A Human Element

Adding a human element to your pictures can create more interest and give them more impact. We have all seen pictures of a figure in a brightly coloured jacket standing in a landscape. Or the silhouette of a person on a beach at sunset. And who hasn’t seen a picture of a lighthouse with waves crashing around it during a storm? Now visualise those pictures without that human element. Waves crashing against a rocky coastline, a lonely stretch of coastline that is nowhere in particular, and the vast landscape devoid of any human element at all. Which do you find more memorable?

One of the great things about adding human elements to your pictures is that you don’t necessarily need any humans. Most of the time, when I go out with my camera, I could care less if I see another person the whole day. Sometimes I really hope I don’t see another living soul, but I still look for human elements to include in my pictures. A well-worn trail, stonewall, or hedgerow are just as much a human element as an old barn, castle ruins or a quay reaching out into the sea.

I was walking around a street art festival where artists use chalk to create a temporary artwork on city streets. It’s great to walk around and see the artwork come to life. For the picture that accompanies this article, I wanted to find a human element. Still, I did not want a human in the picture. This can be incredibly difficult when the artist is reaching into the middle of their artwork, trying to finish before the deadline. I first found pieces of chalk that were too small to use anymore or larger pieces that had been discarded because they were no longer needed. Those pictures were nice, but they still left me feeling that something was missing.

Not much time remained for the artists to complete their work. The judges were getting ready to make their rounds selecting the best artworks for the coveted ‘Best In Show’ and other prizes. I saw this brush sitting on the far side of one large mural while the artist was cleaning up. She saw me get down low with my camera and said ‘Let me get that out of your way’ and reached for the brush. I said ‘No, please leave it. I’d like to get one picture with it where it is.’ She looked at me like I was crazy, shrugged, said ‘OK’ and went back to cleaning up. This turned out to be my favourite picture of the day.

Anyone interested in photography is invited to join the Tetbury Camera Club. You can get more information about the Tetbury Camera Club and our programme of online meetings, please visit us at TetburyCameraClub.org.uk

This is an article I wrote for the Tetbury Camera Club that appeared in the December 2020 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.

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