Part 4 – Project 3: Exercise 3

Think about the two views below – what you can see – as compared to a landscape taken from ground level, a map, or Google Earth, and make some brief notes in your learning log.

©Derek Trillo, The Cheshire Plain from Beeston Castle, 2008
OCA student, Peter Mansell

Both these photographs are taken from a high viewpoint – both at an angle, but one shallower than the other. Photographing from high up allows us to see elements that we couldn’t see in the same way if these photos were taken from street level.

In the first photo, we get to see the patterns of lines that go around the little area of trees on the right. We wouldn’t see the full, wiggly line of the divide between fields. Here we are getting a birds eye view, as if we were flying over this field.

In the city scape, the high vantage point allows us to see far more of the area than if it had been taken at eye level as so much of the back ground would have been blocked out by buildings in the foreground. We can see the interesting roof shapes of the warehouses to the front right, as well as the surface of the flyover and the area underneath. We can also see all the different height comparisons of the buildings which wouldn’t be obvious if we couldn’t see from above as they would be obscured by the first rows of buildings.

If we looked at these images on a map or Google Earth, for instance, everything would just be flat. You’d get no real idea of the variation in heights or types of buildings in the city, or the different textures and levels of trees and shrubbery in the fields.

An elevated viewpoint can take in an overview. There’s a risk of producing clichés of the ‘at the top of the hill/tower and take in the view’ variety, but in skilled hands it can illustrate the land forms and its content, as well as interesting details. These ‘surveyed’ landscapes taken from a raised viewpoint and showing a wide area in detail are typical of photographers such as John Davies

  • Make some notes on the image below. What would have been the effect of
    taking the shot from ground level, from the same distance or even nearer to the towers? For example, what is the effect of being able to see the football game being played in the shadow of the towers?
© John Davies, Agecroft Power Station, Salford, 1983

Photographing from this angle and distance really lets us see the sheer size of this power station. Having the football game being played below the towers gives some scale to the size of them. It also shows the relationship between the (presumably) local people and the plant. To be playing a football match right next to it shows that it is just a normal part of their lives.

If this shot was taken from ground level, we would probably lose the match and the towers would be partly hidden behind trees from this distance. If we went closer to the towers, it would be difficult to fit them all in, and we would lose the sense of size as there’s not so much to compare scale to (see the photo below).

Ian Cunliffe / Drax Power Station – cooling towers
  • You might want to experiment for yourself by taking some landscape shots from a range of viewpoints. You don’t have to go out into the country; you can explore the same effects in a town or city. Include any images you take in your learning log, together with some brief notes.


  • As well as viewpoints, consider boundaries, peripheries and transitional geographical sites; can a place exist in a state of perpetual change?

Everywhere has some kind of boundary or periphery – be it a road, a wall, a fence, a hedgerow, a line of trees, a river, a beach etc. In photography, this can become the main subjects of a photo, or, like in the first picture of the field, they can become lines  photographed from above, slitting the image into different sections.

I’m not sure what a transitional geographical site is. There are two possibilities. Firstly, the it might be the area on the outskirts of a commercial/business zone where there is a mixed use of land including housing, before it turns into a fully residential zone.  It could also be where the countryside starts to turn into a more populated area.

I imagine the term ‘transitional geographical site’ here though, is referring to the broken, weathered zone between subsoil and bedrock, and forms an exposed ‘rocky looking’ boundary between two areas of land, or sometimes a trench in the surface of the land.

Natural places are always in a state of change, whether the time of day, such as the tides on a beach, of time of year, such as leaves of a forest of trees. Even towns and cities are constantly changing – from day to night, for instance, or as new buildings go up or come down.  A man made structures may stay the same (I live very near a castle which has stood for hundreds of years, for instance) but things still change around it. There are flowers planted at the base and in sconces which change with the seasons. The number of people milling about outside also depends on the time of year.

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