People in landscapes?

I learned a lesson a few weeks ago. The Bride and I wanted to photograph a pretty waterfall up in the mountains near where we live. The waterfall is unique — water rushes from between massive rock outcroppings at the upper end of a wooded valley. We knew the area would likely be crowded because it was one of the last Saturdays of summer.

When we arrived at the parking lot at the trail head we found all forty parking places taken. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But…just as we were leaving a car pulled out so we filled his spot.

OK, here is where we decide to walk to the waterfall or to head home. The trail to the waterfall covers two and one-half miles. Surely five miles of trail would have a large percentage of the forty groups in route – coming or going – with only a few at the waterfall itself. So…off we went.

20 Raven Cliff FallsIt turned out to be pretty sound reasoning. There were just three families there. The kids were climbing into and out of a little pool near the bottom of the falls while the parents shouted caution about not slipping on the rocks. Over time new groups arrived while other groups left. Only a teenage girl in a blue shirt remained throughout. I took some location shots and then set up my tripod to get the image I wanted after the girl left. But the blue shirt girl stayed.

And stayed. She had a GoPro on a head band and was making video as she climbed around in the waterfall. She had as much right to be there as I did but I wanted her out of my picture.

We waited. She stayed. The Bride was getting a little testy. It was getting late in the day and we had to consider walking two and a half miles back to the car in the dark.

I decided to make my shots as if she were not there. I’d take her out in Photoshop.

And therein is the lesson learned. I FAR prefer the image with the blue shirt girl in it. Conventional wisdom is – and the guru’s of photography say – that a landscape is often improved with a person in the frame. And, in this case, the blue shirt girl was perfect. I could not have asked for a better splash of color (her shirt) and a better pose (her eyes directing the viewer’s eyes to the incoming water). Even her immersion in the scene reminds me of my own appreciation of the beauty of this place.

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J. E. Bark - I couldn’t agree with you more. The punch and contrast of the blue shirt with the greens and greys of the rocks and water really makes the image in my opinion. Her pose (looking up) couldn’t have been better if you had asked her to look up.

I, too, suffer when people get in my planned compositions. I have waited and sometimes been forced to do the same as you planned, that is, remove them in PS. However, from your example maybe I will look for the people to complete the image rather than taint it.

I enjoy your blogs as they are practical and usually thought provoking. Keep up the good work!

skeeter - Thanks for being a reader, J.E..

Isn’t it curious that we learn and then have to re-learn the obvious?


Guy Davies - I agree that in this case the blue shirt really makes the picture. But if you do want to get rid of a person in Photoshop, the easy way is to take two shots with the camera on the tripod while the person moves around (they need to do that, but they usually do). Put the two images together in PS on separate layers and then just rub out the person in the top layer to show that part of the bottom layer without them. Easy, so long as nothing else moves in the rubbed out bit. I’ve used the same trick to get rapidly changing light in the right places in a landscape.

Agree with J E Bark about the blogs!

skeeter - I don’t use PS much anymore but I agree that that is a very good way to remove distractions. Frankly, I never thought about that technique in lights/shadows in landscapes. Sounds like something I will try.


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