It’s no secret that landscape photography is my favourite. There’s nothing quite like laying your eyes on a nice punchy landscape with a lot of visual impact. However, sometimes it’s actually really hard to get across to the viewer the enormity of what they are looking at. Sometimes just a little addition of a human element can help aid in this process. Whether it be a person, building, a dirt path, or anything else artificial, simply including this into your composition can help bring a point of focus or even help portray the magnitude of size (for example) of what the viewer is looking at.
Take for example the shot below that I took in the desert in southern Peru. I chose to include my wife in this photo as I feel for this particular location, this simple addition gives the shot a starting point to where the viewers eye is immediately drawn to, and brings much more depth to this perspective than if she wasn’t in the shot in the first place.
Another example can be found in this panorama below I took in Cappadocia, Turkey. I actually took this same panorama twice; one with the group of people in it, and another after I waited for them to leave. However, upon analyzing both of them later, I decided that I much prefer the panorama with that group of people, as I feel it gave much more significance to the size of the Fairy Chimneys (yes, they’re called that) and the surroundings.
However, you have to be careful about not making it too much about the person, as this will detract from the landscape itself. Something with a nice and subtle human element is often all that is required. Here’s another shot of Iguazu Falls in Argentina, with a really subtle human element in it (towards the upper right hand corner of the shot). Someone asked me “why didn’t I just clone them out?”. I replied that without them, you couldn’t actually grasp how insanely huge this waterfall is. This human element may be a little too subtle, but I wanted to use it to illustrate how incorporating something little like this can actually enhance and bring something to the photograph.
The human element also doesn’t just have to be a person, or group of people. You can also include structures of any kind that help add to the impact of the photograph. But the element you include should be familiar so the viewer can gauge both it’s size in comparison to it’s surroundings. Take for example the shot below from when I was trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas.
Now these mountains are absolutely enormous – I seriously can’t even begin to explain how gigantic these snow capped peaks are. Every time I stopped to have a breather and take in the scenery, it constantly blew my mind. I’ve got a gazillion photographs of these mountains, but many of them simply do not portray the enormity of the surroundings. So in several locations I decided to include some camp sites into the photograph as an element to help portray the reality of the situation and remoteness of the location, not to mention help portray how big these mountains really are in comparison.
And finally here’s more examples of how including something little in one corner can help generate more impact in the photograph. While you can get great shots of these without a human element, including one changes the photo a little and really generates a feeling of understanding for the scale of things.