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17. The Close-up and the Long Shot
By Gretchen Legler
Genre: Non-fiction
Category: Student Examples

Writing Assignment:

Pick a scene from a place in a landscape that you are in or in one that you remember, and try to describe what is going on there from two different perspectives, the close-up and the long shot. Think of it as if you are holding a movie camera. In one scene you zoom in to get a close shot of what is happening, and in another, you pull the camera back so you get a panoramic scene.

Writing Sample:

Up close like this, in the mirrored ball atop the red and white striped barber pole at the South Pole, my face is distorted. My goggles and the hood of my parka are stretched out and flattened like a pancake. I look like a big red bug. I pull my neck gaiter down so that I can see my face and I lean closer into the ball and smile. My smile is wide and huge, like the smile of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, stretching out to the edges of my face. Behind me in the ball I can see reflected perfectly the twelve flags of the 12 original signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty. They flap in the polar wind. Some are tattered, their edges frayed. I wonder who replaces them and how often they need to be replaced. I bend and peer closer into the mirrored ball, like a fortune teller leaning into her crystal ball. Behind the flags, in the shining mirrored globe, I can just make out the silver hump of the dome at the South Pole, the big dome under which everyone lives in the winter. I look again at my face in the mirror, backed by the flags, the globe. The fur ruff on my parka is rippling in the wind. My smile is still goofy and wide. When I look up and away from the barber pole, out away from the dome, in the opposite direction, I see white snow and blue sky. It is absolutely flat. There is nothing, save small wind-made designs in the snow, to give any interruption to the flatness. Unless, of course, you count the mounds of snow made by bulldozers that are trying to clear snow off parts of the old dome, so that parts of it can be salvaged and a new South Pole station can be built. Around me I see the flatness, the subtle change at the horizon between the white of the land and the blue of the not-land. I see off in the distance the "Dark Sector," the place where astronomers here do their work. It is called the Dark Sector because they take care there to use as little artificial light as possible because it negatively influences the images they can see in their infrared telescopes. Off in another direction I see the building that houses the scientists who work in the "Clean Air Sector." This is an area where no one is allowed to walk or drive. The air there is the cleanest air on earth and is sampled by scientists to give baseline data on the presence of certain gases in the air planet-wide. If I turn to my left I see a long line of jamesways, canvas or nylon domed structures that house the summer employees at the South Pole. It looks like a village over there, with steam rising from the metal chimneys. All of this, though, is tiny, small, inconsequential, when I look again beyond it, far out into the flatness, the flatness at the bottom of the world.


In this piece I take some time to focus on the close-up of what I can see in the ball atop the barber pole. The ball itself is about as big as a basketball. Then, I look up and survey what is around me, as far as my eye can see.
Copyright 11.24.97

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