Scale in Photography

One of the hardest thing to do with landscape photography is to provide the viewer with a sense of scale. This is because while I’m on the scene seeing everything develop in front of me – I can see (in the example of the Grand Canyon) the shadows, the sky, the length of the canyon and the vastness of it as it stretches out in front of me. Of course, the photograph only shows what I’ve captured within the frame. I learned early on while studying landscape photography that placing an item in the foreground – a rock, boulder, tree, etc… – provided a sense of scale to say mountains in the background. This is because inherently as the person viewing the photograph your reference point (i.e the foreground element) makes sense to you. You can imagine yourself standing near that item and viewing the object in the distance.

Photo of the Day – Scale of the Grand Canyon

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In the lower left hand corner of this photograph – you can see a small figure which looks like a GI Joe from this angle. As I photographed the Grand Canyon from Yaki Point on this particular morning I noticed a man who climbed down onto one of the jutting points to get a better view down the canyon. While I tend to not like putting people in the photograph I knew when I saw him down there that he could instantly provide the photograph with a sense of size and scale because we all know what an ‘average’ man’s size is – yet the canyon completely envelopes him and makes him look so miniature (even while if you took him out of this picture it may not look as vast).


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