Be versatile, and you can build perspective into your landscape images
By William Neill
When the description of the subject isn’t important, but rather creative interpretation is the primary goal, the need for scale is less important. Done skillfully, a lack of scale can create an intense sense of wonder and mystery. I prefer to make this type of image, and this is almost always my primary focus when I’m out in the field. However, like many pro nature photographers, I photograph a wide range of subjects. There’s a delicate balance between creating images with a distinctive style and being pragmatic enough to make more descriptive images that build up my stock library and provide a source of income. The bottom line is that it helps to be versatile!
Photograph #3 shown here is of a cliff face in Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona. The image was purposefully composed without a clear reference to scale. Below the bottom edge of the frame is the ground. Had I included any foreground elements, these clues would take away the abstract aspect of the image where we wonder as to the size and subject matter. However, I did include a petroglyph in the lower left of the frame. While it’s probably not visible on the scale of this reproduction, if one is viewing an original photograph, the petroglyph is a subtle discovery that gives a small hint as to scale. I like the ambiguity of this composition, and it has long been a key image in my fine-art portfolio.
Remember to think about the use of scale in your landscape images on your next trip into the field. Experiment by including interesting foreground elements or contrasting large and small objects, as well as by removing content that suggests scale. Try all the ideas and variations that come to mind! The thrill of creating photographs, at least for me, is when a landscape, with all its aspects, such as light and graphic elements, becomes a work of art when translated through the photographer’s imagination.