Town Green, Old Saybrook

As astronomers and surveyors know well, lenses measure the world in units of angle, not distance. Our eyes do the same. A 50 ft wide movie screen appears just as large from the back row as a 36 in television does from 3 feet away. We need visual cues to figure out whether an object is large and distant or small and near. Common ones are parallax, reference objects, context, and depth of field. Indeed by carefully tinkering with the depth of field it’s possible to trick the viewer into believing a scene is miniature.

Another strategy is to communicate not the physical scale of the object, but the feeling of scale. I came across this towering spruce in Old Saybrook two summers ago. I tried a few shots from farther away, but really loved this off-kilter one from up close. Looking at it now I still feel how imposing and disorienting it was.

For once the usually harsh afternoon light threw me a bone, lighting up the outsides of the tree, leaving the insides in near silhouette. It’s just about bursting out of the screen.

Below is the google street view image of this scene.

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