Into the Distance

pilot mountain and hanging rock

I took this photo from Interstate 77, near Fancy Gap, Virginia, looking back southeast to where I’d come from. The mountains on the horizon are Pilot Mountain to the right, with its distinctive round knob, and Hanging Rock to the left.

I love the way the camera captures focus on the mountains while allowing foreground objects like the tree and the guardrail to blur. Here, like the human eye, the camera renders sharply what it cares about; detail reveals itself according to attention given, other objects become a sketch. The ridge on the left, in the photo’s middle ground, offers suspense by cutting in at a diagonal, revealing the height of the observer and threatening to close out the view. The sky, given substance by the cloud ceiling, makes a counterpoint to the textures of the ground, breaking only at the horizon to let in the colors that outline the mountains.

I also love the sense of space in this image, the way perspective and distance allows objects of dissimilar size to appear to be on the same scale. It is a lightly settled landscape. A town near the lower right can be made out, contained by the trees. The mountains are large, but still bounded, by the view. The landscape reveals the layout what would otherwise be too close, too “on top of me,” to see. A sense of recognitiion: “I was there, I am part of that–that only triggers when the observer is separated from the scene, and the scene tucks into the borders of a wider earth.

Tags landscapes