Friday, April 25, 2014

Landscapes - with or without people?

click photo to enlarge
Very little early landscape painting, for example that of ancient Greece or China, showed only natural features. It was much more usual for such work to, somewhere, often in a fairly insignificant way, include buildings or a human figure. As the genre developed down the centuries the place of people in landscape paintings persisted. Artists knew that the inclusion of a figure changed the meaning of the work, gave scale to the depiction and offered a powerful focal point. The fact is, if the human form is present in a work the eye finds it extremely quickly. Only in the work of later painters, and in photographic landscapes, is it common to find work where no human figure is present.

When it comes to landscape photography I often like to include a person somewhere. Frequently I choose the foreground to give the eye a starting point. But I also see the value of a person in the middle-ground or background for establishing a sense of scale. When I was photographing this stand of cedars in the arboretum at Eastnor castle, Herefordshire, I deliberately took one shot without people and one with people to illustrate just that point.

Cedars are not native to Britain. These examples were planted by Victorian collectors and they are widely regarded as the best group and some of the biggest specimens on these islands. For that reason alone I can justify the inclusion of people for the purpose of scale. When you view the photograph without figures it's hard to appreciate the width and height of those big tree trunks.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm (63mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On