The 1000 ft. idea

Having the privilege of seeing whales in the ocean is something special. It brings out an emotion in one, like few other creatures could. I love watching these gracious mammals, and capturing them at close range on my camera remains one of my most exhilarating experiences as a photographer.

The Western Cape in South Africa is widely recognized as one of the few places in the world where it is possible to watch whales from land. The whale route along Southern Africa’s coastline crosses both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Probably the best place along the Western Cape coast to do whale watching is at the town of Hermanus. This small town on the West Coast has arguably some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. The Southern Right Whale migrates to the coastal waters of South Africa with their young and they come to Walker Bay near Hermanus to calve and mate.

Taking photos from the coastline requires a lot of patience and it is not uncommon to have to sit for a few hours on a rock beside the sea waiting to capture fascinating whale behaviors such as breaching, sailing, lobtailing and spyhopping. On one occasion I had the opportunity to take a flight in a Cessna 3 seater plane to capture the whales from an areal perspective. Whale watching by plane is perhaps the best way to get a true overall impression of these magnificent creatures. It is only when you are in the air do you truly grasp the size and gracefulness of the whales as they glide through the water. This is also one of the few opportunities to see the entire whale, and not just an eye, fin or tail.

Similarly a lot of the situations we deal with at work or in our daily lives could also do with a bit of an aerial view. We often hear of “10 000 ft. or helicopter view”. We also hear that we need to “distinguish the wood from the trees”. What does this all mean, and why is it important to focus on the whole, rather than the part? I think looking at the problem from a broader and different perspective creates the following benefits:

  • See the whole rather than the part – there are many solutions to a problem. Looking at the problem from a broader perspective, meaning taking into account all the possible outcomes and consequences creates better opportunities.
  • Reframe – we get so busy in solution mode that we hardly stop to think of alternatives. Standing back, looking at the issue at hand with a broader outlook gives us an opportunity to consider viable alternatives. This also gives us the opportunity to reframe and alter the route we are on should it be required.
  • All encompassing – looking at the problem from a “1000 ft. perspective” makes for a more encompassing decision. It forces objectivity and makes for better and more sustainable decisions.

Do you take the time to stand back, think the problem through and consider alternatives? Or do you just jump in and hope you make the right decision? Seeing the magnificence of a whale from a high vantage point,  always makes the point for me. Distance creates perspective.