Their scale and detail can be breathtaking at times. We recently visited the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, where Howard Tibbals' vast model of the fictitious Howard Bros. Circus is on display (pictured left). Tibbals has been working on the 3,800-square-foot model for over 50 years, and he claims it is still incomplete. In Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, you can visit Roadside America, a model train village that was also the single-minded creation of one man, Laurence Gieringer. In both of these models, the time scale is altered as well; every few minutes, darkness falls over of the scene to mark the passing of another day. At Roadside America, each nightfall is marked by a projection of the Statue of Liberty on the horizon, as well as one of Jesus, and the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Now, what if we could reverse this process of movie trickery – rather than make the small look big, we make the big look small, and we can capture the wonderment of miniature models in the world around us without the tedium of a lifetime of whittling and painting? Behold the magic of tilt-shift photography, a technique that makes ordinary scenes of the real world appear to be carefully constructed tiny models. The process works by shallowing and narrowing the depth of field in photographs, shrinking the area that is in focus either through the use of special lenses or by digital manipulation of pictures. Suddenly, your neighborhood can be transformed into a block in Roadside America, or a neighborhood waiting to be trampled beneath Godzilla's foot.