Creating Perspective And A Sense Of Scale In Landscapes

by John Downey

As mentioned in the previous post, last weeks’ drive to Djibouti was an opportunity to check out Lac ‘Assal.  One of the issues I noticed right away was the need for a sense of perspective to show the expanse of the salt.  In order to highlight the emptiness or vastness of a place like the Great Rift Valley, having a familiar form to represent scale helps.

This first shot works.  Why?  A wide-angle lens with the horizon near the top of the frame emphasizes the foreground and distances rear elements (the sand mound and mountains behind that).  Everything more than twenty feet away appears distant.

However, in this shot, it’s tough to distinguish size relationships of the salt lake.  How to make it better?

Place someone or something familiar toward the end of the foreground for a better perspective.  People are more or less between five and six feet tall, so anything that we readily comprehend to be a certain size helps distinguish otherwise indistinguishable elements in the image.  I probably could have posed closer to the lens, but here, it’s NAY (Not About You) but the landscape.

Had I left my shadow out of this shot, there’s no way to tell how high the sand shadow is, relative to the salt lake.  Put your finger over my shadow and you get the idea, more or less.

So, how deep is the water and how far away is the edge of the lake in the background here?  You can see the salt crystals in the water, so it’s not that deep.

But it’s deep enough to let you know your boots leak.

– John