Leningrad/St Petersburg in composite images

At least Europeans should be familiar with the “900 Days of Leningrad“, the siege by the German Wehrmacht which costs a lot of lives and destroyed most of the city. But they never gave up.
Sergei Larenkov, a Russian artist, found a lot of images from that time and took images from the same spot today. Digitally combined they have a strong impact.

You can find the collection at http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com.

For doing such a thing with an old image from your town you first have to find the spot and figure out the focal length of the lens (see comments). Then take the picture. My tip for stacking them would be Hugin, but I have never tried that. Then just mask parts of the top image and let the bottom one shine through.

18 thoughts on “Leningrad/St Petersburg in composite images

  1. Just wondering: Is there any heuristic (or theoretical) method for estimating the focal length, knowing (say) the basic dimensions of the image content?


  2. It should be possible by some form of triangulation. You have to calculate the angle of view – that translates then into the focal length of your camera.

    Luckyly they had no zoom lenses. My guesses would be 50mm, 35mm, 135mm and 28mm – all for 35mm film / full frame sensor. These were the standard lenses. But then they could have cropped the image – changing the angle of view again. 😉

  3. Thank you, Rolf, for this link!

    By the by it is not very difficult to create composite images since actually you don’t have to know the exact original focal length. Contrary common opinion neither perspective nor proportions of the image depend on focal length but only on the photographer’s position. Zooming is nothing else but a kind of optical cropping. Just take a wide angle lens or standard zoom … and show your results! 🙂

  4. @ray adagio: You have beaten me with this by 30 minutes. I should have done the Web first and then breakfast. 😉 It came to the surface of my mind just after waking up – you only need the point of view. If you are there and the stuff on the old image fits into the viewfinder you are spot on.

    Looking for the right spot is looking for the same perspective. How difficult that is I’ll see in some hours.

    @Ger: You are right – this is the same technique. It*s so much now in the shows that I don’t have them all in my mind.

  5. Sehr spannend. Ich sollte dies auch mit Bildern meiner Heimatstadt machen. Vor Jahren las ich in der Tageszeitung einen bedrückenden Bericht über NS-Vergangenheit meiner Heimatstadt – mit vielen Bildern. Was habe ich ein Glück, dass ich nach 1945 geboren bin.

  6. Everybody at this webside speaks english. Sorry, but I am not very familiar in speaking/writing english. Is there a forum-rule that everybody has to write english texts?

  7. Not really, but it would be polite. Your English is better than the Google translation. 😉

    Google: “Very exciting. I should have the same pictures with my home city. Years ago I read in the newspaper a dismal report on Nazi past my home town – with many pictures. What did I do a good job that I’m born after 1945.”

    My translation: “Very exciting. I should do the same with pictures of my home city. Years ago I read in the newspaper a depressing report on the Nazi past of my home town – with many pictures. What a luck that I’m born after 1945.”

    I can relate to that. Born 57, the traces of the war were still there in my youth, from peoples minds to empty building lots full of rubble.

  8. Hello Rolf

    Many thanks of the compliment about my english-abillity. It feels strange if my hands type english text. If I write english I am scared of because I think: “Does the reader of my comment reads the same I wrote 😉 ?”.

    Nevertheless: I think usable german is better than my bad english 🙂 But if it is polite, I will submit this advice at future replies.

  9. re: focal length duplication unnecessary
    Won’t there be a “distance compression” mismatch with differing focal lengths?


  10. @irgendjemand: I think your English is understandable to all the audience, even if it is not perfect. Only about 10% to 15% of the visitors come from the 3 German speaking countries.

    @jim: There is no such thing as a “distance compression”. Make this experiment:
    Shoot an image of something in the distance with your maximum tele lens and then – without changing your position, with your widest lens. Now compare the image from the tele with the crop of the wide angle containing the same stuff. You’ll see the same perspective – but a lot less detail.

  11. The illusion of compression doesn’t come from a certain focal length. It comes from choosing a subject and getting this in the frame with different focal lengths – and consequently changing the photographer’s position to reach this goal.
    So the posts up there are right – you don’t have to know the focal length. You can crop the image. But you’ll have to know the photographer’s position. I don’t know which is more difficult to estimate – position or focal length 😉

  12. I’ll give it a try soon. Today I went to an old air raid shelter in the park and shot there the images for the F-Spot show. I haven’t seen them yet – will do that for the first time while recording.

    I have some old images of Bremen, Some are easy to recognize, others are simply too much changed to recognize anything.

Anything to add from your side of the computer?

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