Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Sense of Scale

There was good flow of water ripping over the edge of the falls at Shanty Hollow that day, yet the images I made just didn't seem to capture the effect of what it felt like to be there. What was missing was that sense of scale that one gets while standing at a location in person. As I worked my way around the edge of the pool at the base of the falls, I tried to visualize just how best could I capture this moment.  Then it became apparent. To capture the grand scale of the location...I needed to get lower...way lower...and shoot upward. I knelt as low as I could without getting the seat of my pants was a bit chilly that day...and framed the shot using a 18 mm wide angle lens oriented to the vertical. I used a small aperture...f/22...and focused about half way between what was directly in front of the camera and the rock wall where the water dropped. I was careful to include a good portion of the flowing water as it rolled over the rocks at the apex of the outlet stream. The result was a photograph that for the most part captured a greater sense of the scale of the location.

Scale is one of those things we rarely think about when photographing a location. In reality it's one of the most important things to be aware of especially in certain circumstances. The idea is to use scale to provide a sense of largeness or smallness to the moment. Doing it effectively can be a challenge, but there are techniques one can use to enhance the prospects of capturing a greater sense of scale.

One technique is to include something in the foreground...middle ground...and background in the same frame. This technique adds depth and distance to your composition. Usually a wide angle lens works best for this kind of shot...but can be done even with a 50 mm normal lens. In order to keep it all in focus, a small aperture is required...something like f/ extend the depth of field range. This often results in a slow shutter speed which also dictates the use of a tripod.

Another technique is to shoot with a wide angle lens from a low perspective looking what was described in the first paragraph. These low perspective angles will automatically increase the sense of scale simply by the distortion effect of having part of the scene so close to the camera lens.

Image was created using five or six vertical shots stitched
into a single shot. The result added a lot more depth and
distance to the scene
Another way I've used to improve that sense of scale is use several images stitched together. This takes a bit of practice and some savvy using Photoshop...but it is a very effective method. What I normally do is to use a wide angle lens...18 mm or smaller...and take a series of images...usually five to six that overlap by about 30%. These images tend to work best when taken in the vertical or portrait orientation. Then using the panoramic stitching feature in Photoshop...stitch them into a great image than what would be possible using a single image.

Capturing scale often requires some forethought and a willingness to think through the problem. Recognizing when the moment requires a sense of scale may very well be the most difficult part of the process. It certainly requires the photographer to purposely set out to accomplish capturing that sense of scale as compared to capturing a routine image.

Scale is a great way to draw the viewer into your images. Capturing it requires some purposeful practice.



Pedro Luis López Pérez said...

Gran Post, lleno de Aventura y hermosas Imágenes.
Un abrazo.

Alecia said...

wow, what great tips, I've been looking for some things like this to help me take better pictures. Thanks!!