Over the decades I’ve been running nature photography tours, I’ve come up with a number of tag lines. One of my favorites is, “Exhaust All Possibilities.” As with many things I’ve learned, it evolved from personal experience. When I’d edited photos I heard myself wishing, “I should have shot that scene as a vertical, or with flash, or zoomed in a bit more, etc.” This voice kept haunting me over numerous edits. As a result, I learned that I should exhaust all possibilities in every way I capture a particular subject. I now profess it whenever I each a class or lead a tour.
I date back from the era of slide film. At the time of capture, everything needed to be perfect. The slide was my final product. I had to be cognizant of every detail. I was picky when it came to making a landscape as I wanted no hand if man to appear. After all, I was photographing nature. BIG MISTAKE! There’s that voice again - “Why didn’t I press the shutter with the canoe in the composition? Why did I go out of the way to eliminate the foot path in the photo? Why did I walk past the scene with the wagon?” You get the idea.......... I surely (and sorely) didn’t exhaust all possibilities.
The moral is, don’t eschew what provides an option and may net a better image. I now compose the photo both WITH the canoe AND without it. If the composition WITH the barn looks great, I don’t go out of the way to eliminate it. I include it in the shot and then look for a variation excluding it. I embrace the fact the hand of man image works and press the shutter. It’s better to capture the pixels and have the option to hit the delete button at home rather than hear the voice that says, “You should have.......... .”
Use rules of good composition when you incorporate a man made element. If the country road on which you travel bends into a nice “S”curve, place it into the photo as a leading line. Position the man made element using the rule of thirds so it falls into one of the four power points: top right / bottom right / top left / bottom left. This holds true whether it’s a vertical or horizontal. Study the surroundings to see if the man made object can be used to frame natural ones. Framing is often used in landscape photography. Exploit it in a hand of man landscape.
The next time you’re out in the field, snap the shutter when the person appears in the viewfinder. Make another when he or she exits. If you find yourself wishing the covered bridge that’s ruining a gorgeous composition would temporarily disappear, make the shot WITH it. Then look for the option to depict the scene without it. You’ll soon find yourself looking for ways to include man made objects. Quite often, the image with the hand of man is a better seller and is more desirable as a stock photo. Remember to Exhaust All Possibilities and choose which image you prefer when you get home!
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.