Weekly Photo Challenge: (Human) Scale and Perspective

As sentient beings, we are compelled to measure and evaluate the world in terms of our own experience and even in terms of the human body itself. It’s not a coincidence that we use the term “foot” to indicate 12 inches, or define “nobody” as someone who is not present and therefore has no “body.” The study of the human body and human scale are also a vital part of diverse fields like architecture, sculpture, drawing, medicine, and photography.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, from Wikimedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/96/VitruvianMan_Leonardo_a.jpg

In photography, scale can be of way of indicating the relative size of objects or distances between objects.  As I learn more about effective photography techniques, I am realizing that the subjects determine the shooting distance and the type of lens.  Sometime, finding the right distance (and the right lens) can be challenging, especially when I am trying to capture the essence of a subject that is very large.  This is what happened on our last trip to Niagara Falls.  I was frustrated trying to capture the majesty, grandeur, and scale of this mighty natural wonder.  After hundreds of shots (I’m not exaggerating), I stepped back and took a macro shot of the falls.   The American tourist center and grounds provided enough contrast to give the viewer a clearer idea of just how large the falls are.

We can scale the heights of mountains and see the world rayed out before us, but we fail to recognize that which is before us.–Ruth St. Denis

Niagara Falls, Winter 2013

A Stormy Day at Niagara Falls, Winter 2013, shot with a Canon 40D

In Sedona, Arizona, the juxtaposition of  “tiny” me against the enormity of the red rocks lets the viewer know just how huge the cliffs are.  This shot also shows diminishing perspective.

Everything around us is scale dependent. It’s woven into the fabric of the universe.–Geoffrey West

Walk in Sedona, AZ

On a Walk in Sedona, AZ, shot with a Canon 40D

I shot this image of a hotel lobby from a balcony on the second floor.  Looking down at the large fountain and wishing well, the two women seem tiny in comparison.  (If you take a closer look, you’ll see they’re posing for a shot taken by a friend in the foreground.)  The repeating circular forms of the fountain, flowers, seats, and rug also add interest to the shot and an interesting perspective.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.–Georgia O’Keeffe
View of the Fountain from the Second Floor Balcony, The Amway Grand Hotel, Grand Rapids, MI

View from the Second Floor Balcony, The Amway Grand Hotel, Grand Rapids, MI, shot with Samsung Galaxy S5

This last shot is a bit quirky.  We have a small number of glass objects collected over the years.  One of my favorites is a glass apple.  I took this shot of the apple last week near a large window.  You can see the sky reflected upside down on the surface of the glass and in the stem of the apple.  I like the juxtaposition of the large view of the sky within the smaller object.

Sometimes I think that creativity is a matter of seeing, or stumbling over, unobvious similarities between things – like composing a fresh metaphor, but on a more complex scale.–David Mitchell
Sky Reflection in Blown Glass

Sky Reflection in Blown Glass, shot with a Canon 40D, Sigma 70-300 mm lens

This week’s photo challenge has made me more aware of scale when composing my shots.  If you’d like more information on using scale, here are some great tips from the Picture Correct site.
Have a great week, everyone!
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22 replies »

    • Hi Maria! Thanks. I thought the half circle was an interesting perspective. Do you also find that it’s tough to get the “whole picture” sometimes with very large subjects and that you need to pull back and focus on the details or a part of the entire scene? I’m intrigued how different people naturally seem to be drawn to the macro or micro view! –Patti

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      • For me it’s usually difficult to pull back and get an entire scene because I rarely carry a wide angle lens with me, or at least wide enough to do the job. So I find that I have to look more for the details, like you did on that half circle composiition, which is like getting “part of a scene”, jnstead of the whole scene. I would also like to have one of those ultra wide angle lenses just to get a whole room inside a frame, even it it looked like a fish eye lens with distortion and all. I don’t think the 15mm I have is wide enough to do that.

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  1. Hi Patti, the glass apple seemed like an interesting subject to me. Loved the second shot.
    I agree this challenge has also helped me to bring scale into my future photography.

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    • Hi Norma. So glad you liked the apple! The shot of Sedona was taken by my husband. I’ll tell him that you liked it. The majesty of those mountains! Wow. It’s so hard to capture how immense they are! Do you have that trouble too with large subjects?–Patti

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      • Sure, do tell him. He is a great photographer. 🙂 Patti, if you could face trouble shooting huge subjects how can it be easy for me. I’m still an amateur photographer…still learning.

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  2. Loved the balcony shit down to the hotel foyer. And when I looked at the sky on the glass apple, I thought I read it as “Sky Blown Glass”. Which I found whimsical and intriguing. That instant juxtaposition of unbeknownst combination of ideas. Very striking!

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  3. I can relate to your dilemma about how to capture the majesty of Niagara Falls. When I visited the Grand Canyon, I had the same issue. How to convey the scope and the beauty at the same time. You did a marvelous job — I love the combination of the clouds, the falls, and the mist.

    I also love the reflection in the glass. What a unique shot!

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    • Thanks, Jackie! I was surprised when I finally “got it right” at the falls! Thank goodness for digital cameras. I could take hundreds of shots. 🙂 Sometimes you decide to focus on the details instead. It’s like fiction– finding just the right telling details which can convey the entire scene. Interesting puzzle!

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