Changing Altitude

I can’t say that I entirely trust my instincts as a photographer. After all, I have many, many (many) photos that don’t look like anything, even though I was sure when shooting them that there *was* something there. Something quite stunning.


As my genuinely puzzled photo reviewer said, albeit more gently than the words suggest,

(“in God’s name” unsaid but understood)
were you taking a picture of?

My answer?

The light.

OK, this way doesn’t work. Nor do many of the other ways I’ve tried to photograph the emotional effect of light.

That’s why it’s so satisfying to take a photo (even with my phone) of something that catches my attention, and to play around with it later and see why.


Left – What I saw; Right – What was there

The zoom matters. A beach that is pedestrian at ground level can be a breathtaking vista when viewed from a drone, I bet. And an old, ugly, cracked window can be intricately beautiful when peered at closely, I now know.

Everything will be all right in the end.
If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.
John Lennon
– or, maybe, an old Indian proverb
or, maybe, from everyone’s favourite feel-good movie

To paraphrase for our purposes here . . .

Everything is beautiful if viewed aright.
If it’s not beautiful, the view is not yet right.


This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Photos of Built Stuff, Photos of Landscapes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Changing Altitude

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Hmmm…. In photography, it seems, you zoom in to see the special beauty. In words, I prefer to zoom out, to expand the view from the individual and personal to the universal. Either way, zoom is an indispensable feature.

    JIm T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – My photo inclination might be to zoom in, but since I lack a drone, it’s hard to zoom out too far! In writing, I think my impulse is to zoom sideways (if such a thing is possible) to pick up bits off to the side. But yes, changing the point-of-view is essential.

  2. These two photos remind me of my vision quality now compared with my vision when I was young. I think my ability to see detail and the intensity of colours must have been extraordinary. Thank you for making me feel young again!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Interesting. I can’t remember having better vision when younger — maybe because I was fitted with strong-ish lenses for short-sightedness at the age of 12. I hope my ability to discern colour(s) won’t drop off with advancing age – I’m already not so hot at seeing colour in birds at a distance, even through good binoculars. But it’s good to know that close-ups can restore some of what’s lost, albeit temporarily.

      • barbara carlson says:

        Isabel and Laurna — I got glasses at about 14, but had no idea how bad my long-distance vision was. I came out of the optometrist’s with my glasses on, and said, “Trees have leaves!”

        Odd thing about my old age, tho, I don’t really don’t need glasses now; something to do with hardening of something or other. I can read the smallest print without, them, watch TV… I wear my glasses to cover the bags under my eyes, and give my pudding face some interest.

  3. And about the rocks. I thought the colours were sufficiently varied and gorgeous to justify the photo. When you say you captured the scene for the light, I understand that you could compare this view with another in memory less dramatic in different light. Fair enough. When I took photos, sometimes it was because a man-made feature was extraordinary to me that might have been commonplace to someone else, such as the velvet surface of a wooden door in a roadside hut in Germany that had been weathered for centuries, which is likely ho-hum to the locals but a marvel to a North American whose only experience of centuries-old weathering is limited to natural features, e.g., rocks. For the same reason, I photographed cathedrals and country timber framed cottages and artworks. Light — in photography — is everything.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – You’ve articulated one of the best reasons for travelling – seeing new things lets us see with new eyes. As for the beach, you’re likely right. After a few dreary days, that morning dawned with gorgeous, warm, angled light, literally and figuratively lighting up the rocks. Maybe a zoomed shot focusing on a particular rock would have worked better. And I’ll think about wooden velvet all day. 🙂

  4. Love your paraphrase (paraphrasation?) – and the quote before it

    And yes I have a number of photos of “what was I thinking” when photographing light

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – That’s not good news that *you* have unremarkable photos of light. Maybe we need a support group. Or a Master Class.

  5. Tom Watson says:

    Every picture has a story!

  6. Hmmm. I like the photo of the rocks and grass in the warm late-day light. I also like the cracked window fracturing of scene and light. And if every photo we took were supposed to be perfect in one shot, the digital camera/phone market would never have developed. Thanks for participating in our economy. Enjoy! Don’t be such a hard task master destroying your own spirit. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! (Unless you enjoy being a hard task master, which is a different conversational topic.)

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Well, there you go – I might promote you to photo reviewer! Glad you like them both. That warm light always lifts my heart, even if I’d like the resulting photo to be better.

  7. Alison says:

    I like the rock photo. I can imagine being there. These days I sometimes need to shut my eyes and visualize myself somewhere else to calm my thoughts and relax. I think I’ll add your photo image to “places to escape to”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Well, then, here’s some good news from the NYT this morning: new cases in the USA have fallen by a third in the last month. We’ll hope that Alberta follows suit. In the meantime, by all means, escape to the virtual beach.

  8. Paul Coffman says:

    I too like both photos. There is enough shadows in the beach scene to provide contrast to the light, and enough pattern in the glass picture to contrast to the breaks.

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