I was brought up to respect differing points of view. It was a great way to grow up, because I learnt to evaluate and respect each person’s take on a subject.
How does it work? Let me put it this way. Put six people at a busy city intersection, tell them to spend five minutes looking at it and observing it carefully. Then ask them to tell you about the highlights of that five-minute period. Each person will have seen exactly the same sights, yet each will generally nominate something different as their highlight.
A few years ago, when I did some great travel writing trips, I was always struck by how each person’s published report on the trip was so distinct, so different, from those written by other people who had been on the trip together and had shared the same experiences.
A few weeks ago, the day after I bought my new Sigma 300mm lens, I had a brief discussion with a colleague that perfectly illustrated how two people can see the same scene differently. I was heading to the river to take some photographs, while he asked me what I could possibly see in a scene that both of us saw every day. What he regarded as mundane sights, I regarded as fresh and interesting sights. Just one of those things, hey?
To start with, I was intrigued by the quality of the sunlight. It had not been a spectacular dawn, but shortly after the sun rose, I was struck by the golden glow in a pure blue sky. I shot about two dozen frames very quickly, before heading away from the river. I was just about to put the camera away when I noticed this scene.
The far bank of the river was bathed in amazing sunlight. But the south bank, where I stood, was cloaked in shadow.
Let me explain. Flinders Street Station, across the river from where I stood, is painted a dull yellow-ochre and burgundy and often provides a great backdrop to city scenes. But the startling rays of morning light endowed the station with a golden yellow glow that seemed almost unnatural. I shot this view (above) of the clock tower exactly where I stood. Bear in mind I was probably 400 yards away from the tower when I shot this, so I was lucky I had the long lens.
For the first shot, I focused on the tower, bringing into play all the gentle contours that complement the regimented right angles of its construction. To the right of the frame is an interesting counterpoint to the architecture of the tower - a looming blue, orange and white office building.
For the second shot (below) I reversed the focus on the same scene – and you can now see the preening gull sitting on my side of the river, in complete shadow, while the clock tower provides an unmistakable hue of warmth on the other side.
Each is an opposing point of view, an opposing point of focus. But the trick is to balance each of them and to understand that they both comprise the total picture, rather than either one of them being the single, absolute perspective to the exclusion of the other.
Just goes to show – there is always more than one point of view on any subject.