Photo journey: Geometry

By Ande Jacobson

I have always been intrigued by geometry and interesting shapes and perspectives in pictures. In fact, going through school, geometry was my favorite math class and not just because of the beautiful logic proofs, but I digress. In photography, sometimes a rather mundane scene can be fascinating when approached from a unique angle. Other times, the shading can even make common shapes pop. As mentioned in previous essays, I have spent a lot of time wandering through the exhibits packing the various Smithsonian museums over the years. While the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C. is my favorite Smithsonian location by far, I also appreciate several of the others in its vicinity. The Museum of Natural History has much to offer, and although the easiest way to get a good picture there is to buy one of their brochures which are filled with many elegant professional photographs, where is the fun in that? It’s far more satisfying to discover a unique perspective and capture it directly if possible.

While wandering through the exhibits one rainy day, I found myself amidst numerous lifelike specimens, all perfectly preserved by expert taxidermists. Most were fixed in natural positions for posterity with small placards listing their biological taxonomy, natural habitat, and region of origin, but one stood out from all the rest because of its position in the exhibit. Rather than being cordoned off against the wall like its fellow specimens, a very large tiger was positioned away from the wall on a pedestal frozen in mid leap. After examining this fine beast from every possible vantage point, I decided to take a shot from underneath looking up at its massive forepaws and head. While this isn’t a great shot by any means, it captured something memorable from that day’s journey.

Later that same week while wandering about town, my friend and I were looking for a place to sit down for a while and enjoy a leisurely lunch. We had walked for miles that morning and needed a rest. While I don’t recall where this was in D.C., I distinctly remember looking up while we were walking through an indoor corridor on the way to our meal and admiring the lattice work above. I should have framed the shot better, but it reminds me of the day.

In the 1990s, this geometric sculpture on one end of the NASM in D.C. always intrigued me, so I finally took this picture to capture it. Its geometry gave it a science fiction feel. Given so much of science fact today has been part of the science fiction of the past, this seemed an appropriate decoration for the NASM and is a wonderful memento of all of my time there. At present, the NASM in Washington, D.C. is closed for renovation which was extended by the pandemic. Current plans are for the facility to reopen to the public on a limited basis on 30 July 2021. When it reopens this summer, visitors will need to reserve timed-entry passes for a slot during its limited hours of public operation. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit this exciting museum in the past when it was far more accessible to the public overall.

Washington, D.C. wasn’t the only place where interesting shapes intrigued me. The often photographed geodesic sphere that houses the Spaceship Earth attraction at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World in Florida is another fascinating structure. It has symbolized all that is Epcot since the park opened in 1982, and it was something that I just couldn’t resist during our trip there. As intriguing as the outside of the dome appears, the attraction inside was stunning, and we managed to get stuck as the ride broke down for a bit while we were near the top of the track for about a half hour. Sadly, the taking of photographs was not allowed at the time.

Both when we were at Disney World and again a couple of years later when we were meandering around the Purdue University campus on a side trip, I was struck by various towers contrasted against the clouds and tried to capture the drama of those sites. In the Disney World Castle shot, it was a sticky November day with clouds rapidly sweeping through on occasion. I took the Purdue shot right before a summer thunderstorm that drenched the area. As the clouds gathered that hot June day, we were lucky to reach a bookstore just off campus right before the deluge began. We waited it out, and when we exited the store, the petrichor was strong and welcome.

I have always liked college campuses in part because of the energy that surrounds them, and it’s always interesting to learn about their particular history. Unfortunately in my various travels to campuses over the years, I generally wasn’t able to capture the interesting pictures I sought.

As for the fuzzy fellow at the top of this essay, suffice it to say that I am now and have long been a consummate Trekkie. I was first introduced to the original series as a young child as it originally aired, and I loved everything about it. The idea of traveling through space fascinated me, and discovering those strange new worlds seemed to offer endless possibilities. We just have to be willing to look at them from every angle to see what’s beyond the fuzz.

Further Reading:
My quest for the perfect capitol shot
Reflection obsession
South Meadow Fence Road

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