How To Photograph The Largest Letterbox In The World
It’s debatable, but some folks claim this is the largest letterbox or mailbox in the world. Actually I understand that it’s no longer recognized as such by the folks at the Guinness Book Of Records.
Nonetheless Big Blue, as I call it, is a significant landmark which you’ll find in the town of Skopun on the island of Sandoy in the Faroe Islands where I stayed for 2 wonderful nights.
I understand the sculpture stands at 7.42 meters in height and 4.45 meters in width. It’s a non functioning mailbox which, with the decline of snail mail over the years, is probably no big deal.
Nonetheless I can imagine how much fun it would be for a child to post a letter into a mailbox as big and bold as the one in Skopun.
Whether Big Blue is a visual delight or an architectural monstrosity is up to the individual to decide. But it’s big and it’s blue, and I had some fun photographing it.
It’s also one of those sites that, if you’re in the area, you’ll want to take a look at. Even if it’s just a drive by.
How I Photographed the Skopun Letterbox
The photo at the top of this post was made to provide a relatively accurate representation of what you might expect to see if you found yourself in front of the Skopun letterbox.
I made the photo with my full frame Sony a7Rii camera at 1/500 second with an aperture of f/11 and at ISO 400.
I used my Sony 24-70mm f/4 lens at 70 mm which is considered to be a slight telephoto (i.e., telescopic) focal length.
Because the 70 mm focal length causes a slight magnification of the subject on the camera’s sensor I had to move backwards to fit the letterbox into the frame.
The result is quite realistic though, at 70 mm, there’s what’s referred to as a slight foreshortening associated with the mild telephoto focal length.
You might like to think of this as an impression of compression where the perception of distance between foreground and background appears closer than it is in reality.
Changing Perspective For A Visually Dynamic Image
After making a quite straight and safe image of Big Blue I decided, for the purposes of teaching, that a more dramatic rendering would be appropriate.
I moved my zoom lens to a focal length of 24 mm and moved in very close to the structure to make the photo directly above.
Considered by many as a classic wide-angle focal length 24 mm allows you to stand back from the world and fit a lot of information into the frame. That’s how most folks use wide-angle lenses.
But for me it’s fun to move in close with a wide-angle focal length so as to play with perspective.
Notice how much taller and, at the bottom of the structure, wider the mailbox appears. That’s a direct consequence of moving in close and photographing with a wide angle lens.
By getting down on my haunches and photographing from a lower angle of view you’ll notice how the structure appears to have been stretched with its edges no longer appearing parallel to each other.
That’s just an example of the kind of fun you can have with a wide-angle lens, when used up close to your subject.
It’s good to remember that photography, as art, is rarely about making realistic representations of reality.
How To Make Photos With Straight Lines
When you stand close to an object that’s much taller than you it’s inevitable that you’ll tilt your camera so as not to chop the top of the structure off in your photo.
The problem is that, by titling your camera, it’s no longer parallel to the object you’re photographing. The more you tilt your camera backwards the greater the tilt of the structure will appear in your photo.
Assuming you don’t like the effect there are two ways to straighten the image.
The first method is really simple. Walk back and, if need be, zoom in.
If you think about it the further back you go the less you’ll have to tilt the camera to fit the top of the structure into your photo.
You don’t have to be climbing a hill but, from the camera’s point of view, the further back you go the higher your camera’s lens is in relation to the structure you’re photographing. Amazing!
How To Straighten Lines In Your Photos On A Computer
If you’re unable or unwillingly to move back then photograph the structure, accepting the distortion, but being sure to leave plenty of space around it which will be cropped out as the image is straightened on the computer.
The more you tilt your camera backwards the greater the distortion is likely to be.
Therefore, the greater the distortion the more space you’ll need to leave around the structure to be able to straighten it without chopping off the top.
This method works fine, though it’s a little hit and miss. Just be sure you’re not too conservative when it comes to leaving space around buildings or bridges when composing your image.
Naturally, this is something you’ll come to terms with quite quickly by practicing on tall buildings closer to home.
Once you have your image you then employ software such as Lightroom (i.e., the Transform panel in the Develop module) or Photoshop to straighten the structure up again. Easy!
It’s Time You Made Better Photos
Would you like some help gaining control over your camera?
Perhaps you’d like to learn how to use Lightroom to lift the quality of your photos to the next level.
I run private, one-to-one courses for folks just like you who live in and around Melbourne, Australia. Feel free to contact me for all the details.