A Question of, and a Contrast of, Perspectives

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Good Evening:

My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 4300 that I bought in 2003 for $339, at a time when people would say, “You got a 4.3. megapixel camera for only $339?!” On one of my earliest photographic expeditions, I walked down to San Francisco’s Marina District for a few shots of the Bay. Here is one, guest-starring our very iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s not a bad picture of not a bad San Francisco sunset. I used the Landscape mode, which Nikon has always done well and has become my default setting on any camera. Frankly, I’ve never really mastered the manual controls on any of my cameras, because I’ve never really had the time. But what do you think of the mood of the picture? Seems very quiet and peaceful, doesn’t it? Calm, serene. Now look at this picture:

Rather a different feeling, isn’t it? Turbulent, even violent, as if there’s a fire or explosion beyond the hills. Actually, what’s really behind the hills is several thousand miles of Pacific Ocean. What has always interested me about this picture is that it is the exact same scene as the first picture, just a few seconds later. Check out the lower left-hand corner of the top photo. The only difference between the two pictures is that the first one zooms all the way out, and the second one zooms all the way in. And yet, the result, and the effect upon the viewer, is very different. ‘Tis indeed instructive how two faithful, unedited, gimmick-free pictures of a scene can lead to results so different, and this pair of pictures never fails to make me reflect upon perspective, accuracy and truth in photography.

Vonn Scott Bair

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