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on Feb 28, 2012 in K&M Adventures, Landscape Photography

Optical Visual Depth


Visual depth, there are many ways to obtain it in our photographs. The way I typically do it is with a strong foreground, middleground and background. I’ve talked about this a lot over the years. The other method I use which for some reason I’ve not seemed to mention is optical visual depth. While in Monument Valley this past week with our K&M Adventures, it dawned on me while we were photographing North Window that this was a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

The top photo was taken with a 70-200VR2 at 200mm. This is more or less the classic shot of North Window. You have way off in the distance a couple of mesas and by clipping a little bit of the window on the right and left, the eye can stop there while the imagination goes off into the distance to see those mesas. The reference point in the foreground permits the mind’s eye to slip into the background and creates the illusion of visual depth. Why illusion? What are you using to look at these photos? A computer monitor. It don’t get no flatter!

The bottom image was taken with a 16Fish and part of a lesson of fisheye panos. Here, we used the road to lead the eye back into the frame. We use the tree on the left to “hide” a little bit of rock so the eye continues down that road. While you see the North Window way off in the background, it is no longer the subject. Both images have visual depth and while both pointed at the same formation, they both have a different subject (we had a long discussion in the van about What’s the Subject). They both have very different visual depth even though they both have visual depth.

This lead to a conversation whether just because you have visual depth, do you have a photography? Does including that mean you have a good or great photograph? In all realities, there is no answer to these questions. I saw photos with visual depth that sucked. I saw photos with no visual depth that were stunning. I know personally when working a landscape, I find it very important for the viewer to be able to “fall into the landscape” in my photograph. I want them to feel as if there were standing next to me taking in that grand view. That requires a strong visual depth at the very least as a starting point in the photographic experience.