The Perception Of Proportion

How big is it? How long does it last? These are the most basic questions a scientist can ask about a thing. They are so basic to the way people conceptualize the world that it is not easy to see that they imply a certain bias. They suggest that size and duration, qualities that depend on scale, are qualities with meaning, qualities that can help describe an object or classify it. … Scale is important.”
~ James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

I had spent years trying to click people free photos or cropping them out completely, until I realised the importance of scale. Of the need for a point of reference to aid perception. Especially in the case of monumental architecture or spectacular landscapes.

I do still forget sometimes. Here are a few instances where I didn’t (or just got plain lucky)

The tiny figures at the base of the 200 metre high Tianlong (Sky Dragon) Bridge in Wulong County, China and the young girl dwarfed by the columns of the hipostyle hall of Karnak Temple (above) demonstrate the massive scale of both structures.

Dhamek Stupa SarnathA devout Buddhist nun meditating beside the Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath.Ngorongoror National Park, TanzaniaThese tiny Masai figures on the floor of the Ngorongoro crater demonstrate the vastness of that space.Stepped pyramid of Djoser in Giza, EgyptThe stepped Pyramid of Djoser – believed to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction.

Happy travels….no matter where life takes you.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

100 thoughts on “The Perception Of Proportion

  1. All great shots Madhu and so beautifully balanced with your well timed acceptance of the person who is not going to get out of the frame in any hurry. Wow on the Masai shot, brilliant!

    1. Patti, the problem in Petra was that there was always a person waiting to take the place of the one that moved away. A never ending stream of people who stopped at that exact spot to gasp in awe! 😀

  2. How true, Madhu. One instantly gets a sense of exactly how enormous some of the natural formations, or those man-made, really are, through your lovely photographs… I enjoy your pictorial travelblog….!

  3. This post really hit home for me, because I too do people-free photos. These particular examples work so perfectly to show the importance of scale. Without the tiny human end of the scale, they would still be interesting, but there is a “gasp” dimension to my response that would be lacking. Incidentally, how often in your photos are the humans dressed in red — that “spot of red” that so often adds to much to a painting of a photo!

  4. I’m curious. Why did you aim for people-free photos? I do too – partly out of respect for their privacy, and partly maybe so I can feel I alone have been in this place. That’s a crazy reason! This post is a good argument for their inclusion – and no privacy problems. At the back of my mind is the kerfuffulle over ownership of The Kiss photo I think

    1. Meg, I used to be very self conscious about clicking people. I am far more relaxed now, but do struggle with the ethics of it. I back off immediately, if I sense the slightest hint of displeasure.

  5. Thank you for this tip/reminder. I constantly take pictures that don’t include people in them and see how important it is to include them. If I can make that one simple change that results in more fantastic pictures like the ones you take, then I’ll consider that a major triumph in my artistic endeavors. I love the shots you included here.

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