In this blog I am going to revisit a former blog post on Perspective, it is an area not easily conjured nor we cannot just read a book, learn the technique and be done with it, looking for and using perspective is hard earned money. It is an element of photography where i seek continuously improvement, practice and conscious choices yields new understandings. But as I started out with saying, is this element unlike technical aspects of the photography much harder to understand. The reason for this is that we do not see perspective for what it really is, but rather a compute of how our brain comprehended the elements involved.
I will argue that next to light, then perspective is the most decisive element of photography. Perspective changes everything. Perspective is completely dependent upon one’s consciousness. As a Photographer it is easy to fall into the trap shooting standing straight up, shooting everything we sees from an eye-level. The good picture, the right composition often comes by a change of perspective. It is crucial to understand that perspective refers to the relationship of imaged objects in a photograph. The objects sizes and their relative positions in the composition of a photograph is being computed by the views brain into a three-dimensional understanding of a two-dimensional photograph.
Studying Bresson was an eye opener for me, I realized that to improve my photography I had to move away from my habit of changing composition by zooming in or out with my lens. Teachings of Bresson provoked me into an understanding that to improve my perspectives and my compositions I had to move with my camera. A understanding that we are there to portrait objects in light, with their different sizes and their different relative positions between them, we are not there to move the objects, yet we can still influence the perception by changing the length of our lens, and the position of our camera.
Old habits die hard, and yes it does feel odd getting down on your belly in the middle of the street, still getting your camera down to street level creates insight, try it and how it impacts the visual impression dramatically. Do combine this perspective with a fixed wide lens, preferably with manual focus. Look how you feature the foreground of your composition, and sets the context for the rest of the photograph. Shooting from frog perspective changes the way your viewer feels or reacts to your subject. The subject will appear taller or more imposing in a way you are giving your subject a dominant role, where it acts more commanding and powerful. Shooting from frog perspective is possibly the most transboundary experience, changing to other comes a lot more naturally.
The first perspective element which I used consciously was the “Vanishing Point Perspective“. I was looking for lines what parallel runes that give the sensation of meeting at one or more vanishing points as the intersecting lines forces an comprehension of infinity.
I remember looking for these lines at the streets of Seattle, by chance i went up in the Columbia Tower, which has a sky deck located on the 73rd floor, at nearly 1,000 feet it offers the tallest public viewing area in the Pacific Northwest. The 360 degree panoramic view includes Mt. Rainier, Bellevue, the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Baker, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains, the Space Needle and the city of Seattle. The streets below offered heaps of lines, but the visit to the tower also introduced me to two new @perspective friends”, later on learned them by their right names Dwindling Size Perspective and Atmospheric Perspective. It might at first sound awful complex and boring but it is not, Dwindling Size Perspective has to do with us recognizing object and knowing their real size, then calculating the distance from their diminished scale. In this case it was the cars and people seen from 73’th floor. I was also looking at Mt. Rainier from the tower, it was a very clear and impressive sight, yet it had a blueish feel to it, and the blue element of the air gave a sense of distance. Thus that air is seemingly transparent, it is really not. It contains very fine particles of dust, water vapor, smoke, and so on. These particles scatter light and change its direction, this is not noticeable on shorter distances, but the futher away your object is the more noticable it becomes. The presence of scattering shows distant subjects in pictures as having a veil or haze. So bluish Mt. Rainier gave a sensation of Atmospheric Perspective.
Conscious pondering what brings perspective in my photography brought me to a more difficult type of perspective, difficult in the respect that it is difficult to apply my photography. Again Cascade Mountains at Seattle is a wonderful example of overlapping perspective, do notice how atmospheric perspective comes in play at the mountains at the back. The overlapping mountains in my photograph, results in a comprehension of depth. I discovered that repeated patterns of overlapping objects resulted in a strengthening of this sensation of depth.
Volume Perspective is perhaps my favorite kind of perspective. It might be difficult to utilize but easily understood. Volume Perspective is about contrast, between light and shadow. Shadows brings perspective, this is worth keeping in mind. When subject is lighted with very diffused light there will be almost no distinct shadows to add to the perception of depth. Directional light on the other hand easily create contrast the subject is fully lighted and other parts to be in shadow. This will give an impression of the objects form and volume. The reason why i love this is the way that it impacts my black and white photography
The Lens matters
As stated earlier is the focal length affecting the perspective. The type of lens also impacts the perspective. Most lenses produces the rectilinear perspective that we know from our own eye sight. Lines that are straight in the subject are reproduced straight in the picture. Fish-eye lenses are a bit different, they produce a cylindrical perspective. This kind of perspective is great for panoramic, but it is a false perspective, all straight horizontal lines at the lens axis might be recorded at straight lines, but horizontal lines either above or below the lens axis level bend into curved lines. This effect and be countered or used to your advantage. Seek out landscapes without straight lines such as buildings, trees, telephone. If you keep the horizon is towards the middle of the frame, you will be able to avoid the distorted, crazy look of a fish-eye lens.
Old habits die hard
If i have not lost you yet, and you are still here, then I am sure you realize that this is not a technique blog entry. The message of this blog post is simply to break your habits; with the hope that you’ll seek inspiration in this post to seek out new perspectives. The search for a interesting photo is not that far away, but it obviously will require an effort.