Embracing The “Hand Of Man” In Your Nature And Landscape Photography

Nature and nothing but, doesn’t always make the best image.

With few exceptions, I try to avoid anything man-made in my nature and landscape photographs. I want the natural beauty of the scene to be the star of the show, without the distraction of mans handy-work. Since I live in New England and man has had in impact on the land for a few hundred years now, that isn’t always easy to do. From old stone walls and dirt paths made by the earliest settlers, to the wooden boardwalk at some of New Hampshire’s many scenic tourist destinations, the presence of man’s impact on the landscape is clear. I have tried repeatedly to exclude these man-made objects from my images, to create as natural an image as possible, often with less than stellar results.

So I gave up trying, sometimes.

I went to Shannon Brook at The Castle In The Clouds in Moultonboro, NH, specifically to make this photograph for last weeks theme of “How do you get from point A to point B?” as part of the Lens Pro To Go 52 Week Photo Project. While I was setting up and taking a few test images I had what I call a “Eureka! moment.” I go to Shannon Brook and the Castle In The Clouds specifically for the waterfalls. But every time I go I do my very best to exclude the boardwalk and railings along the walkways to the falls. While sitting below the Falls Of Song, making this photo, it struck me like a slap to the head, take my feet out of the frame and you’ve got yourself a pretty darn good photo. Even if the boardwalk and railing can be seen in the background.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

                        

My initial plan was to make my photo project photo and head right back home. Once I realized that I liked what I was seeing on my camera’s lcd, I decided to stick around a while. There are many other waterfalls on Shannon Brook, but the Falls Of Song is my favorite and I have tried repeatedly to photograph it well. It is also the hardest of the falls to photograph without showing any of the walkways and railings that were put in for both safety and easier access. Here are a few of the images where I decided to embrace the “Hand Of Man.”

 While I still prefer my nature and landscape images to be “Au-Naturale,” when that isn’t possible I intend to explore compositions that include the man-made elements in the scene, making them something to work with in creating the composition, and not something to fight with and possibly come away with a less than successful photograph.

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24 thoughts on “Embracing The “Hand Of Man” In Your Nature And Landscape Photography

    • Thank you, and not at all. They were all taken with my Canon 40D and Tamron 17-50 f2.8 lens,(the older, non VC version), and a B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer. Sometimes I use a 4 stop ND filter for my waterfalls as well, but not on any of these.

      #1- 10 seconds, 17mm at f16, iso 320
      #2- 8 seconds, 17mm at f8, iso 160. Keeping my feet still for that time was the real challenge 🙂
      #3- 25 seconds, 17mm at f16, iso 160
      #4- 4 seconds, 17mm at f11, iso 160
      #5- 3.2 seconds, 50mm at f11, iso 160

      All from a tripod,(I’m good, but not that good 😉 ), mirror lock-up, and a remote release.

      Thank you for stopping by, and don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I have no problem sharing what I use, how I use it, and where I used it at 😀 I’m just honored that someone would even ask!

    • Thanks Jim. I used low iso, and a circular polarizer. In this case iso 160 which oddly enough gives me a cleaner file than 100 on my Canon 40D. I do recall reading an article on Canon’s “native” iso being 160, and multiples of 160 producing a more noise free image. If I remember correctly the theory was that iso 160 was actually 200 stopped down, 320 was 400 stopped down, and so on. I also remember there was some argument to the validity of it all, but it works for me.

      For what it’s worth, I also use a 1.2 (4stop) ND when it’s needed.

  1. Nice images here Jeff. It is refreshing to view well composed images. I love shooting with ND filters in water fall situations.

    BTW, have you ever seen images from the Oregon Columbia Gorge? If you ever get the desire to shoot there, let me know. From Spokane it is about a 4 hours drive. Early May is best time because of the mountain snow melt and high water flow.

    http://www.photocascadia.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=21

    • Thanks Rick. I certainly remember the not too distant past, when I was new to photography and would be too overwhelmed by a scene to properly compose an image. I would just click away and hope I got luck. Now I actually put my camera down and move around and look for the photo in the scene. I may kneel, squat, or even lie down to get the best composition. The more I take my time I’ve found I actually shoot less but retain more “keepers.”

  2. I thought the fingered shoes were still pretty boss when included in a photo. That one screams sending it off to a stock agency. I am actually rather fond of the smash-up of man & nature in photos and you made well of synthesizing those without one dominating the other that would distract. And coincidence…I just bought that same polarizer yesterday for a new lens. While I bought for its usual purpose, how do you think it will fare used midday at wide apetures (f2.3, f4, f5.6). I’m asking as I have a vacation coming up where I will be shooting many portrait style stuff in midday. I want to get good isolation but not blow out the backgrounds or sky.

    • I can live with man in nature as long as man’s presence isn’t too modern. Fortunately the railings in these photos don’t look too new.

      I really can’t help with the polarizer as I bought mine purely for images with water in them. It should help with the sky a little as long as you aren’t using too wide a lens. If so, and there it a lot of sky in the photo, you will get uneven polarization in the photo. With the sky being much darker in the area of the picture that is 90 degrees to the sun, and getting brighter as the angle decreases. It is a royal pain to try and fix too. I’ve given up on a lot of otherwise good photos because the sky just couldn’t be fixed.

      You can also over polarize if you aren’t careful too and get a very unnaturally dark blue sky. It can work in some photos, but usually it is very noticeable.

  3. These images are outstanding. I love the foreground in #3. For what it’s worth I agree that non-modern objects work better especially if they’re a few decades or a century old. It’s a little humbling to be in a place knowing many came before you. But I digress… Great job! Love it!

    • How right you are Steve, and if I may, that photo, good as it is in showing the contrasts, would be amazing without those darn houses in the BG 😀 Why do people have to build in the most photographic locations!

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