A QUESTION OF SCALE


The part of France where I live, near the northernmost edge of New Aquitania, is extremely beautiful. I sometimes feel guilty for not appreciating it more. On the other hand, there's beauty almost everywhere. It's just that you get used to it. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but it certainly can lead to some dulling of appreciation. 



This is part of the river Dive, pronounced "Deeve". It's an even smaller part than you might think, because it's a rather odd river. Around 1000 years ago, maybe more, the monks of nearby St. Jouin de Marnes started to drain the swamp-land through which it runs, canalizing the river and (where it runs through Moncontour) eventually splitting it in three: "Les Trois Dives". I've been trying for almost 15 years to do it justice, and I've never really succeeded: you can see three more attempts if you go to Misty Day, Sunny Day and Third Day.

About twenty minutes' walk from the village, this branch of the Dive forms (or has been formed into) a lake. The weird bit is that if you take the road, the lake appears to be uphill from the village, which would be difficult given that it's downstream. Walking into the middle of the village, then following the path beside the stream, is a lot easier on the perception. The lake is a popular swimming-spot in summer and Frances goes there quite often. Sometimes I go with her, always with a camera: this time, my Nikon Df with its 55/2.8 Micro-Nikkor. I took this on the way back one afternoon in August: it just looked so lovely that (as usual) I couldn't resist trying to photograph it. 

Now, the bridge is for me an essential part of this picture. And inevitably, as I framed the picture, some tourists started to dawdle over it. The usual kind, with large backsides and garish clothing. I waited for them to pass, but meanwhile I took a test shot to check the exposure. Then I thought: wait, hold on. A figure would lend useful scale, and a welcome if tiny splash of colour too. So I didn't delete the test shot. 

It worked, I think. But then I realized: it only works when it's not too big. There comes a point where instead of complementing the picture, the figure comes to dominate it. Of course this depends on both picture size and viewing distance, but you may get more of an idea of what I mean when I show you a crop:



The figure is now ungainly, apparently squatting, with his/her back to me. I think that he/she/it was taking a photograph, just as I was, so it seemed churlish to think ill of him/her/it. But what should I have done? Waited to take this picture with no-one on the bridge, thereby losing that little splash of red? Or waited for someone else?


Very often, photography is a question of "good enough". We can see how it could be improved, but we simply do not take the time to do so. This is one of the big differences between professional photography in general, and advertising in particular, and happy-snaps (including a good deal of club photography). If I were doing this professionally, I'd probably hire a model or (at the very least) ask Frances to cross the bridge wearing something suitably brightly coloured. But that's not the way it was. For my purposes, on a beautiful warm day, this was "good enough". Besides, if I had come back with a model, or sent Frances home for a red coat, I still couldn't have guaranteed that wonderful light. 


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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2017