Street Photography. Height, Scale and Trigonometry.

Lady walks past the Custom's House Dublin

Nobody can imagine size. No matter how hard they try they can’t imagine you standing in front of Wembley in London. They need something to scale it off against. A double decker bus, three buses high, no maybe five or ten. It’s virtually impossible. But it’s not if you have a photo.

There is a great development in Blind Art. They emboss the art, or the painting, so the art lover can view with their hands. In a lot of ways, those of us who can see do this with our eyes. We scale things. We emboss them with our eyes. But to be able to take the perfect scale orientated photo, you need to think like an Architect.

Height begins from the ground up, and so must you. Try taking photos of people walking past a building of your choice, with the camera on the ground or close to it. Take the same photo from a standing or sitting position. The difference is enormous as is the visual scale.

Things also change as you move away from the object, in this case a building. When the full building is in the photo you can actually use a ruler in your mind and calculate height. But is there a better way of being more accurate?

Yes. And You do this using trigonometry. You take the distance you are from the building and work out the angle from which you are looking up. You can use an angle metre and a ruler here. Or if you are a forester a Clinometer to judge the height of a tree. The last thing you need is your eye height. You measure from your eyes to the ground with a tape. Tangent or A = h/d. H can be classed as opposite and D adjacent.

You multiply the Angle by the distance using a calculator and degrees. You add the result to your height and you have the height of the building. This formula you can use for just about anything which is at a right angle to the ground, and after a while you will be able to do it without the calculator as a guesstimate.

Below is a sample of scale using distance not angles. The Custom’s House was designed by renowned architect James Gandon and was completed in 1791 after a 10-year construction period.


Lady walking past the Custom’s House Building Dublin
Man jogging past a feature in the Phoenix Park

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