Scale

Scale can be a funny thing in photography (or art in general).  Scale of subject, specifically.  The way I break this down in my head is that it’s two different types of “seeing,” or maybe more properly two facets of the same thing.

My default tendency is to see big stuff.  Rivers, mountains, cityscapes, and the like.  The trouble is that I often end up missing amazing small-scale stuff that’s literally at my feet.  I often have to force myself to take a mental step back and re-evaluate what’s around me in terms of little things.  And that’s when I remember to do it, which I’m embarrassed to say isn’t all the time by any stretch.  The real trick is being able to constantly and seamlessly shift between the two types of seeing.

By way of example, consider the following.  This from my recent trip to Bodie, where I deliberately went with a mind to pay attention to both big and small subjects.

First, the big stuff

Broken-down Old Truck
Broken-down Old Truck
Abandoned Farm
Abandoned Farm

Both of these set the scene well I think, giving the viewer an idea of place and atmosphere.  What they lack, though, is I think the little elements.  Or to put it another way, images of a “heroic” scale often lack the “human” aspect.

Dialing in a bit closer:

Storefront Window in Bodie, CA
Storefront Window in Bodie, CA
Wagon
Wagon

And closer still:

Old Doorknob
Old Doorknob

I think that as I dialed in closer, I got more and more near to the tiny little details of life.  The nuts and bolts that make the machine function, as it were.  And that’s something of great value, which unfortunately gets subsumed within the larger context when you’re shooting for “big” stuff.

So keep your eyes open in both directions – you wouldn’t want to miss the shot of a lifetime because you were looking for a large thing when a small one was right in front of you

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