Stereo With One Eye

One of several presents I gave my wife for Christmas was a book of old stereo views of London which came with a built-in viewer to see them. It wasn’t a great publication, though there were a few interesting pictures, it didn’t really give a very good overview of the city.

Back in Victorian times, no parlour was complete without a stereo viewer, usually wooden with two lenses to hold at your eyes and a slot the correct distance away to hold the stereo cards, which enabled you to view all the wonder of the world in your own home.

We passed the book around on Christmas afternoon and everybody had a look. Some people found it difficult to see the pictures in stereo, there is a slight knack to it and it gets much easier with a little practice. At least for most people it does, but there are some who just can’t do it, and my elder son is one of them. Born with a squint that was cured by an operation when he was small, although his sight is fine his two eyes just don’t work together.

So I’ll be interested in how he gets on with the Stereogranimator from the New York Public Library, which they developed to let people look at around 40,000 stereo views from their collection, either as  “wiggle stereographs” or ‘anaglyphs’. Anaglyphs are the familiar two-colour views that you need special two colour glasses to view, but the ‘wiggles’ were new to me. They make seeing the images in stereo without glasses very easy, almost impossible not to see, by displaying the two images in the same frame as two images in an animated gif, wobbling rapidly between the two. It’s a bit annoying but definitely 3D.

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at
GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator

Of course if you have your red/cyan glasses handy it will look a lot better as an anaglyph – I just made this one on the NYPL site:

ANAGLYPH made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at
ANAGLYPH made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator

Years ago I made some high quality anaglyphs using a pair of Olympus OM4 cameras joined together at the base by a short length of screw thread which fitted both tripod threads, letting you screw the two cameras, each fitted with a 50mm f1.8 lens into a nicely solid lump with the two lenses pointed in the same direction.  The lens centres were at roughly the same distance apart as my eyes which gives a nicely natural stereo effect.

The rig was completed with two cable releases tied together and the two plungers joined (I think I could have bought a double release, but that would have cost money) and it was possible to use handheld, taking pictures onto black and white film. The lack of the normal orange mask caused some problems when printing onto normal colour paper  (later Kodak produced an orange-masked black and white chromogenic film to make printing on colour paper easier, but what I needed were not neutral exposures, but a red and cyan exposure, one from each neg, made one after the other vaguely in register on one sheet of paper, adjusted so that where both where the same the print was roughly neutral. It took a little trial and error to get the best effect.

Thanks to PetaPixel for the information about the NYPL site, and there are a few good examples on their site, but you can go to the NYPL and select from their huge collection, or make a new one from their images as I did for the anaglyph.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to make some from your own pictures with Photoshop either – just take a couple of pictures from a short distance apart – perhaps 3 or 4 inches –  as  your starting point

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