Think of the elliptical effects of the Roadrunner and Coyote, etc.......)
  21. Zeke Fishburn
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    Zeke Fishburn Member

    [SIZE=-1]The Marmon Wasp won the first Indianapolis 500 Race in 1911 driven by Ray Harroun.

    Great photo.
    [/SIZE]

    Attached Files:

  22. RichFox
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    All Right! Now i know something I have always been bothered about. The HAMB rocks.
  23. 50Fraud
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    50Fraud
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    Squirrel (first post) and ShortBus are exactly correct. I tried doing this with an old Speed Graphic press camera with a polaroid back, and it worked exactly as advertised. Put the camera on a tripod so the background is dead still, and shoot at the exact moment that the car is in the frame (yes, it takes some practice). Don't pan, as that will give you an upright car and a leaning background.

    I used Polaroid B/W film and a very slow shutter speed with a small aperture (don't remember exact numbers, as this was about 30 years ago). Another trick was to wipe the Polaroid print with sepia toner, which gave it an antique look. This is the only image I have left:

    [​IMG]
  24. el Scotto
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    el Scotto Member

    This is a great thread!! Thanks guys!!
  25. bonesy
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    Great read! Thanks Principal Banjorear, learn something new everyday.
  26. Kiwi Kev
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    Kiwi Kev Member

    You never stop learning on the H.A.M.B.!
  27. jetmek
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    jetmek Member

    to quote Mr.Spock, "Facinating"
  28. 52 HenryJ
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    52 HenryJ Member

    wow great stuff and interesting read too!!!!
  29. johnnykck
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    johnnykck Member

    I can't believe the stuff you can learn on the HAMB, what a great place!
  30. Benzine440
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    Benzine440 Member

    The 1959 Daytona 500 appeared to end in a tie between Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp. There is a more distorted version than this one but you can see some of the effect here. It took race officials three days to analyze the photos and to rule that Petty had won by eighteen inches. Although it looks like a three-way heat, the #44 Chevrolet is actually a lap down.
    [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2014

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