Photo session: a new perspective

Perspective is our way of seeing the world, from big to small, our personal vision. Give a pencil to almost anyone from three to a hundred years old, ask them to draw a house.

The result will be a square topped by a triangle, a rectangular door in the middle and a square window on each side. They drew a perspective that was simple and familiar to everyone. Ask for another drawing, this time one that shows a three-dimensional perspective of the same house.

Now it gets more complex, requiring drawing skills and some knowledge of a vanishing point. When you pick up a camera, it does the work for you, converting three dimensions into a photograph.

No matter the tool, the pencil or the pixels, the user must always bring their own observation skills. I played this mind game with myself while cruising around a 130ft blimp last week. It wasn’t just any airship with the name of a tire company or a milk producer on the side. There was a sticker complete with a photograph of a great white shark. One of the greatest Great Whites ever recorded is a 20 foot 4500 pounder nicknamed “Deep Blue”. This inflatable shark is about six times bigger.

Photographing something this big usually falls into the camps, the super wide angle view, all close up, or the long distance approach with a telephoto lens and compress perspective. My arrival was perfectly timed with the worst lighting of the day, the midday sun in summer. But a midday deadline and gusty winds buffeting the apex predator on its tether didn’t deter that goal.

First, with the help of ground crew member Steve O’Brien, I closed in. The dashing dirigible swayed as it tamed the wind. A viewer tried to get too close on the pretext that I needed a human scale in my photographs, a clever way to talk about oneself in a photo.

We returned from a safer distance as a small crowd had gathered to watch. I went back and worked the far angle with the crowd in the foreground before I had to press the computer to send back images.

It’s always hard to know how long to stay in a scene like this, the old “just one more shot”, or if I wait, something amazing is going to happen. But the clock was ticking, and my retreat was not in vain, peering between two planes, it was a sly old shark, still staring at the lens with yet another perspective.

Jack C. Nugent