thinking with pictures

sweet spot (snapshot-focalized) versus the big picture (panorama-immersive)

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Walking down the street today in late afternoon spring sunshine the turquoise color of the water in West Bay of the Grand Traverse Bay caught my eye. The camera lens sees all the elements in the scene, but my brain blots out the rest and dwells on the vivid color of the water. Other times it may be a shape, a texture, or the quality of light at a particular hour or season of the year that catches my attention. But to translate that thrill into something the lens can capture and convey to others demands good technique and experience. When something as singular as a color element or a particular shape is the subject then a simple snapshot will render the subject faithfully; no surrounding context is required. The photographer applies blinders so the viewer is tightly focalized onto the specific feature.

looking north at the waters of Grand Traverse Bay
West Bay recently thawed and now so vividly blue

But other times the subject is not a discrete element. Instead it is the wider stage or frame in which many things are arranged. For those times a stitched panorama works well to preserve the proportions of the single shot and yet to capture the combined wider field of view that is similar to the natural field of view for people using both eyes. The effect is immersive; there is verisimilitude with waking, walking experience. In other words, there are times to photograph a big picture and there are other times to capture a subject all by itself, without much care about the surrounding conditions.

By seeing that both the narrow vision of snapshot and the wide vision of stitched panoramas can communicate something true about the world, then it becomes possible to make both kinds of picture, and to appreciate both kinds of picture, too. Something similar seems to happen in the mind’s eye – sometimes focused on a singular subject and other times taking in the wide-angle or big picture view.


Author: gpwitteveen

Better Outreach is my aim. See to know more.

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