I saw this photograph by Ben Leshchinsky: Lake Banff


I understand that the photograph was taken from a high vantage point, but the rock face seems to be like a wall. What is disorienting is that it seems the background is "folded" over.

I have seen some other photos that use this technique too: Forced perspective

How is this done?

  • 1
    To add another photo, I took a similar one during a trip up Kilimanjaro last year: falsig.org/simon/blog/wp-content/gallery/kilimanjaro-2014/… As far as I remember (yay for cleaning exif data in Lightroom...) it's shot at 200mm (on a DSLR crop sensor, so 300mm equivalent), with the lower part showing porters and hikers heading up a ridge, and with the peak itself in the background. There's not really much more to it than that. The right foreground and background will give the effect all by themselves.
    – sonicwave
    Dec 18 '15 at 14:17
  • the first one was , according to the source, shot at Lake Louise from a cliff. looking at google earth, this must have been here 51°24'33"N 116°13'51"W, where there's a rough boulder shore and steep mountains around. the picture must have been traken from the opposite side. so it's not a rock face, but a top down view of a shore.
    – ths
    Feb 5 '20 at 21:20

Looks like a very long lens to me, as the perspective looks very compressed.

It's often used on rows of picturesque houses hugging a hillside to make them all look like they are in the same plane, giving a very "painting-like" effect.

It's an effective artistic trick because as you've noticed, it looks very unlike what you would see with the naked eye.

EDIT: The wider crop of the desert image in the comments shows that if the landscape itself is weird enough, any photographic technique will make it continue to look weird :)

In fact, cropping will give an identical effect to a long lens, although obviously with a reduction in pixel resolution, which will be pretty dramatic if you are trying to duplicate the effect of a very long lens.


The bottom one was just taken with the camera near to the ground: the trees are in a dry riverbed that is below the plain, and behind is a dune that can be over 100m high. It looks like it is taken in the Namib desert, Namibia. No special 'tricks' are needed.

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    Could you elaborate on why the image appears as if it was a compsite of two images shot at completely different vantage points?
    – kamuro
    Dec 17 '15 at 9:56
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    It looks like it is taken in the Namib desert (Namibia). The trees are in a dry riverbed that is below the plain. Behind is a dune that can be over 100m high.
    – Marco
    Dec 17 '15 at 10:26
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    I see, thanks. Searching google for Namib desert, I found an image shat shows this (and the effect of cropping away information to relate image parts, which is vital for the shot above) in a greater frame. Cover the top of the following image and you get a similar effect as in the post of the TO (aside from then badly placed horizon line and tree shadows). i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/05/15/12/…
    – kamuro
    Dec 17 '15 at 10:36
  • I guess it will be the same for the first picture. Putting something 3D in a 2D picture can be confusing if you crop away parts that help you 'understand' the picture.
    – Marco
    Dec 17 '15 at 10:39

Perception is a mental activity that uses organized inputs. If the input received is not clearly organized, then the mind takes over and creates a most plausible organization for it before perceiving. In this instance, the high altitude, lack of perspective and clear sense of scale, the transition from the monochromatic ground to color water area do not seem to provide sufficient organized input and the mind is perceiving it as something sensible. I discussed a similar set of questions when a collection of my photographs were published in LensWork Magazine. The photographs were taken from commercial airline windows with an infrared camera, the lack of scale and what I called "minified" features made the mountains look like skin texture under microscope and the rivers like athletes veins. If you are curious about the collection, visit http://goo.gl/7q91Dr or do a Google search on "infrared earthscapes." You will have similar sensations due to the ambiguity of the stimuli.

  • Thank you for the wonderful link and comments. It helped shape my understanding.
    – shaunakde
    Dec 18 '15 at 6:03
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    I am very pleased to hear that. Consumer behavior and related subjects were among the subjects I taught before retiring, that's the origin of the explanation of perception. Also worth noting is a book by Richard Zakia, Perception and Imaging. Good read if you can get your hands on one.
    – user43217
    Dec 18 '15 at 14:12

It is clear to me that both of these IMAGES are a combination of more then one photo combined to create an unrealistic perspective that challenges our brain to make sense of what we are seeing.

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