29 September 2008

Human element

Have a look at this empty landscape. It's boring, isn't it? Not a thing that seize your attention and holds it. As some people tote like a mantra; "landscapes like this needs a human element for scale".


This must be something about how our brain works. Probably even something basal, inherited from those of our ancestors who could only say "ook" and were awfully good at climbing trees. By including a reference feature one could easily gauge distance. And thereby determine how far away the next meal, mate or predator may be.

Speaking of predators, there's always something special about closeup pictures of those large predatory mammals, isn't it? Lions, polar bears, wolves... All of them comes with a recommended minimum distance for approach. Deep inside our brain there's probably something hard-wired to crave our full attention if a large animal suddenly presents itself within our field of view. Generally, the further away the better. So when presented with a super-telephoto portrait of our animal foes, that craving function in our brain goes on red alert. Fortunately, that function is quickly moderated by the comfy-ness of your sofa and your firm grip on the TV remote control, but the attention level is raised nonetheless.

But I digress. My point is that the human element of a landscape is always there, even if it doesn't communicate to the viewer. Because, as a photographer, you have to be there. Sensing the world, and gauging distance and scale relative to your own body. The total absence of other human elements is often the most awe-inspiring of all.

That said, there is in fact a human element. A reindeer hunter with his dog.

Pentax K20D, DA* 16-50/2.8 at 50mm,
f/11 and 1/320s at ISO 200

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