Project 3: Exercise 3 ~ Photographs from an elevated viewpoint

Considering two views of two different landscapes, what can you see – as compared to a photograph taken from ground level, a map, or Google Earth:

  1. Derek Trillo, The Cheshire Plan from Beeston Castle, 2008.

I think the elevated viewpoint of the plain of Cheshire allows you to see elements of the landscape which would otherwise have been hidden, specifically at ground level. At ground level you probably wouldn’t be able to see the little square of tree’s the the centre right of the photograph. Some of the lines in the soil are also more visible from above than at ground level. But the viewpoint does give an odd angle or crop to the landscape – you have no view of whats around, the lay of the land, just a small section of fields/harvested land and some trees.

A map would give a greater context, and some detail about the height of the land, surrounding elements, rivers, walk ways, any hills or mountains. But the map wouldn’t give you detailed images of these things, you wouldn’t be able to see actual trees or marks in the soil, or green grass through a map, just lines and notations to represent some of the geographical nature of the area.

I’d never used Google Earth – so i downloaded it and tried to search for The Cheshire Plan and then Beeston Castle. The Cheshire Plain didn’t seem to give me a view that was near Beeston Castle so I searched for Beeston Castle – from Google earth you can drag your way around the map – its an Arial viewpoint which you can zoom into so you can view the landscape from high above or in closer proximity. It gives a much wider view of the landscape around a focal point but the quality of the image is a lot less clear, there’s a grainy nature to the whole viewpoint. It feels slightly similar to the view you’d have of an landscape if viewed from an aeroplane.

2. City View – OCA Student – Peter Mansell

The photograph by Peter Mansell allows you to see the full height of city tower blocks, offices, in direct relationship to other buildings, road systems, a river and if you look very closely some very tiny looking people. The viewpoint gives you a sense of the vastness of the city area, the industrialised buildings, an urbanised landscape. If the picture had been taken from ground level the view would look very different, I imagine you’d get a sense of the height and breadth of the buildings, more detail, for instance, shops, pavements, windows, road signs and people would come into focus.

I  imagine Google Earth would allow for a sense of the distance between the buildings, and a chance to see how densely filled the area was, the points where housing started and city buildings (offices, retail) stopped or the mix between the too. It would also allow the viewer to virtually interact with the area as walking as a pedestrian through it’s street view, again changing the sense of scale of the buildings and landmarks seen in the original photograph.

3. John Davies, Agecroft Power Station, Salford, 1983.

For the first time in this part of my studies I can say I’ve seen this photograph as an actual object in my local art gallery/museum (The Herbert). In person your eye really takes in and scans the image carefully, and there’s plenty of points of interest or observation from the angle the photograph was taken at.

Taking the photograph from a distance but at an elevated point allows you to see just how large an area of the landscape is affected by the power-station towers. But as you look more closely you begin to see the other parts that are made visible by the unique viewpoint. For instance in the bottom left corner you can see some rubbish or waste left strewn across a dirt path, some old cars, and a few people.

The football game which is visibly taking place near the towers adds to the sense of the towers shadowing or looming over everyday life. Their presence is undeniable but hasn’t altered normal life – the footballers still play their game regardless of the alteration to the landscape. Just beyond the power station you can see (to the right of the image), the roll of hills, tree’s in the distance, the once more common markers of English Landscape. The photograph really allows an broad sweep of the area, there are details in the foreground, a large focal point in the centre, and then details in the background, all of which seem to have been made possible by the raised viewpoint.

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