No People Allowed

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Sanford, Mar 3, 2017.

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  1. Are humans the only animal never allowed in a nature photograph?
  2. Nothing profound or philosophical involved there; it's just the definition of "nature":
    The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. (OED)
  3. Clothing is "the hand of man." What's left is God's work ;)
  4. The short answer is "yes".

    There are accepted definitions of what constitutes "Nature Photography". Take a look at the Photographic Society of America for that definition. Nature is not human centered, and does not depend on humans for existence. Nature photography is about nature, not humans.
  5. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire, mostly on film.

    Also, no cats, dogs, cows or sheep. Perhaps no house-mice or rats?<p><p>
    I watched a documentary about the US National Parks (can't give a proper citation to it, but I guess some of the US readers here will have seen the same thing), which argued that they had been radically changed by the exclusion of resident people, whose influence had helped to define what nature was in those places for a very long time. So they implied that these places were artificial spaces, not really natural, just because people had been removed.<p><p>
    Here (I'm British) our National Parks are different: they are just areas covered by extra planning law, and though rural, still have a lot of residents. The landscape is often defined by centuries of upland farming. If we photograph the plants and wildlife in these places, we definitely show a 'nature' as edited by human activity.<p><p>
    I see a recent news article about a similar theory about the Amazon forest:
  6. You're right Dustin, so I'll amend my response to include domesticated animals/pets....any animals mentioned in the PSA definition.
  7. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    To me, humans are a part of nature. I also wouldn't let somebody else define the rules by which I use photography for my general use.
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  8. If you enter a photography contest you need to abide by the rules set forth by those holding/sponsoring the contest. The Nature forum is not a contest, but when we set up Monday in Nature I learned that this forum uses the PSA definition as a guideline. So does MiN. Whether we consider humans part of nature isn't the question here. The question is about nature photography, which happens to have a definition. This discussion is a recurring theme.
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  9. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire, mostly on film.

    Clearly there need to be rules for contests so everyone is playing the same game. The PSA Nature Division rules are interesting to read; they have foreseen some of the difficult cases (or solved them when they came up, maybe). Photos of barn owls and storks, which nest in buildings, can obviously include the barn or the chimney, and so show more of the presence of man than most; and your bear can even be wearing a radio collar!
    Mary Doo likes this.
  10. There are rules and, when in doubt, the PSA rules apply. However, even then, there are inconsistencies. I noted PSA rules can be interpreted differently even by nature judges from PSA - in some cases the very people who were involved in making the rules. For example, one judge considers set-ups involves hand-of-man interference - such as the incredible hummingbird images we see once in a while that are shot with multiple flashes with staged backgrounds. Another judge thinks it's perfectly OK. Some would disqualify "cultivated flowers", others think it is OK, etc.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
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  11. "Landscape" photography doesn't seem to have many rules or restrictions.
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  12. Landscape can include any landscape with or without humans, domestic animals, or man-made structures. Hwvr, landscape under the "nature category" would typically exclude these things.
  13. david_henderson


    If its not for the purpose of competition then presumably we could agree that all rules on inclusion/exclusion are irrelevant? I don't tend to think of "landscapes" as a subset of "nature" anyway, and consider that many landscapes are improved by inclusion of the hand of man in some form. But maybe that's a UK attitude, where as others note, even our national parks have people living and working in them. That said its getting hard in some USA national parks to make landscapes that exclude other photographers, photo-tours or their vehicles.

    Even our premier UK landscapers don't seem to totally exclude man or man-made objects from their work. In more crowded and economically integrated parts of the world its not physically easy to exclude the hand of man anyway. For example southern Tuscany is a prime landscape destination, but you'd find it tough to make a landscape that didn't have a farmhouse or barn in it, and contributing a colour palette and texture that enriches the photograph.
  14. True to an extent. However, it is still not that hard to find landscapes without people in it, especially when shooting at dawn, or seascapes. National parks and preserves are protected by law - hence no barns, etc. That said, I am not surprised if there are human efforts to preserve their pristine condition such as picking up the litter.
  15. The PSA definition also serves to help educate photographers on what constitutes and distinguishes "nature photography" from other genres. I don't find those rules irrevelant at all. Keep the focus on nature and not on people or human oriented things/activity. Find the natural world and point the camera at it, instead of the other way around. It's not always easy, but that's part of working within the confines of a definition. Finding nature isn't that hard either. "Landscapes" can include human presence, but nature landscapes don't. Nature photography isn't about people, it's about nature. Honestly, what is so difficult about that? There are plenty of wild places in U.S. National Parks. I've never had any trouble getting away from people, even in the big heavily visited parks. Not all U.S. NP's are nature based. Many are for the preservation and interpretation of human activity, such as battlefields, ancient art and dwellings, or historic locations like Independence Hall.
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  16. Gup

    Gup Gup

    I can understand David's argument regarding Europe. I had a very difficult time in Italy shooting the landscapes I'm most drawn to without including some form of human activity. The truth is I wasn't trying to really, it was upon viewing the 10+ gigs of files I returned with that I realized how few shots I really had that qualified for MiN posts! The shots I ended up preferring were always interspersed with terraced hill sides or ancient stone dwellings, cobbled roads, etc. I shot so much of the coastline from Portofino to Naples and then Sicily but nothing of interest that didn't include some proof I wasn't there first.
  17. I understand just what you mean. But it's worth mentioning that photographing nature is not a natural activity. Of course, you mean that the photo itself, not the activity of photographing, should be focused on nature. It just seems worth mentioning that nature photography is not natural at all, given the definitions of nature that exclude humans.

    Often, the first thing I see when I look at a photo is the hand of the photographer, precisely because photos are artificial in the best sense of that word, which means they're hand-made. So I usually see person whether person is shown or not.

    The "wild places" in national parks are set aside by humans. There are "wild places" on Earth that are not so designated. Maybe soon there will be a genre distinguishing whether or not the nature shown in the subject can have been designated and perhaps even fenced off by humans.

    One of the reasons I've never been fond of contests, for myself, is that I tend to want to thwart rather than abide by definitions. But I appreciate that such definitions are probably appropriate for contests to work.

    There are great artists who worked within confines, whether self imposed or imposed from the outside. And there are great artists who upturned traditional definitions and defied restrictions, especially those imposed by so-called judges of art.

    There's no right answer to this debate. There are just ways of thinking about the questions it brings up.
  18. This discussion has turned philosophical. ;) To my knowledge, MIN is not a contest. It's a forum reserved for display of "nature" photographs according to PSA definition of nature photographs. There are other Photo.Net forums for other types of photography, or photography made by a certain brand of camera, etc. I believe there are areas where any landscape photographs can be displayed.
  19. Gup

    Gup Gup

    • Fred, I think the guidelines for nature photography are just to keep a level playing field for those contests. It just so happens that has adopted those same guidelines for the Nature Forum. One doesn't have to adhere to any guidelines or rules in the act of photographing anything if they don't wish to, only if you wish to then post the image in a forum where the participants have all agreed to conform to some parameters.
    • If one disagrees with the parameters or even the idea of parameters it just precludes them from posting in places where those are in place. I always seem to find somewhere here to post a shot regardless.
    • I enjoy watching football games. However, I enjoy the Canadian football rules over the American or Australian football rules. So, I don't watch the others. It's just preference.
    • Here at I don't really participate in the N/W forum very often. I seem to always have a shot I could post but I would rather participate in forums where talking about the shot or the technical details of the shot are welcome or encouraged. It's just personal preference.
    Andrew Gosden likes this.
  20. The one PSA nature rule I find odd is the no stitched photos. Focus stacks are okay so it doesn't seem to be about the processing.
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