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Add a Human Element

In response to criticism that his landscape photographs seldom include people, Ansel Adams responded, “there are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”  While Adams’ statement reflects a much larger truth about the power of photography, here we use it to introduce the value of sometimes adding a human element to landscape and nature shots.

Landscape and nature photographers often seek to portray the grandeur of our world as a standalone subject.  The resulting image is a testament to wonders that exist independently of any human observation or intervention.  Imagine wanting to image an impressive waterfall or the view from a mountaintop in its natural state with no hint of human activity to disturb it.  Now imagine someone parks their lawn chair right in front of your tripod.  You each are visitors to nature’s house, each with equal justification and rights for being there.

The photograph of Bass Harbor Head in Maine shown above included a human element by circumstance rather than choice.  The one other photographer present seemed extremely annoyed as he yelled at the couple in the lighthouse tower to move around the side of the light.  In his estimation, the light itself would hide the couple from the camera’s view.

To me, the couple’s “intrusion” provided a fortuitous gift.  The couple represented the value of extracting one’s self from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to experience the beauty and peace that can be found in our world, especially along an isolated portion of the rugged Maine coast.  The couple’s unselfish sharing of their moment with me now allows me to share that moment with each of you.  With it, you gain an opportunity to ponder and interpret a multitude of life lessons embedded within the picture.

The bottom line: do not be afraid to add a human element to your landscapes and nature shots.  Adding a human element can often be used ….

to provide a sense of scale …

to convey excitement …

 to document interaction between humans and other inhabitants of the world.

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