What do you see in this picture? What does it make you think or feel? Is it calming or unsettling?
When I look at this, it isn’t entirely clear what it is. Is it a snowy field, illuminated by the setting sun? A body of water in the early morning or late evening? A moonscape? Ripples of cloth-of-gold fabric? Maybe all of the above? Maybe none of the above?
Regardless, it’s calming, on the one hand. The scene is serene; there are no rough edges, no disturbances, nothing that doesn’t fit, that isn’t out of the ordinary.
But on the other hand, that same evenness could be disturbing, depending on circumstances. Think about Andy Weir’s The Martian: what if you were lost somewhere or abandoned, and this was all you saw. Would you find it comforting or unsettling?
Now, I took this picture so it’s a little unfair of me to ask you all these questions. But I raise them because it can be helpful to us as writers and even readers to think about what the characters in a book see and feel to the very same things. What’s soothing to one may be deeply troubling to another. (I’ve just tweaked a scene, in fact, to emphasize this difference in point of view.)
And here’s a photo of exactly the same scene, but taken from a different focal length. Does this change your opinion at all?
Because what you see in the first photo is simply a zoom of the rising sun reflected off the ocean (which you can see in the middle of this photo).
Point of view and perspective are everything. They reveal and hide so much, both in fiction and in real life.
Which photo do you like better?