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Experiment with the Power of One

experiment power of one

When taking travel photos, sometimes all you need is to focus on one item. Check out this guest post by travel photographer Ralph Velasco, who shows us how to experiment with the power of one with our photographs.

Guest post by Ralph Velasco, travel photographer

Some of my favorite shots, whether my own or those of other photographers that I admire, have a single point of interest.

This man-made or natural subject gives the viewer a very definite part of the scene to focus in on, and will often provide a much needed “sense of scale.”  Providing a sense of scale is accomplished when a known object, such as a person, tree or bus, is included in the image so that our brains can immediately form an impression of the overall scene and accurately calculate its size.

Note the yellow bus and how it gives scope to this scene near Portillo, Chile.

Man-made Wonders - Near Portillo, Chile - Copyright 2008 - Ralph Velasco

The man in this image is on top of Mesa Arch, in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and his presence provides a much needed sense of scale.  Without him it would be difficult for a person not familiar with this location to get a feel for how large or small this natural formation really is.  Certainly, a true landscape photographer would cringe at the idea of a person like this in his or her photograph, but for my taste, it’s what makes the photograph all the more interesting.

The man on the arch gives a sense of scale to the scene.

 Description: A man displaying the power of one on top of a rock.

When I first noticed this beautiful winter scene in Salzburg, Austria, the bridge was empty of people, and so the photo opportunity didn’t interest me.  However, I recognized it as a good potential background if I just had the proper subject to include.  It wasn’t until this mysteriously silhouetted man with an umbrella entered the scene that I really took notice.  And the fact that he’s walking into the scene from right to left works well, too.  I usually prefer my subject entering the scene as opposed to moving out of the frame, but that’s a topic for another post.

The man walking across this bridge in Salzburg, Austria, provides interest to the image.

A person exhibiting the power of one by confidently walking across a bridge with an umbrella, braving the elements.

Be sure to take advantage of the power of one in your images.  The subject should provide interest, a point of focus for your viewers to hone in on, and more often than not, a much needed sense of scale that will potentially make a snapshot a great shot.


About the Author:  Ralph Velasco is an award-winning travel photography instructor and international tour guide who has photographed in more than forty countries on six continents. He’s just released his first app for iPhone and iPod touch called My Shot Lists for Travel and is the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.” Ralph has led cultural photo tours to Egypt, Eastern Europe, and throughout the United States. For the past two years he was awarded “Open Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County and he belongs to the exclusive Circumnavigators Club, a group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of earth’s meridians.  You can follow his blog at