image illustrating juxtaposition of man made bridge and forest surroundings

Juxtaposition, or the act of placing two things side-by-side to compare them, is a very powerful compositional tool to consider whenever you’re shooting. I’m a big fan of finding ways to allow compositional elements to contrast against each other. One of my favorite examples of this, especially with my landscape photography, is to pit natural pathways against man-made ones. There is an irresistibly charming, and sometimes sobering, aspect to doing this, which is why I often hunt for the opportunity.

As I’ve practiced looking for such scenes, I’ve found that some resonate more clearly with me than others. If the juxtaposition feels forced or trite, I usually abandon the composition or I look for more unique ways to contrast these elements. In most cases, the contrasting subjects are streams and waterways forged by nature and bridges built by men. Aside from the obvious comparison of how the pathways were formed (by nature or by man), another contrasting element that I absolutely love is the difference of “material” used.

In nature’s case, the material is of itself. That is to say, these paths are naturally forming over time, erosion and other elements. The paths are chaotic and follow no rational order. Man-made paths, on the other hand, are made of formed wood and metal and concrete. They serve a very particular purpose and are not nearly as organic and warm as nature’s paths. In all, this practice of juxtaposing natural and man-made elements has been one of my favorites while exploring the wonderful outdoors, and I hope you consider it on your next shoot, too!

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