Show Scale In Landscapes

A majestic capture of a grand landscape is high on most nature photographer's lists
Click Images To Enlarge This Article Features Photo Zoom

A majestic capture of a grand landscape is high on most nature photographer's lists. Western landscapes, Pacific seascapes, the rolling hills of New England, and the red rock country of the Colorado Plateau come to mind. The vast open space of each leave the viewer in visual awe. Yet sometimes he or she is left to wonder just how sprawling these locations are. As a photographer, it's sometimes necessary to include a reference point from which a comparison can be made to show size relationship. Scale can be put into place and provide the viewer with a clue.

The way perceived scale is introduced into an image is to include a point of reference commonly known to man. Trees are frequently used subjects. In mountain photographs they are easy to include. But what if you photograph landscapes along the Colorado Plateau where red rock dominates the scene? Look for foreground bushes, grasses or natural vegetation. These subjects allow the viewer to make a mental size comparison and draw a conclusion as to the grandeur of the environment.

If the main intent of the image is to keep everything natural, the challenge is to find a pristine nature subject but if the photo is destined to be a snapshot or doesn't have to be so restrictive, incorporate a person into the scene. Be it an adult or child, the human figure allows the viewer to establish size relationships. In the images that accompany this article, it's easy to come to a conclusion as to the enormity of each natural feature.

In the first image it would be very difficult to accurately evaluate the expanse of the scene without the foreground bush and background yucca. Both act as reference points to provide scale to the dunes and sky. Even though the color in the sky for the sunset was spectacular, what most attracts the viewer's eye is the yucca on the far dune. It's tiny in the frame yet it's the main focal point. The scale it provides adds visual intrigue.

In the second image of Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, the bridge that spans the top portion of the image gives a visual clue. But upon closer inspection, one notices two figures standing directly in front of the upper falls. The people not only lend a size clue of the falls, they also give size perspective to the bridge. Without the people, the bridge alone doesn't give a concrete clue as to its size.

With the above being said, it's not always necessary to include a reference point if all you want to do is make a pretty scenic. It may also be the intent of the photographer to distort reality, create confusion, or simply make an abstract. Close up shots of waterfalls or cascades are often used for this purpose. The viewer is left wondering just how big the falls are. The important aspect is to get you to know how to create scale if it's necessary.


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