Human Scale in Landscape Photography
As a person that loves the beauty of nature and photographing all it has to offer without the presence of man or man-made items. There are many times I have learned over the years that incorporating those elements in certain images turns out to be a must have for without these additional elements the images feel like they would be missing something.
You might create a great final image of a location that has a lot of offer but leaves the viewer a little short in determining the true sense of scale of the area. Common locations for this are rock canyons yet there are other instances this comes into play. Take a look at these photos and see how much more the images offer with man and man-made subjects.
Below friend and fellow photographer Kevin McNeal stands on a large rock inside Devil’s Punch bowl showing how gigantic this space truly is. He is facing a large opening that is a couple stories tall, an element in this image that you hardly notice.
Here several hikers stand for a rest near a junction inside a canyon in Zion National Park. It’s hard to spot them at first glance as they kind of blend into the environment, you will see them in the center. Immediately you can understand how tall and narrow the walls are.
Of course it does not need to be limited to canyon and rock caverns. Large open spaces with sky can be enhanced with a person placed in it to help provide scale. Here my wife Molly stands on a rock ledge over looking the valley below on a hike in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains.
We do not limit this to humans. Below is an image of Napli Coastline with a 60ft catamaran showing not much more than a white dot in the ocean, thus you can see just how immense this landscape is.
And then there are scenes the opposite can be true. Not having a sense of scale can actually enhance the image and leave the viewer with their own interpretation, especially for more intimate abstract views. Below are several examples.
The width of these diagonal channels is not easily known. Would you say they would be measured in feet or inches? If you are curious these are actually over 2 feet wide.
Here we are really are not sure if it’s the side of a larger rock wall or what. Actually it’s zoomed in texture of a rock captured with a telephoto at close range.
Lastly we have color reflected on water. This could be a wide angle take or a telephoto or somewhere in between. It has an absence of scale not making it very easy to determine. Yet does that really matter here? I would say no.
On your next photography excursion think about scale and how it relates to what you are trying to show in your final work. It is a key element where exclusion or inclusion can make for vastly different pieces of work.