Scale (March 14–24, 2013)

The World Wide Panorama

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The March 2013 event on the theme of “Scale” has 68 panoramas. Photography was done between March 14 and 24, and the long-term events “Culture” and “Forests” were open for new contributions at the same time.

Theme Essay: Scale

The essay conveys the team’s idea of the event. It is usually published together with the Theme announcement and offers a starting point for the contributing photographers.


by Andrew Varlamov

The word “Scale” has several meanings, so the description and discussion falls into several blocks. These are:

(1) A sequence of marks, either at regular intervals or else representing equal steps, used as a reference in making measurements. (2) The ratio between the size of something real and that of a model or representation of it. (3) Any of the numerous plates, made of various substances resembling enamel or dentine, covering the bodies of fish. (4) Any of the horny or chitinous plates covering a part or the entire body of certain reptiles and mammals.

In its first meaning you can find scale used in any measuring device for measurement. One form of device which could fill the whole panorama is the sundial, found everywhere from Jantar Mantar (Jaipur) to the churches of Europe (including Saint-Sulpice in Paris, Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, and Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome). But churches are very heavily represented in panoramas, so don’t forget about the favourite instruments of astronomers, navigators and astrologers, the astrolabe and sextant.
Another place to find scale is on any track and field stadium. White arcs on the green grass help to measure distance in throwing the javelin, shotput, discus, and hammer, and a ruler will be located near the sand pit for long jumps. If Spring hasn’t arrived yet there are alternative variants for winter sports. For example the landing slope of a ski jumping hill will contain lines to measure a jump’s distance. And don’t forget that the hull of every sea-going ship has a scale under it’s waterline to measure the draft of ship.

These are all visible scales made by humans, but what about scale which impossible to see at one time? Think of geological time scales, made by nature. The principles underlying geologic time scales were laid down by Nicholas Steno in the late 17th century. Steno argued that rock layers (or strata) are laid down in succession, and that each represents a “slice” of time. He also formulated the law of superposition, which states that any given stratum is probably older than those above it and younger than those below it. From viewpoint of panoramic photographer, outcrops of sedimentary rocks (stratums) are suitable subjects – remember Antelope Canyon in the American Southwest.

When “scale” means “ratio”, first of all we remember scale models and people who make or use them; model makers, engineers, architects, filmmakers, hobbyists, salesmen. Do you know a child who plays with toy soldiers? There are also special buildings used by engineers to test scale or full-size models; wind tunnels (for airplanes, cars and buildings) and water tunnels (for ships and dams). It can also mean the act of changing the size of something, usually while copying: scaling something up or down.

The ancient Greeks wanted to discover ideal physical proportions, and they took mathematical ratios as the source for these ideals. They declared the perfect body to be seven heads tall and even idealized the proportions of the parts of the body. In a similar fashion they sought perfect proportions in rectangles employed in architectural design. But remember that scale refers to the size of objects in relation to their surroundings. For example, the pyramid at the entrance of The Louvre Palace in Paris alludes to the Khufu’s Pyramid, an object of much larger size (and, not coincidentally immense cultural significance).

Repetition involving the exact duplication of a module uniformly spaced in different scales frequently occurs in architecture. For example, the Doge’s Palace in Venice was designed by an unknown architect. This uses the same pattern of Gothic arch on the designs of rails, colonnades, entrance columns, windows, and even the decorative parapets on the roof. Although being put into different scales and connected with different shapes, each of the arches fits in its local context.

One way to think of artistic scale is to consider the scale of the work itself – its size in relation to human size. Unusual or unexpected scale is arresting and attention-getting. Sheer size does impress us.

Then there is the scale that covers the bodies of fish, certain reptiles, and even some mammals. I am afraid to meet these animals in the wild and I regret to view them living in zoo so, in my opinion, it is more interesting to trace how humans tried to copy nature and how they invented scale armour. Scale armour is an early form of armour consisting of many individual small armour scales (plates) of various shapes attached to each other and to a backing of cloth or leather in overlapping rows. Scale armour was worn by warriors of many different cultures as well as their horses.

Finally, to shoot a panorama is only the first part of your assignment. The second one is to write a complete caption. Please act like the Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling and sing the song… by writing your caption:

I keep six honest serving-men;
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When And How and Where and Who.

(You should also add a seventh W: Why.)

Get out there and shoot some panoramas! And write complete captions!

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