Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 6, 2014

Creative Viewpoint: Close-up or Wide Angle

Creative people are often creative in more than one area. Well-known actors Kevin Bacon and Russell Crowe perform with bands. Former President George W. Bush, who has recently received note as a painter, is also a writer. Most of you can probably add more names to the list of celebrities who have multiple creative abilities.

Some of my multi-talented but less famous writer friends are also musicians or actors. Others prefer creative cooking or baking, costume creation or knitting/crocheting, graphic or fine art, or — like me — photography. I’m just an amateur at photography, but I keep experimenting, practicing, and learning. All three of these are valuable for writers as well as photographers. In addition, participating in other creative endeavors broadens a writer’s experience and encourages the writer to look at things from a different viewpoint, both of which enhance the writing.

The past month has been a busy one for me, with a lot of traveling to visit family and friends — from North Carolina to the Jersey Shore to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania — as well as visits here from family. All this has provided a lot more opportunity for photography than for writing, but photography sharpens the perception and amps up the creativity, and that carries over into the writing.

For me, traveling time is a great time for thinking. I often get ideas for stories or solutions to plot problems while driving. On the way home from the shore this year, while I thought about photography and the photos I’d taken, my thoughts drifted to writing. A photographer, like a writer, makes a number of decisions, some conscious, some instinctive. The world is filled with beautiful and intriguing views, and a photographer has to continuously make decisions about what to photograph and what to pass by (my family would claim that I pass by very little, but that’s not true), and then about which photos to edit and save and which to delete. A writer makes similar decisions, choosing which scenes in the main character’s life to include and which to skip, and later, which sentences and paragraphs to revise and which to delete.

Just as a photographer has a reason to snap a particular photo, a writer needs a reason to include a particular scene in a novel or narrative non-fiction.

Another decision both must make is the viewpoint, and that decision is influenced by whether the photographer or writer wants to focus on the big picture or to zoom in to capture a moment in more detail.

When I walked to the beach last week to photograph the sunrise, I wanted to capture the dawn colors in the clouds and the water, so I needed to include as much of the scene as possible. I chose a wide-angle view which included a seagull flying past but did not focus on the bird.


Sunrise, Long Beach Island, NJ (8-1-14)

Sunrise, Long Beach Island, NJ (8-1-14)


Later, I chose to focus on the bird in a close-up on the beach.


Herring gull on the beach (7-30-14)

Herring gull on the beach (7-30-14)


Like the Jersey Shore, Longwood Gardens is full of photo-worthy views. In some shots, I wanted to capture the whole scene, as in this photo of a flower bed full of white flowers.


White flowers along a walkway at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (8-3-14)

White flowers along a walkway at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (8-3-14)


In another shot, I chose to focus on a bee on one particular white flower.


Bee on flower at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (8-3-14)

Bee on flower at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (8-3-14)


Beauty can be found in the close-up and in the big picture. Viewers enjoy both, as do readers. The photographer and the writer have choices to make and a balance to achieve, and practice improves both pursuits.

Are you practicing any creative activities? Does one enhance the other? How do you decide on a viewpoint?


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