Lynn Gardens, TN. Photo by Mike Smith

Lynn Gardens, TN. Photo by Mike Smith

PhotoPole Panoramas:

I make panoramic images using a medium format camera mounted on a telescoping carbon fiber pole, usually raised to about 24’ off the ground, which I rotate to capture what I want to include. I photograph the human landscape, and am drawn to small towns, rural areas, and the transitional places at the edge of town.

The elevated perspective achieved with the pole has several qualities I like. The way structures and elements of a landscape occupy space is clearly laid out. The view, something like that from a second floor window, is subtly abstracted from the norm. The scalloped edges of the frame, an artifact of the stitching together of the separate images, and the panoramic format itself, add to this quality.

Since the camera is 20’ or so above me when I take the pictures that become the panorama, the choices I make while photographing are also somewhat abstracted. I choose, of course, where to place the pole, and roughly where the panorama will begin and end, as well as the angle up or down of the camera atop the pole. But mostly I imagine, based on experience with the field of view of the lens, what the picture will look like. Much is left to the process, and a quantity to luck – the final image at least partly a surprise. A friend, better read than I, recently said the images reminded him of something Simone Weil wrote: “Beauty”, she said, requires us “to give up our imaginary position at the center.”

Though the rules are rearranged, the frame remains – creating meaning in the identity of form and content – photography’s essential genius.

The images can be printed with no loss of quality to sizes more than 2 feet high, and 14 feet, or more, in length. The pictures are from recent travels and from in and around my home in Asheville, NC.