3D Basics

Working with 3D Photographs


“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoothe pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”


As of Spring 2016, my Joshua Tree 3D collection contains over 26,000 3D images, many of which appear on these pages. The following technical words are used throughout this website. If possible, familiarize yourself with them now, since they may be helpful later:


3D Multiview (MPO)

3D Anaglyph

3D Stereoscopic (Half Side-by-Side)

Parallax. Positive, Negative and Zero Parallax


Red/Cyan 3D Anaglyph Glasses

 2D ♦ 3D Anaglyph ♦ 3D Stereo (H-SBS)

(Click to view full size)


The Equipment


Fuji FinePix 3D W3 Digital Camera
Fuji FinePix 3D W3 Digital Camera

THE JOSHUA TREE 3-Dimensional photographs on this site were taken with a simple 10 megapixel point-and-shoot Fuji stereo 3D camera. I never use a tripod. Tripods get in the way. Though for 3D water videos, a little six-inch Joby pays for itself.

Note the dual lenses set approximately 1½″ apart. Two sets of lens that work in the same way as human eyes. Our ability to perceive depth comes from viewing an object along two different lines of sight. This phenomenon is called parallax (see below).

By default, when you click the shutter button, the camera saves two images with each picture taken. The first is a standard 2D JPG. The second, the 3D photo, is a Multiview MPO image, using the technical “Multi Picture Object” format nomenclature. These have the file extention MPO. Multiview & MPO, remember those. Ignore the other. It clogs the mind.

It is my understanding that neither Windows computers, nor those made by Apple can natively render MPO images on a computer monitor for you to see. For this reason, an accompanying 2D image is supplied by the camera’s software which has the same file name ending in a .JPG file extension, versus .MPO for the 3D. This makes sorting easier.

Fuji 3D camera 02 backThe most remarkable feature about this device for the camera operator is its 3½″ LCD (liquid crystal display) screen: the LCD displays high-resolution, high-contrast 3D images and movies without the need for special glasses. The display allows viewing of a stereoscopic image with the naked eye, and in full color. You get to frame your shots using real wiz-ee-wig—(WYSIWYG)—what you see is what you get. A 3D photographer’s dream come true!

I use the highest quality settings the camera provides

  • 16 x 9 since these will be viewed on a widescreen 3D TV
  • 3584 x 2016 pixel resolution
  • Fuji’s Clear Scenic Shots outdoor setting

I could fiddle with the camera’s other myriad settings, granted. It has all the features. But I prefer the basics. In this, one might say I am a novice, and proud of it. Resulting file sizes are as follows

  • 2D JPG 3.5 megabytes
  • 3D MPO 7mb

Because each photograph requires the camera to write 10mb of data to an SD card, the time between shots averages 10 to 15 seconds. If fast picture taking is your forté, this isn’t for you; patience is a virtue. Rush, and you will end up with blurred results. Well over 1,000 photographs can be stored on a 16gb SD card.

The original 3D multiview MPO images, I later convert on a computer into various formats, such as the 3D Anaglyph or 3D Half Side-by-Side (H-SBS) pictures on this website.

Fuji camera Videos are rendered in 1280 x 720 pixels for standard 720p “high” definition. (The camera is not designed to take 1080p 3D video, unfortunately.) 3D Videos are captured as single Multiview AVI files. One-minute of 720p 3D video with sound is about 360mb. Be prepared to buy extra rechargeable batteries if you plan to buy a Fuji 3D camera, although these are no longer being made they are still available from some sellers. Video recording, in particular, drains the battery. The big 3½-inch screen does the same if you leave it on all the time. I carry 8 batteries for an 8-hour day out in JTNP, and have a second camera in my backpack “just in case” I fumble and break the first one.

A pretty 2D reflection at Surprise! Tank 2D Gallery

Surprise Tank, Towers of Uncertainty, north end

Getting Started

PEOPLE ASK, Where did you learn all this? Three answers, the last of which may surprise you

  • Reading
  • Hands-on practice
  • The 2011 3D movie “Hugo,” directed by Martin Scorsese
Golden barrell cactus garden, Huntington Gardens

Reading is the most obvious. Yes, and time-consuming. You have to have the “bug”. No two ways about it. The learning curve is not very steep, fortunately, but it is there nonetheless. There are books you can buy. But with the modern version of the ancient Library of Alexandria right at your fingertips in the form of the Worldwide Web, you will soon discover all you need to know.

The second aspect is hands-on practice. Thanks to the camera’s innovative 3D screen, a photographer can frame his 3D image on the fly. I began my 3D adventures in 2012, at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, near where I live. Their large cactus garden, in particular, is most photogenic:

I always remind myself whenever I am at Joshua Tree to let the landscape dictate what it wants me to photograph. Sort of anthropomorphic, I realize, but it works. Mistakes will be common at first. Like getting too close to the subject and snapping a photograph in which the Negative Parallax causes your eyes to water when attempting to view it. No one enjoys having the subject jumping right out of the screen at you. Makes you go cross-eyed! (See below for Positive Parallax and Negative Parallax discussions and some Anaglyph examples. Learning the limitations of 3D parallax is integral to creating unique looking and problem-free images.)

Lastly, the film. Hugo (2011). This was director Martin Scorsese’s first (and only, to this point) 3D project. Those who have seen the movie will understand that it is a marvel of 3D composition. Some might argue it is “too slow” or “is too long.” They are missing the point. They miss the spirit of “Hugo.”

Hugo (2011) 3D Anaglyph

Watch it several times. Doing so, you might just learn the techniques a master craftsman uses. Find Scorsese’s “Hugo” interviews on YouTube and the Bluray 3D disk. Watch those. The director has many tricks up his sleeve which he reveals by word of mouth or from his camerawork. Tricks you can apply when out in the field. In 3D photography, you will be shooting a scene, not merely the individual or subject you focus on. Joshua Tree National Park’s unusual landscape, its scenery, formations, the odd plants, the wide vistas, are a 3D cameraman’s Pièce de résistance.


The Nuts and Bolts


2D. Little explanation is needed here. Everyone who takes photographs is familiar with 2D images and the vast array of possibilities. The Fuji camera saves the 2D image in JPG format. Again, I prefer 16 x 9 landscape mode at the highest resolution possible which looks best on a wide-screen TV.

2D ♦ The Lost Pencil

Sample JTNP 2D images. Geology Tour Road, the Lost Pencil, 2013 Dec 31. “Golden Hour,” where rich late-afternoon tints predominate. (Yes, rock climbers do climb this dingus, but only the experts.) See Cali49 website and his report of our hike to Towers of Uncertainty and the Lost Pencil. Look for my 3D Lost Pencil set in Galleries under Towers of Uncertainty, along with an extensive photo series of the Towers of Uncertainty area. For now, enjoy these 2D teasers. (Click pictures below the slideshow window to enlarge)

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3D Multiview

3D Multiview is a relatively new, non-proprietary file format known as “Multi Picture Object” format. The multi part allows these to be rendered into various forms like anaglyph, half side-by-side, or half over-under 3D. See the Fuji Wikipedia entry for extended coverage of MPO. I cannot display the original MPO pictures on this website since HTML isn’t capable of rendering an image from them. All you would see, were it able to, is a 2D picture.

3D Anaglyph 

Anaglyph is a convenient format for viewing 3D photos on a 2D mobile phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer monitor, or on a 2D television. 3D Anaglyph is a halfway solution, however. You must use the red/cyan glasses to view them. Anaglyph glasses are available online, and at most camera stores and big box outfits such as WalMart.

Anaglyph 3D pictures lose some quality when converted from the MPO original, I should point out. Also, the process of making them can introduce artifacts and sometimes ghosting (see below).

I use a freeware Windows program called StereoPhoto Maker by Muttyan of Japan. The original camera’s Multiview MPO image is converted in seconds into one of numerous 3D formats, including Anaglyph and Stereo Half Side-by-Side. Muttyan’s StereoPhoto Maker program has settings to improve the result.


A pretty 3D Anaglyph reflection at Surprise! Tank 3D Gallery

Surprise Tank, Towers of Uncertainty, north end

Sample JTNP 3D Anaglyphs

Full-size images. Click to enlarge. Click a second time on the enlarged image to zoom in further. Or SAVE LINK AS to save the full size image to your hard drive. Feel free to share these. Slideshow viewer below. They are: (1) E! at balanced rock, Malapai Hill, Geology Tour Road, (2) hilltop overlooking Wonderland of Rocks, (3) “Surprise Tank,” Geology Tour Road, (4) viewpoint near “Hall of Horrors” in Lost Horse Valley, (5) Barker Dam, (6) Don Genero Cliff overlooking Wonderland of Rocks (7) windmill near Wall Street Mill, (8) Elliot Koeppel at Jumbo Rocks Campground, (9) Wonderland Valley, (10) Live Oak Picnic Area, (11) Jumbo Rocks, (12) Queen Valley, (13) Hidden Valley

(Note: Red clothing clashes with Anaglyph 3D)

3D Anaglyph Slideshow

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3D Stereo Half Side-by-Side

3D Stereo Half Side-by-Side (H-SBS) images are for watching on a 3D TV. Be aware that most modern high definition televisions are designed for 2D only. You have to own a model specifically made for and labeled as a 3D TV to view these Half Side-by-Side pictures. Otherwise, you are out of luck.

3D photography was developed over 150 years ago. The original Stereopticon (at right) used Full Side-by-Side images to simulate 3D. Modern televisions can convert and project 3D Half Side-by-Side or Half Over-Under images onto their screens. Same idea, but using today’s digital technology.

No TV that I am aware of can natively render Multiview (MPO) files as they come directly from the camera. The image has to be converted first. Certain video rendering programs can do this and allow you to create 1080p 3D slideshows. I use a consumer-friendly program by Cyberlink called PowerDirector. The individual Half Side-by-Side pictures converted using Muttyan’s StereoPhoto Maker can, however, be viewed directly on your 3D television.

The easiest way to do this is to copy the 3D JPG images to a USB thumb drive, insert it into the TV’s USB port on the side or back. Then, enter the television’s main menu to activate Half Side-by-Side (which is often represented by a little image graphic).

(Note: Some 3D images and videos available on the internet are produced in other variants of 3D Stereo, Full Side-by-Side and Half Over-Under (H-OU). I use Half Side-by-Side images, videos, and slideshows exclusively on this website.)

Sample JTNP 3D H-SBS images

Click to enlarge the images and save to your hard drive for viewing on a 3D TV or other 3D capable computer monitor. Or Right-click the Thumbnail photo and choose SAVE LINK AS. Again, Half Side-by-Side requires a 3D capable television and the manufacturer’s passive or active 3D glasses to view (not the red/cyan glasses).

Parallax (Positive, Negative and Zero Parallax)

Our ability to perceive depth comes from viewing an object along two different lines of sight. This phenomenon is called parallax. In 3D picture taking, the photographer gets to play with depth. And what a thing it is to manipulate, when properly framed! Simply put, and without getting into the scientific mumbo-jumbo, on a 3D image viewed with a suitable television or computer LCD screen, the flat plane of the screen is known as Zero Parallax. Any image falling “within” the plane is Positive Parallax. Anything extending “outward” is known as Negative Parallax. Here are several sample Anaglyphs to illustrate.

1. Positive Parallax

Everything lies “within” the frame in this image. Towers of Uncertainty, South. The lump-like pointy formation on the left is named “Friable Rock” (= crumbly rock) by rock climbers. It can be found in the northwest corner of ToU, South in an enchanting area I like to call the “Spire Cathedral.” Notice how the image falls within the flat plane of your monitor/screen. Hence, Positive Parallax.

Towers of Uncertainty, The Spire Cathedral


2. Positive, Zero, and some Negative Parallax

Wonderland of Rocks employing a mix of parallax. Hill at Barker Dam. The Astro Domes at left, about ¾ mile distance, is in Positive Parallax as is the remainder of the Wonderland of Rocks looking north. The rock I am resting my arm on as well as the plants are in Negative Parallax, stepping out of the picture as it were.

My friend “Bucko” who took this was standing about 10 feet away. We are on top of a 200ft high hill near Barker Dam that overlooks the entrance to Wonderland Valley. And yes, this is the real image as taken, not staged or touched-up in any way. (Notice his framing: Roughly one-third sky, one-third subject, one-third foreground. Forty years ago Bucko took a Nikon course in photography. It shows. This almost appears to be a movie set photographed against a green screen.)

3. Negative Parallax.

Some areas extend “outside” the frame. Surprise Tank. Typical in the lower third or foreground, Negative Parallax usually occurs when the camera is within five to 10 feet of the foreground, but not always (see example 5 below). Negative Parallax is sometimes used to accent the depth in a scene. Location: Geology Tour Road. Towers of Uncertainty, North. Surprise Tank (dam). I was only four or five feet from the dam when I took this (the dam is only four feet high). Notice that the structure and much of the water extends well forward from the Zero plane of the screen. Zero Parallax is about where the rock juts into the water at right.

Surprise Tank, Towers of Uncertainty, north end


4. Extreme Negative Parallax.

This shot is a favorite of mine. Towers of Uncertainty. Much of the image juts outward from the Zero plane. This was a difficult shot to take. I found myself cramped in a corner, but just had to get this angle. Everything lined up in the viewer, saying, Sweet spot! It took some doing to limit the amount of Negative Parallax. Too much would have made your eyes cross or draw tears. 3D photographs with Negative Parallax are marvels to see, but if you overdo it by misjudging the depth, the result may turn out awful. Shot at Towers of Uncertainty, South, below a rock climbing feature (behind me) known as “Reef Rock.” Meanwhile, “Sunlight Rock” with a knob on top is at right. I am aiming south across part of the Towers formations. The boulder pile a quarter of a mile away is “Rocky Marciano” — another climbing favorite. (Those viewing this on a computer monitor might want to sit far enough back to get the most dramatic result.)

Towers of Uncertainty

5. Extreme Negative Parallax.

Shooting below an overhang. Wonderland of Rocks. My apologies if this strains your eyes. You are looking at the 250ft “South Astro Dome” in the Wonderland of Rocks, where I am standing beneath the western edge of “Don Juan Boulder.” Focus first on the rock above. Notice how you almost have to cross your eyes at first. Once your eyes adjust and you feel comfortable, switch to the Astro Dome to train you mind. Then it is easy to switch back and forth. I thought this gives a unique look, only possible in 3D. Removing the Red/Cyan glasses results in a more familiar 2D appearance. (The 3D Half Side-by-Side, which will be posted in due course, works fine on a big screen 3D TV. Less so with this 3D Anaglyph, since it is right on the fringe of being painful.)

South Astro Dome, Wonderland of Rocks


Don Juan Boulder, Wonderland of Rocks

Crosstalk or Ghosting on 3D Anaglyph Photos.

Headstone Rock, Ryan Campground

Crosstalk, often called “Ghosting” is present on some 3D Anaglyph pictures. Headstone Rock at Ryan Campground. When an original Multiview MPO image is converted to Anaglyph format, the dual Left-Right images overlap. This gives the familiar red and cyan (blue) color separation. If in the process the two images do not align precisely you will see a ghost. I have found this occurs when the picture includes a close-up against a far background.

There is nothing wrong with your eyes or the glasses. Ghosting is an artifact of the Anaglyph creation. Sometimes mild tweaking will limit ghosting. But it must be understood that a 2D interface such as an LCD screen is not designed for 3D. Anaglyph is, at best, a compromise. We all realize that sometimes compromises fail to deliver the hoped-for results. Crosstalk rarely occurs seen on the original MPO or Half Side-by Side pictures (see H-SBS sample immediately below this section). When a Half SBS is rendered on a 3D television screen the dual images give a fair rendering of what the photographer captured in the camera lens.

Ryan Campground Headstone Rock 3DA 1080p DSCF6310 BWNotice how your eyes must strain when you move from the Joshua to the climber sitting on top. (The original MPO image—and the 3D Half Side-by-Side made from it—shows no such ghosting. With subtle adjustments in the software described in the StereoPhoto Maker program above, it might be possible to reduce or eliminate much cross-talk or ghosting, but again with compromises.) In the case of Ryan Campground’s Headstone Rock, I believe the rich golden-hour yellows and oranges interfered with the Anaglyph creation or viewing process. By rendering the 3D Anaglyph in Grayscale, however, ghosting is minimized, as seen in this second illustration. A more pleasing choice when all else fails →

3D Half-SBS. This image shows no ghosting when downloaded and viewed on a 3D TV.

Windows users, Right-Click image and SAVE LINK AS to save the full-size JPG file to your hard drive.

Jurassic ChallengeThis ends the 3D Basics discussion. Should you have further questions, feel free to write using either the Comments section in ABOUT or by emailing me at john@joshuatree3D.com

John Murbach

Temple City, California

Posted 2014 Aug 18

Updated 2018 May