Aerial Perspective

By Levi Shand

Aerial Perspective in two-dimensional art is the name given for obscuring particles present in the “air” of a depicted scene. Examples include (but are not limited to) smoke from fires, steam from hot water, fog, and dust from windy, dry conditions.

Aerial perspective is a useful tool to the street photographer. On a foggy day, for example, a scene can be said to contain a certain “mystery”, a pleasurable touch of the unknown. An otherwise standard street scene gains texture when some of the frame is obscured in steam. Thanks to aerial perspective, there is a moment when a person smoking a cigarette is most interesting; upon the exhale, right?

So, how does one shoot for aerial perspective? You can start by taking a survey of your surroundings, and answering some questions:

What season is it? You can guess which types of loose particles might be in the air at different times of the year.

What time of day is it? Earlier in the morning and later at night, the temperature differences between inside and outside are greatest, increasing the ambulant photographer’s chances of seeing steam, fog or mist.

What are the sources of aerial perspective? They are many, so here are a few examples:

  • a person smoking a cigarette
  • an outdoor kitchen
  • a fogged plate-glass window
  • clouds resting as fog in a valley
  • automobile exhaust

You may have noticed that when hunting aerial perspective, the sun isn’t the friend it usually is to a street photographer. The easiest times of the year to catch aerial perspective shots are the coldest, and the times of day are those that are the darkest. For these reasons, this theme is going to tax you a little in your love of the craft. You’re going to have to go outside when you don’t want to, and you’re going to have to avoid the temptation to weather the cold indoors. Leave your comfort zone a little, and you will find plenty of opportunities to include aerial perspective in your street photographs.

Here are some examples of the effect in some of my photographs:

El Escorial Palace Entry, by Levi Shand

© Levi Shand 2014

Laborer, by Levi Shand

© Levi Shand

Pulpo, by Levi Shand

© Levi Shand 2014

This entry was posted in Composition techniques.

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