It never ends to amuse me how simple ingredients can create such a deep impact no matter the creative discipline. This applies in cuisine, music, film, photography, and pretty much any creative field. If we talk about reducing photographic assets, landscapes are just special. They can be produced with such little elements, and still result in rich and wonderful images. We can reduce the gear to the camera, a wide lens, a tripod and some filters, and the results will be stunning with the proper scouting and dedication.
You definitely can’t go wrong with an energetic scouting; a very well thought hyper focal length, a miraculous ND filter that will aid you capture time as never seen before and a wide angle lens. But what if the scouting doesn’t bloom in a Garden of Eden or something that will cause Ansel Adams to smile with deep joy? Do you stop shooting? Well, not exactly.
What if I tell you that you could achieve great stories by including human beings or even manmade objects in your landscapes? That sounds a little bit ironical right? But no. Our beloved modern times filled with immediacy and multitasking maneuvers, could impact in the time dedicated to scout our precious landscapes. Do you stop shooting them just because you don’t find that glorious spot in the nature? Nope, you manage to capture a story, with a little help of Social Photography, this means, by including people in them.
Landscape Photography has been widely recognized for showing realist approaches of spaces within the world. The amounts of subjects to photograph are vast, and they typically show nature at its most glorious stage thanks to wide angle optics. But sometimes, these magnificent locations of nature, may be enhanced, or even twisted thanks to the presence of human beings and manmade objects.
The first image considered as “Street Photography” or photography with a social approach, was taken between 1838 and 1839 by Louis Daguerre, and it’s humbly called the Boulevard du Temple. The image was a typical long exposure of a city scape, but thanks to a still man that didn’t moved for quite a long time while his shoes were being polished, the exposure captured his figure. The figure is not sharp due to normal motion, but still the figure is completely understandable as a human being.
The most notorious aspect of landscapes with human beings is the scale between the vastness of nature, and the humble size of the subjects in it. It is curious that even the smallest portion of a picture depicting a human-like figure, will instantaneously be recognized as such. Of course there can be different approaches by showing foreground interest in a human being, but thanks to the concept of landscape photography, such an image could end up being catalogued as a portrait instead of a landscape.
Landscapes can include manmade objects as well. Objects like light posts, signs, railroads, or houses can work pretty swell. We know that the material presence of these objects in nature, have obvious human connotations, and they can work great for telling a story as well.
Some time ago I read a comment made to a picture (I’m sorry I don’t remember the source) that suggested the photographer to clone certain portions of the image. He suggested the photographer to delete some high tension electric cables and a tower in the landscape since they “distracted” him. The photographer answered with a very humble approach stating that this manmade objects were part of reality, and they served to give a hint about a moment in time, and that the landscape will possible change in the future thanks to human beings. A really responsible approach indeed.
We as human beings are explorers by nature, and there is hardly a place that has had zero interaction with human beings, but the majority of the ocean’s body. This is a fact that we don’t need to elude or neglect; and placing a human being, whether it is candid or posed in a landscape, really tells a deep message about our exploring nature indeed.
Here is an example of a colleague’s approach into this juxtaposition of landscapes and human beings:
The image is quite simple. He considers himself as a social photographer, and landscapes may not be his strength when it comes to pressing the shutter button. But even though, he went for it. This shot was taken from a restaurant on top of a cliff, and I think that the image tells the message about scale stated before. And I also think that the image without the person, would have been a mere snapshot; with very little content. The atmosphere of the beach was very humid, as well as salty. The person is walking with such serenity in the middle of the rocky beach, that it makes the shot interesting. If you look at the further background, you can see other people walking too, but the main subject, even though it occupies such a small portion of the shot, is completely obvious.
Either landscapes or social photography can be twisted a little bit by juxtaposing the main subject of one with the main character of the other. Landscapes with small human elements, or far away people captured candidly in a vast nature or urban context. I invite you to experiment with this by giving your landscapes a different approach, or your social photographs as well. I know that we as Landscape Photographers may be a bit of loners; and we rarely invite people to our scouts, and even less to pose in front of our lenses. You can try by asking locals or tourists to walk into the distance, or just go with the candid approach as well. I guarantee that you’ll have a very satisfying experience in terms of photography.
Specializing in a niche or a style is crucial for the photographic success, but sometimes we need to boost our creativity; and getting away from our comfort zones is strictly necessary. Almost by accident, I and my colleague Federico have found this in an almost ying-yang style thing. He shoots majorly social photographs, and encountered the opportunity of telling a much interesting story thanks to landscape, and I, have seen the storytelling potential of including this human punctum to some of my landscapes.