People in Your Landscape Photos?

Church; Porto, Portugal
I wanted a shot of this Church all alone (and I did make one early another morning), but I like the way the people in this image come together in the square in front of the church to give some “area context”
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
IΒ  HAVE shot primarily nature, landscape and other outdoor venues for all the years I have been at this. And for many of those years, I worked hard to get people-free images. Still do some of the time. In popular places, it was not uncommon to sit patiently (or sometimes not so patiently πŸ™‚ ) waiting for people to clear a scene. Later, the ability to “remove” things from images digitally softened some of the angst. But that doesn’t always work. I found myself still waiting for opportunities where the “offending” body was in a spot that would be easy to remove. And then, of course, that brings on all the “isn’t that cheating?” stuff.

I liked the way the yellow jacket contrasted with the mostly monochromatic image of Buckingham Palace. It pulls the gold gilded statue top too. I waited for her to walk into the frame and then made the image.
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]

not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera

THERE ARE, of course, still going to be times when you want a pristine landscape shot. Often the best time to do that is very early in the morning, before tourists and even workers are out. Getting up early takes a certain discipline, but every time I do so, I am rewarded. Often with complete solitude. Sometimes with just a lot fewer people around. Another way to get that kind of shot is to shoot scenes and places where there aren’t a lot of people. Places that haven’t been discovered yet. Or places that don’t have tourist appeal. I have found some of my best farm scenes to be places that haven’t been “discovered” yet. I have also learned – unfortunately – that it isn’t a good idea to identify those locations in this day and age. There are a couple now famous scenes in Vermont, for example, that used to see the occasional photographer in the road near them – usually during the fall foliage season. But today, everybody and their smartphone wants to photograph these places, and in addition to large numbers of people, many of them have zero respect for other’s property. Indeed in recent years, some of these once quiet, bucolic scenes have taken on a “carnival” atmosphere that is totally at odds with what drew us to them in the first place.

Sometimes the image is ABOUT the people. This close shot of the entranceway into the Buckingham Palace Grounds would be boring and static without the guard. I was really shooting the guard, not the palace, here.
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]
PEOPLE IN the scene can often be perceived as a negative. But I also have to remind myself sometimes that not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera. Indeed, (at least before the advent of the smartphone), the vast majority of visitors to these locations are/were probably there just to see the place. And they certainly have every bit as much of a right to do that (even if they are standing in my photo πŸ™‚ ). Tolerance does not seem to be a popular thing these days, but I still try to practice it.

This is one of my favorite images of London. The two gentlemen engaged in thoughtful conversation makes an otherwise “nice” image of the backside of Westminster Abbey much more interesting, in my view
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]
IN RECENT years, though, something that I have learned is – especially in my travel photography – putting people (or using the people that are there) in your photos sometimes creates added interest. In addition to scale, they can give perspective, and sometimes create questions. Like what is she looking at? What is he thinking? Or they can help express the pure joy of experiencing one of our worldwide wonders. So, for me the trick has now become how to best position the people that are inevitably there in the image. I have begun to look for those moments. I know I am probably late to the game (but suspect I am still with, or ahead of many of my fellow “nature” photographers). Street photographers often purposely seek out people in their imagery. I have never felt really comfortable engaging people, but I am slowly coming to grips with it. In the meantime, I often try to portray people in the image in a basically incognito way (looking away, or so distant as to not have recognizable face). But other times that is just not possible. And when people are in public, they have a reduced expectation of privacy, so I feel that as long as I am not portraying them in a negative way, it is probably o.k.

Porto, Portugal
I made several images as this woman walked through the frame. I like the way in this one, she appears to hesitate, and you wonder, what is she looking at/for?
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
WHILE INCLUDING people in photographs can be an enhancing factor, I also believe there is a tipping point. I have had times where the venue has been so crowded with people that I have decided not to even shoot it. Sometimes crowds can detract from a shot. Unless, of course, you are trying to depict crowds.

I made this image to illustrate the packed Wine Festival in Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal
Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved

IΒ  DON’T think I have used people in images anywhere more than my recent trip to Portugal. We were in two of the most populous cities in the country and let’s face it: there were bound to be people everywhere. Even early in the season. I think this year is perhaps unusual, as people were pent up from the pandemic, and ready to get out and travel again. For whatever reason, there were a lot of people in Lisbon and Porto in late May and early June.

The line (or “qeue” as they say in Europe) for getting into Lisbon’s popular Belem Tower historical site was long. The lone person standing near the water attracted my attenion. Another one of those “wonder what she is looking at” people images.
Lisbon, Portugal
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
SOMETIMES PEOPLE and their behavior make an otherwise uninteresting image worth a second look. I was walking around St. Kitt during one of our Caribbean Cruise stops and looking for color and interest. The obviously attractive young woman in this shot caught my eye. If the shot were about her, though, having her walking out of the frame is just not very good composition. As much as it may seem so, she is not the true subject of the image. I had all I could do with the fast moving action and my widest zoom to catch the entire important parts of the scene. But mine were not the only eyes she caught. Do you see it? πŸ™‚ I couldn’t resist making this one.

Double-Take
St. Kitts
[Copyright Andy Richards 2014
All Rights Reserved]
THE “SELFIE” has become (for better or worse) a common occurrence in these times. There are times when people compromise privacy, safety, and property in there unending quest to produce the best Instagram selfie. But sometimes it is just people trying to capture a memory It certainly speaks of behavior. The gondola scene at Piazza San Marco on Venice is iconic. Most of us shoot it trying to exclude outside elements. I was doing that one early morning – making a motion-blur image of the rocking gondolas. When I arrived, I saw this young woman who I believe was making a selfie with the piazza and St. Mark’s in her background. It gives great human interest to the image, in my opinion.

Piazza San Marco
Venice, Italy
[Copyright Andy Richards 2013
All Rights Reserved]
IΒ  HAVE made numerous cruise ship pictures over our years of cruising. I am usually shooting either the landscape, or action on the ship. I am never the only one doing so, though most often it is folks with their smart phones (or even tablets sometimes). I love to make images of a harbor as we enter it and dock. As I was doing so in the very picturesque Cobh, Ireland, I noticed the gentleman below doing likewise. I have gotten smarter about my photography over recent years, and was glad I had the presence of mind to capture the scene, which certainly tells a better story than my “solo” images do.

Cobh, Ireland
[Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved]
OF ALL the imagery I have made over the years, a substantial majority has been landscape – and of that, more than anything, fall foliage. Mountains, reflections, closeups, barns and farms all make wonderful context. Occasionally, people in the image add color, or interest, or even scale and perspective. I shamelessly confess that I totally “copycatted” the following silhouette image, after seeing a colleague framing it up. But what a great storytelling idea. The photo is another “ho hum” fall foliage image without them.

Hiawatha National Forest Lake
Munising, Michigan
[Copyright Andy Richards 2012
All Rights Reserved]
SOMETIMES STAGING people in an image works. During my trip to Vermont in October, 2021, we were composing and contemplating shooting an uphill Vermont back road, framed with colorful foliage. I made the point that this one needed some interest – a person walking up the road. On of our friends offered to “model,” wearing a bright yellow raincoat I had (which was the brightest “prop” we could find). I think the photo worked well. But when I got home, and reviewed the image on my screen, it occurred to me that red would have more impact. So I made it red. I know. That “cheating” thing again. πŸ™‚

Pudding Hill Road
Burke, Vermont
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
IΒ  AM certain that I miss many opportunities to use “models” in my images. I am, by nature, not an outgoing person when around strangers. Again, sometimes, I just get lucky. I was walking in the St. Kitt Cruise port area shooting some of the colorful buildings. This young shop employee asked me out of the blue if I would like her to pose for me. I am no portrait photographer, but I thought this was a kind of fun image that would not have been the same without her in it.

St. Kitt
[Copyright Andy Richards 2014
All Rights Reserved]
AS OFTEN as I get “unlucky” or even annoyed with the people in a scene, sometimes I get lucky. The scene in Rome was interesting enough to capture my attention. But when the young man walked into the shot, it seemed like a case of “right time; right place” for me.

The man in the center of the street gives this image a sense of scale
City Center
Rome, Italy
[Copyright Andy Richards 2013
All Rights Reserved]
LOOKING FOR opportunities often begets opportunities. In case of the photo below, we were on a street art walking tour in Cape Town South Africa in January. While mostly shooting the street art imagery, I am always on the lookout for colorful subjects. And – lately – also for human subjects of interest. Here I found both and couldn’t help but wonder if the conversation was about our group?

 

Cape Town, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

WHILE SOMETIMES, a photo leaves you wondering about the people in the photo, other times it’s just obvious what the person is doing in the photo – and yet still adds interest. This young woman was one of another couple that joined us on the street art walk recently in Cape Town. The focus of the day, of course was the street art itself. Usually in context. But this opportunity presented itself and I liked the symmetry (physical and figurative). There is little doubt in my mind that the inclusion of the photographer adds interest to the already visually compelling subject.

Cape Town, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

O

VERALL, I think there is always going to be room in my portfolio and shooting style for both. I will always want to at least try to make “clean” images. Sometimes that means waiting. Sometimes using content-aware processing. But what I have learned is to look for both opportunities. I think both views, for example, of the Pink Street below are interesting. I had to go very early in the morning to get the empty street. But the people in the second image are always there, beginning in the early evening, and by nighttime, the place is packed. That’s reality and if you are going to portray reality, you are going to have people in the picture. πŸ™‚

The Pink Street
Lisbon, Portugal
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
[Tomorrow, I head to Ft. Lauderdale to board a cruise ship bound for the Caribbean for a few days. When I return, I am going to take the blog in a slightly different direction – temporarily. See you in a couple weeks]

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
ST. PAUL’s. Contrary to what some of my friends and acquaintances might think, this is NOT a post dedicated to my good friend, advisor and buddy Paul. In fact it might even be sacrelige to mention “saint” in the same sentence with him. πŸ™‚ In all seriousness though, they actually take this stuff seriously and I hope to be able to visit this place with them one day soon. They would like it.

St. Paul’s Cathedral from Ludgate Hill Ave.
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THE CATHEDRAL is English Baroque style architecture, by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding program in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. The original cathedral, built during the dominion of William the Conqueror, was mostly destroyed in the Great Fire. But even by then, it had been rebuilt and refurbished a couple times. The Cathedral was a central focus for medieval and early modern London. The fourth St Paul’s, generally referred to as “Old St Paul’s,” was begun by the Normans after the 1087 fire. Unfortunately, during the English Reformation under Henry VIII and Edward VI, and particularly The Chantries Acts, there was wholesale destruction of many of the Iconic furnishings, as well as the chapels, shrines and altars, as the Anglican Church asserted its authority over the Roman Catholic Church.

St. Paul’s Cathedral
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
ST. PAUL’s is the Anglican Seat of the Bishop of London, considered the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of London. The second largest Cathedral in England, St. Paul’s dome is visible from virtually all of London. This makes for some interesting photographic opportunities. One of my favorites (the idea of which I unapologetically copied), is the dome, framed by the City’s Millenium walking bridge, behind the London School. This is particularly dramatic as a night shot.

St. Paul’s as seen from Millenium Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THE CATHEDRAL can also be seen from the rooftop restaurant in a shopping center across the street. I am not sure whether general admission is allowed, or whether our tour guide for our walking tour made special arrangements, but either way it was a great vantage point.

St. Paul’s
Shopping Center Rooftop
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
FROM UP there, you can easily see how the St. Paul’s Dome dominates the London landscape. I photographed this Cathedral during our London City Tour on our first day in the city, and again, later in the week, during our Borough walking tour and at night, during my night shooting excursion along the waterfront. Like the Tower Bridge, it is remarkable how often you turn and see this famous landmark. And like the bridge, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to photograph it. Some light clouds and blue sky would have been the icing on the cake. πŸ™‚

St. Paul’s Cathedral
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
Β 

London Bridge is Falling Down!

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2021

BUT THAT’s not London Bridge. Many of you know that. For the rest of you: gotcha! πŸ™‚ You may know the story of the original London Bridge being purchased, moved, and re-assembled in Lake Havasu, Arizona. If you don’t, I leave you to “Google” it. Still, I am told there is a fair amount of confusion about this bridge. The pictured, iconic, bridge across the Thames in London is not even another version of the real London Bridge. The image above was made while standing on the actual London Bridge, which is not much to write (or send photos) home to mom about. It is a concrete, flat, thoroughfare across the river. The real “show” is the Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

ON OUR first visit to London in 2019, (a very short 1/2 day tour during a cruise ship stop in Dover – which was 2 hours from London by train) we saw Tower Bridge from a distance, while crossing the actual London Bridge in a “Black Taxi.” We had mistakenly (though not regrettably – as it was a good and fascinating tour) booked this tour of some well-kept secrets of London, and our guide, though excellent, did not want to deviate from his planned schedule (I presume, partly due to time constraints). After some cajoling (he mentioned to us that the bridge was really not part of the itinerary,) we finally persuaded him to find a spot from which we could at least jump out of the cab and photograph the bridge. That spot turned out to be at the base of the bridge, and though we were up very close, a quite difficult perspective. But from lemons come lemonade, and I probably learned more about Photoshop’s perspective adjustments on this one image than any other. So there’s that. πŸ™‚

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
WE CAME away from that tour knowing that we would spend more time in London in the near future. There were just too many things we felt we missed; Tower Bridge images being high among them. So, in 2021, I made it a mission to photograph the bridge from as many different spots and perspectives as I could. It turned out that there were some I didn’t even know about.

Tower Bridge
From The Tower of London
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
LIKE I have mentioned in the earlier posts on our London experience, we were mostly besieged by dull, overcast skies. I have opined before that I would prefer the challenges of sunlight photography to overcast any day. While I will acknowledge that exposure and wide contrast ranges are easier in evenly lighted, overcast conditions, sunlight brings interest, and often drama, to images. But even in the overcast setting, the Tower Bridge is a very photogenic subject. A couple of times during the late morning hours, the sun would break through, and even produce blue skies. On the afternoon we visited the Tower of London, the morning started out predictably overcast and by the time we finished our tour, the sun had indeed come out. Like many iconic subjects (the Eiffel Tower in Paris comes to mind), it is amazing to me how many different views appear of this bridge around the city. We saw it from the shoreline along the Thames, from the London Bridge, from the Tower of London (a pleasant surprise for me), and from up high, in The Shard, among other places. As always, light and weather direct the photographic results. We did not get to see a sunny day sunrise while we were there. But the bridge appears to have a roughly north/south direction, so a sunrise shot seems possible, during certain times of the year with the sun rising and setting over the bridge. I will certainly try for that one day, when we get back to London.

Tower Bridge
From The Shard
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
ONE OF the two solo excursions (shockingly, both photographic πŸ™‚ ) I made during our week in London, was a planned, night outing to photograph Tower Bridge, and whatever else I saw along the Thames that would lend itself to night scenes.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THERE ARE two natural occurrences that can actually make a scene better for photography – especially if it is a cluttered scene, where there are elements that you really want to cloak or hide. They are: darkness, and snow. Snow has its own challenges – another topic for another day. Darkness, however, only works if there is some source of light. In a large city, that usually does not present a problem. And with certain architectural structures, lights are an integral part. And night presents another opportunity. It often hides details that might otherwise distract the viewer from the subject. So, in many ways, it is an easy way to obtain somewhat dramatic photographic results.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
WITH THE advent of digital photography, it is much easier to do. I have a series of images shot in Washington, D.C. back during my school days. We used film, and shooting at night was largely trial and error (for sure, there was some data and rules, and many good photographers did it well on a regular basis). But with a digital camera and some pretty good metering technology these days, it is much easier.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THE ONLY issue we have had to deal with over the years since digital became available to us is “noise.” And the good news is that modern sensors have just gotten better and better at capturing clean, relatively noise-free images. My Sony RX100, with its small, 1″ sensor, produces a fair amount of noise. My A7Rii would have produced much cleaner images – but I travel light and the RX100 is what I carried. It did pretty well.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES of this bridge are not easy to find. I suppose drone technology has helped a bit with that, though I never saw a drone in London, and would not be surprised to learn that it is very restricted airspace for many reasons. I was able to get one “snapshot” that seems to me to be a perspective not normally available, whether or not “unique.” I shot the image below from a moving, double decker bus as we passed under one of the towers. The handheld image was difficult, and the image here is the result of a fair amount of manipulation of the perspective in Photoshop.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
PROBABLY THE best full on perspective view of the bridge is from London Bridge. There is a nice walkway there, and it is possible to set up a tripod and shoot from there, though during the day it is a very busy place and care must be taken when using a tripod. On a day with sunshine, the angle of the sun, which will be rising behind the bridge from that perspective (standing on London Bridge), would be a significant factor, and a late afternoon/early evening shot would probably yield better results as the golden light should bathe the scene nicely. [in late October, when we were there, the sun would have been coming from the left – eastern – bank of the river. By my calculations, to get it rising more or less directly over the bridge, one would need to be there in very late September – very early October. But the sunset angles are much better and give a much wider time frame – indeed, most of the time – for good lighting. Now, just to get some of that sun]. πŸ™‚Β  But there are many interesting (as well as many cluttered) compositional elements that can work into your shots. If you get to London, do try to make the opportunity to spend some time shooting this magnificent bridge.

Tower Bridge
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]

The End of a Week in London

Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
DAY 7. The end of our London visit. But we will be back. We really liked London and it is rather obvious to us that there is a lot more here! And even on this day, we weren’t completely done. Our Cruise ship left the next day, and so we didn’t plan to head to Southampton until afternoon. We had tickets on a train for early afternoon. So, to check off one more of the items on our list, we visited nearby Kensington Palace.

perhaps best historically known as the place where Queen Victoria was born and raised

ALL OF these palaces and castles are fascinating, and usually photogenic. Kensington Palace is in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Today, the official residence of Prince William and Catherine (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), as well as a couple other Dukes and Dutchesses, it is perhaps best historically known as the place where Queen Victoria was born and raised. The historic parts of the palace are maintained by an independent charity and are open to the public.

Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
ONCE A private, two-story mansion built in 1605 in the village of Kensington, the palace was purchased in 1619 by the then Earl of Nottingham and became Nottingham House. In the summer of 1689, William and Mary bought Nottingham House and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to expand the house. The royal court took residence in the palace shortly before Christmas 1689, and for the next seventy years, Kensington Palace was the favored residence of British monarchs, although the official seat of the Court was and remains at St. James’s Palace, which has not been the actual royal residence in London since the 17th century.

Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
MY OWN takeaway here is that Kensington Palace was not a “happy place” for Victoria, who was raised by her mother and Sir John Conroy, who was at the time royal comptroller and was purportedly controlling and domineering of both Victoria and her mother. Victoria’s father died when Victoria was less than a year old. Her mother was extremely protective, and devised the “Kensington System,” which consisted of rules and protocols devised by her mother and the ambitious and domineering Conroy, who was, by the way, rumored to be the Duchess’s lover. Victoria turned 18 on 24 May 1837. Less than a month later, on 20 June 1837, the reigning monarch, William IV died at the age of 71. Although seemingly distant in the line of succession 18 years previously, through a serious of twists and turns in deaths, and non-births, at the time of William’s death Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. A few years later, she married and, as she became the first sovereign to take up residence at Buckingham Palace, I can only assume she was ready to move on from Kensington Palace.

Fall Foliage
Kensington Palace Grounds
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
REFLECTING THE rather lavish amounts of money and the able architecture of Christopher Wren, Kensington was certainly impressive. In fact, it was impressive both inside and out. And the grounds, situated in suburban London, are large, park-like, and very well maintained. Just prior to this trip, I had spent a week in Vermont, on my near-annual quest for fall foliage photography. I was pleased to note that there is fall foliage/color in London, too, as can be seen on the grounds to Kensington Palace.

Queen’s Bedroom
Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
ONE OF the most impressive (and often photographically depicted) interior spaces of the Palace is the Queens State Apartments – particularly the bedchambers. And, as can be seen in both the bedchambers and the writing desk below, I was impressed by the bright colors, and ornate weaving and woodwork that was achieved back in those days. Being a bit of a woodworker myself, I was particularly taken by this desk. The intricate inlay work and clever craftsmanship is superb.

Writing Desk
Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THE PALACE also houses a pretty remarkable display of Queen Victoria’s Jewelry. I offered to buy the emerald set for my wife, but there was a problem with the credit card (I doubt she would wear the tiara anyway πŸ™‚ ).

Queen Victoria’s Emeral Tiara and accessories
Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
KENSINGTON PALACE was the official residence of 4 successive monarchs until the death there, of George II. His successor and grandson, George III, was born and raised in nearby Kew Palace, which continued to be the residence of George III throughout his monarchy. As such, many VIP’s were seen and entertained at Kensington Palace. It was kind of fun to see the throne room and imagine that I was given an audience by her majesty.

Throne Room
Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
THE GRAND staircase is the entrance to the State Apartments, and thus, the public entrance to that part of the palace. It is, understandably, designed to present the grandeur one might expect when in the palace. In 1734, Queen Caroline commissioned artist and architect, William Kent to redecorate the stairs. They are a challenge to photograph, given the limited equipment I had and the difficulty in finding a time when it was clear of visitors. I photographed it from above.

Grand Staircase
Kensington Palace
London, England
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
FOR THIS time, that was our last excursion in London. We headed back to the hotel/train station to collect our bags and board the train for Southampton. While we said farewell to London, we are sure that was only temporary. Ironically, as I finally post this, nearly 6 months ago, and in just over a month, our next great adventure – Portugal – begins! In the meantime, I have a few in-between blogs queued. Stay tuned!