In the Details, In the Distance

September 24, 2007 - February 8, 2008

For any photographer, getting your hands on some new equipment - a camera, a lens, or even a flash or filter - can be a source of motivation and inspiration. With different hardware, it's possible to get a fresh take on an area, even if you've shot it so many times that you wonder if you'll run out of angles.

This was my situation in September, when I took my newly-acquired, most prized possessions into the city. The long zoom lens and extender combination, blurring the lines between camera and telescope, was certainly capable of the novelty shot - an extreme close-up of something really far away. But it took me some time to understand how to work with the enormous focal length, an equivalent of 640 mm, in ways that went beyond novelty.

In this photo essay, my goal was to show the details of city life, layout, and architecture that can get lost among so many distractions in the street. There are beautiful sculptures, ignored because they are a hundred feet above us on a building façade. There are cleaning crews, working on scaffolding rigs that would scare the hell out of most of us. And there's a pigeon - a "flying rat" - that might evoke some sympathy when you're close enough to see into its eyes.

With such long focal lengths, it's also possible to choose just a tiny fraction of your frame of vision and create an entire photo from it. Separate, far-apart objects can be made to stack upon each other almost impossibly. This technique created the shot at the top of this page, where cars on I95 in Pennsport seem to be driving straight into an oil refinery, which is actually located across the Delaware River in New Jersey.

Thanks for viewing.

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