Thursday, May 01, 2008

See Gull

O Is For Opposing Points Of View

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


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.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

36 comments:

Katney said...

So true! So true!

Jules~ said...

Yes the yellow makes a striking backdrop. I always love to "tour" with you, seeing places and learning things that I wouldn't otherwise not experience. Than kyuo.

Dan Mega said...

Great post, thanks David!

Daryl E said...

Ahh .. the birds eye POV .. I like it .. I think the buiding may need specs or maybe just have its glasses cleaned ... Daryl

VP said...

Great photos and story as ever David!

You may like one of my stories today - I've had another brush with 'the media' again, this time in front of the camera :)

diXymiss said...

Dramatic illustration of POV ~ profound really. Great work!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Great pictures and words David.

imac said...

Yup you sure right, Im often asked why take that?

Great photo point, love them both.

Fly across the world to visit my ABC.

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Have you ever heard this little two-liner, it perfectly illustrates a point:

Two men looked out from prison bars... one saw mud, the other, stars.

Hyde DP said...

excellent post - I'm tired and feel like a pigeon about to dorp off [drop I mean - darn typos} tomorrow I shall likely see it differently
indeed i may since it'll shortly be anoyher month

AVCR8TEUR said...

Good points! I've noticed that showing the same photo to a group of people different people will see different things too. From your 2 photos, you can say, one is seen by a farsighted person and the other a nearsighted person. :P

Thanks for your comments on my post. I'm a sucker for history too. I've always wondered what kind of people like history while others do not.

Ida said...

Great post!
Something to think about....
We all see things in our own perspective.
We need to show respect for all the others at the same time.

Ida

Jennifer H said...

I love what you did with the photographs. And you explained it all so well. True, indeed.

John said...

Great DOF shots and story as ever David! Your new Sigma 300mm it creates an excellent image quality.

R&J said...

One of the deepest post I ever have read here ...

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

OOoo that is VERY yellow! And very clever too! :@D

Blog Princess G said...

Mmmmmmm... wonderful. David, I would love to see those side by side. :)

Kimberly said...

They're both striking shots, and what a fabulous commentary they make.

BritGal' Sarah said...

David - great post and so true and wonderful pics as usual

Travis said...

Excellent illustration of the point.

drama mama said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I do think that finding that tuxedo today was meant to be. It fits my son like a glove!

We have had exchange students from Melbourne stay with us for awhile for the last two years. One of our boy's mom works at Penguin Books in Australia! Interesting!

Sharon said...

Thanks for another interesting post and beautiful pictures. What you say is so true and you have illustrated it beautifully.

My "O" post is up.

willow said...

Nice, David. The second one, with the bird in focus is especially stunning.

Lana Gramlich said...

Nice contrast of colors, focuses & shapes, again. Kudos to you for developing an eye beyond those blinded by "mundania."
BTW, I've posted the story about the fishermen in Niagara on my blog. Thanks for the suggestion.

Dave Coulter said...

Nice contrast!

Nap Warden said...

Great post...I like 'em both...
Btw, thanks for the birthday present David;)

David said...

Great post, and I think these photos have infinitely more meaning and appeal when used together. The photos are great on their own, but together they're perfect!

Cheers,

David Webb - Nature Pictures

Merisi said...

David, these are both incredibly beautiful images, yet the one with the dove in focus is my favorite. What colours, how graceful that bird!

RuneE said...

A very good illustration indeed. I try to take about an hours walk in the neighbourhood as often as I can (at least four times a week) - always with a camera. By now I should have got it all. Not so. The light is different, the time of day is different, the time of year is different - I may be different. At least half of the picture on my blogs are taken on these walks.

I often post pictures of bridges. Most of them are of the same bridge - just taken under different conditions. Not everyone can see that.

mrsnesbitt said...

Wonderful illustration of this point David. Loved it!

Sandy Kessler said...

superb - I gave up I see you were talking with Karoline in google groups - I just miss her ..

Kathryn said...

That is fabulous. Two pictures exactly the same with two completely different stories. Great job!

Jamie Dawn said...

Excelente, mi amigo!

Terrific way to illustrate your post with these pictures.

Mima said...

And all the different points of view make the world a much more interesting place. I think that I prefer the second one, even though the gull is in the shade, but I think that is because I am quite traditional!

CrazyCath said...

Ah now I like looking at things like this and altering the perspective - it is really interesting. And these are both great shots (I prefer the bird in the foreground - and the definition on the feathers is brilliant).

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

Stunning photographs.