By MICHAEL PERKINS
We’ve all done one. Indulge yourself. You know you want to.
Well, I want to, anyway.
The classic Vanishing Point shot. Two parallel lines that seem to converge as they reach the horizon. A kind of “first love affair” shot for budding photographers. A lotta depth, a lotta drama. Train rails receding into infinity. Rugged trails vanishing into adventure. Or, in this case, a seaside pier drifting off to Dreamland. Yeah, it’s a cliche. Yeah, it’s the world’s cheapest optical effect. And we all love it.
Someday I’ll actually walk a seaside pier without doing one. Or not. All it takes to hook me is the odd Ferris wheel, or crab shack, or pair of lovers walking hand-in-hand, or some crazy guy busking, and I’m sucker enough to think the shot is somehow different, enough to turn a plain old VP into a VIP. Piers are a strange linkage, anyway. Not quite free of the land, but not a true part of the land’s overall rhythm either. A transition bridge between worlds. You’re either almost embarking to somewhere or almost home from somewhere. Maybe the vanishing point is magnetic visually because of what it suggests, since much of photography’s power comes from what it does not, or cannot, show. I dunno. I’ll have to save that for my thesis.
In purely tech terms, the classic receding horizon shot benefits most from a true wide-angle, such as the 28mm used here, since, by shooting wider, it creates more places in the frame for objects to track from front to back, making the sense of depth greater and pulling the eye deeper into the image. However, the appeal of the VP operates on some more profound, emotional level. It reveals and conceals at the same time, setting up the mystery which originally sent us making pictures in the first place.