This is a photo of me on top of Mount Kynthos on the island of Delos. I’m pointing over the water to Mykonos, but really, I only know that because I remember which way I was facing on that windswept hillside.
I like it for this post because you have a hard time seeing the depth of things. That rocky beach below me looks like it might only be a few feet away, when it is down at the bottom of the mountain. The little pile of rocks to the left of my hand might be down there with the beach, but it is only perhaps 10 feet to my right. Mykonos looks far away because it is grey with haze, but the Aegean was hazy every day we were there, and that slow ferry took 30 minutes on the outside.
I point all of this out, because I want to talk about perspective. I thought about perspective a lot on this trip. The Parthenon was engineered to look larger than it was to trick the eye using the way we perceive distance and size. We struggled with our tiny camera to try to capture the depth and distance. We didn’t have a panoramic lens, though I’m not sure how much that would have helped. As I sketched the view from the terrace in Santorini, I struggled to capture the depth and distance of the landscape below and beyond us.
Visually, these concepts are interesting. How do we translate the very far away onto an image? How do we contrast the near and the far? How do we capture the bigness of what we’re seeing.
I also thought about this struggle as a fictional metaphor. How do I give depth to my story? How do I contrast the character’s recent past with the more distant events that are still having repercussions in the story line? How do we convey bigness?
I believe the answer is the same: lighting, detail and color. If you have the further details in black and white, in less clear light, with fewer specifics, they are big and far away. The salient, immediate details can be more colorful, more precise, even more mundane. The golden lichen in the photo above is far more interesting than grasses leading down to the water’s edge.
But like the photo above, it’s still sometimes tricky. I am still pondering this. What do you think?