Three things: come visit me tomorrow; picture taking secrets; and a webcast

I just did an interview for The Good Life, Sirius 114. It was broadcast live, and will also be replayed later. Check the Sirius schedule for times.

Friday Morning:

I'll be speaking to kids, staff, and parents at the White Brook Middle school in Easthampton, MA tomorrow, from 8-1. The public is welcome. They are at 200 Park St in Easthampton. You can call guidance counselor Ann Marie at (413) 529-1530

I'll be revealing the true story of Santa, what it's like to be a misfit, and telling tales from my strange life. I will also answer questions from the audience, provided they are good worthwhile questions.

Admission is free but there may be an exit charge. It depends on audience behavior.

At noon today, I was on Dallas Public Radio, Think with Krys Boyd. You can find the webcast here:

You may have to look around as they are just doing the links now.

And now, the moment you have been waiting for. Secrets of photography. Today's secret is about perspective.

Folks today are accustomed to cameras with powerful zoom lenses, and it's easy to think that a photo taken with a zoom lens at 50 feet can the same as one taken at 5 feet. Well, it ain't so.

This first image is taken from the stands:

The problem with this shot is that everything mixes together. It's hard to make sense of the image. Can we fix it by zooming in? Here's another shot from the stands, zoomed in for a closeup:

That's actually not much better, because all the people (which our brain is programmed to pick out) are the same size. Now look at this last shot:

In this picture, the people stand out because of perspective. That's what you can't get with a zoom lens. With a zoom lens, the people are all the same size. By using a shorter lens, and getting close, we cause the players we're interested in to "pop out" in the scene. Interestingly, photo #3 is how most people think they saw the game. However, photo #1 is actually how they saw it.

This highlights the difference between actuality and perception in terms of what we see. Pictures that look "just the way I saw it" are usually quite different in perspective and composition from what was actually visible from the spectator seating.

A good rule of thumb when photographing events is that you can't get too close. Most of my best concert and performance shots were taken from very short distances. Here are some other examples.

This shot of Barry Goudreau, Boston's guitar, player was taken from a distance of about ten feet. I don't think that message could be delivered from greater range.

Now look at this shot of John Sebastian of the Lovin Spoonful. It's a wide angle shot, not a close up, but the range and perspective gives it a certain intimacy:

The lateral viewpoint gives it a "you were there" feel, even thought the audience never sees the show that way.

Finally, here's Journey's guitar player

As you can see, there is no substitute for proximity. And that applies to animals, too. In this shot, note the position of the cage bars. You see I am inside, with the lions. And once again, people say "that's how I remember" even though I was in the ring, and they were 100 feet away safe behind bars:


Unknown said…
I'm not seeing anything in the latest blogs for Samwick to nitpick! John, I appreciate your blog entries... :)

Jim B

ps is 'nitpick' all one word...or should it be "nitpick"?
John Robison said…
Samwick is welcome to nitpick. All the differeing points of view give me more to think about.

The fact is, I am becoming a more and more visible Aspergian figure. I need to know how people feel about that, and what it means. That means I have to listen to dissenting viewpoints as well as those who agree or support me.
Sharon said…
awwww..lucky you with the a new D3!..nice photos!
John Robison said…
The D3 is a nice camera, but these shots are something many cameras could handle.

Perspective is often overlooked or misunderstood and it's camera-independent
Holly Kennedy said…
As I've said before, you have a talent for photography, John. You should consider a coffee table book. I'm sure you have enough shots to put something together already.

My son has one of them hanging in his bedroom! Remember that great photo you gave me in New York last April? You gave Pat and Kim each one as well and I "lent" mine to my son because he was so taken with it.
Sharon said…
John, believe me, I know. I struggle and struggle to balance depth of focus and sharpness in action shots like these. I took up photography to document my sons' Gaelic Football escapades. Sports photography especially, is great fun I'm finding. Anyway, you do have some great advice there! Thanks:-)
Lisa Greenman said…
Mr. Robison,

I understand you will be in Washington, DC for Billy the Kid on January 23rd and wonder if you might be willing/able to add something into your schedule. I'm on the board of the Model Asperger Program at Ivymount School and we would be so thrilled if you could either visit the school or do an evening talk/book event or whatever would suit your schedule. We would do everything we can to fit this as comfortably into your day as possible (pick you up wherever you'd like, etc.) Your book is very much talked about in our community and it would be a huge honor to meet you. We hope you might also be interested to meet our students, who are a really wonderful bunch, and see the work that we're doing at our school. We're very new (this is our second year) and we're very proud of our students and the work they (and we) are doing. Most of our students were having very difficult experiences in other settings before they reached this program. You can reach me at 202 686-0978 or by email at We'd love to host you and hope that if you don't have time for us when you're here later this month that perhaps we could find another time. Thank you so much for considering this invitation. I am the mother of a 12-year-old boy with Aspergers and I've appreciated so much what I learned from your book. Thank you again! -- Lisa Greenman
Julie L. said…
Yes, I agree with Holly Kennedy. You do have a talent for photography. A coffee table book would be great. You could use photos you already have or perhaps you do something like Kathy Hoopmann did with All Cats Have Asperger's Syndrome, but with bulldozers. The latter is a more challenging metaphor, but may be doable with some thought. My boys love watching machines at work and would probably love still photography of bulldozers, etc as well. P.S. AS evident of today's post my photography skills aren't so great despite having a photojournalism class. It's hit or miss because of depth perception problems. My photo for today is maybe a four on a scale of ten. Posted the one today because it fit my recent theme...
Eyphur said…
I can't find the link to download the radio interview. Can anyone help? I'd really like to listen to it.
Danni-Girl said…
I am a student at white brook middle school and i just heard your assembly. I wasnt going to say anything untill you came into the I.S room and i shared a few words with you. I wanted to stand up and say something at the assembly but i really was too scared. But i wanted you to know that you seem to be a great and careing man and thank you so much for comeing to our school and talking to us. I think many people aprecated it as i did and you certanly keeped us awake with the way you talked.
Thank you again.

P.S sorry bout my spelling i'm in 8th grade but i have the spelling ability of a four year old.
Michelle O'Neil said…
Beautiful photos!

Looking forward to your take on the middle school talk.

That is a great age to be experiencing the likes of you.

Your presence will go a long way toward helping kids on the spectrum. Thank you for all you do.
Lisa said…
Great photos! I'm also interested in the difference between what our eyes see and how our brains interpret that. Scott does a lot of paintings using photos for reference. Some artists insist that one should always paint from life. The difference is that in order to render a great painting from a photograph, the artist has to reinterpret the image to reflect how a person really sees it.
The Anti-Wife said…
These are wonderful pictures, John. Thanks for the tips.
Paul Leclerc said…
I couldn't find a direct link to the radio interview either. I subscribed to the KERA podcast in iTunes and let it download yesterday's show. I'll unsubscribe later.

EDIT: I looked at their RSS feed and grabbed the URL for John's interview. Try
Paul Leclerc said…
Ooops. Looks like the URL was cut off. Try this URL and make sure you copy/paste it as one long URL in your browser.
i really want a d3 so i can use all my old prime nikkor ais lenses.

i am reading your book now and really enjoying it.

happy weekend to you.
Brittany said…
Thank you for visiting our school.

-Brittany and Abbey
Yellowjaquet said…
...What format is The Good Life on Sirus ? Meaning , what sort of a station , on Sirus , is it ?
( They may merge soon with XM?? anyhow , I believe that is . I do not have a radio that receives subscription to either .
spacedlaw said…
I followed a link from LitPark for a review of Patry Francis' book and browsing around found myself looking at your pictures. I love photography and your close up of the guitarist hands is great.
Your book seems fascinating and so shall end up on my reading pile.

Popular Posts