Movin’ On, The Searchers, and Why I Love Panoramas

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cinematographer.  Actually, no, first I wanted to be a truck driver.

Truth.  Anyone remember the series Movin’ On, starring  Claude Akins as old-time  gypsy trucker Sonny Pruitt, running around in that dark green Kenworth?  Man, I loved that series.  The romance of the open road, the freedom to just explore, not knowing where the next job would take you, I thought that was heaven when I was 8 years old. I even built a model of that truck, something like this:

Movin On

Of course, I had no idea about the trials, grinds and pitfalls that real life owner-operators have to go through.  But, that’s what’s great about the dreams we have as kids, they aren’t weighted down with the mundane or the limitations of real life.  I’m sure there’s a message there somewhere.  For another blog.

After I got older, I got into movies.  I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and movies were always a part of my life.  Not just watching movies though, my family subscribed to the Los Angeles Times and I remember the Sunday Calendar [entertainment] section being as big as most complete Sunday papers are today. I devoured it.  I loved all the technical articles, behind the scenes information that they reported on. I started becoming interested in not only watching movies, but how they got made.  It was at this time that I was starting to develop my artistic skills as well.  I knew I didn’t want to be an actor, I just wanted to be the guy who takes the pictures.  I even started picking up American Cinematographer Magazine at the Covina Bookstore every month.

What kid does that?

I have always been attracted to the scope of the movies.  The wide expanse that television didn’t have, doesn’t have, and never will have.  Just look at the opening and closing shots of John Ford’s classic The Searchers, the best opening and closing shots of any movie ever, FACT, and know that, however big your television is, it’s not big enough to truly appreciate the widescreen VistaVision that the movie was shot with.

In fact, if you’ve never seen The Searchers, go watch it right now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Seen it?  It’s magnificent.  But, for my point, you could include anything from hundreds of different movies, Lawrence of Arabia, The Robe, 2001, or even Star Wars or any number of movies that try to capture the scope of a landscape, the breadth of a battlefield, the expanse of the sky. They are all magic.

And that is mostly why I love doing panoramas.

Downtown Panorama Sunset small

I have been doing a lot more panoramas lately.  It’s a way to try and capture that VistaVision/CinemaScope type of expanse that my favorite films have.

Fremont Street panorama small

It’s how we normally see the world.

I like photography because, like all the arts, it forces you to see what you would usually miss, or overlook.  Or take for granted.  Really close up macro shots are great for that.  Tightly cropped portraits as well.  Panoramas go the opposite route and allow you to see the big picture which you might miss simply because it is just so big.

Like this one of Garces Avenue here in Vegas.

Garces Avenue Panorama small

To this day, this is one of my favorite shots I have ever taken.  You can walk by this a thousand times, as I have, and you can see the crummy motel, and see the powerstation and the metal tentacles shooting out from it, but chances are you would rarely connect the two.  But that’s exactly what this shot does, it demands the viewer look at both unique elements and forces them to connect the two.

I see myself doing a lot more of these in future.  They really speak to me in a way that my normal photography doesn’t.  It’s something I’m really excited about.  And, you know, if you know of a film director whose in need of an up-and-coming Cinematographer, have them give me call.  We’ll do lunch.

A kid can dream, can’t he?


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