Nature in Chains: 10 Photographic Paradoxes


Inanimate Objects–Obstruction or Part of the Scene?

When photographing nature, we often see chains, fences and ropes within the landscape and wish they weren’t there. It’s easy to feel there’s ‘something wrong with that picture,’ so to speak. There’s a contradiction, right? A paradox, in fact.

Nature, after all, is beauty and freedom.

In the Middle

When I see this, I sometimes feel bad (a tree being choked by barbed wire is painful to look at) and see these objects as impediments to the photographic process (darn that telephone pole and cable blocking my view!). But if you think about it, they don’t need to be obstacles to creativity.

What if we accept the presence of inanimate, imprisoning objects in nature–ones that seem wrong–and to allow for them to be part the composition?

We might end up with some cool results, I think.

That’s what I did on my recent trip to Ecuador and Panama, taking an alternative approach to photography–actually capturing these photographic paradoxes. Allowing for them and even seeking them out after I’d noticed a few. I found that by accepting what I saw in nature, I was better able to be in the moment and to participate in the creative process.

Here are the results, which I hope you enjoy.

1. Against the Wall

(Ambuquí, Ecuador)

Brick Flowers


2. Weeping Mantis

(Vilcabamba, Ecuador)

Weeping Mantis

3. Barking Beauty

(Vilcabamba, Ecuador)

Talking Bark

4. Fenced In

(Boquete, Panama)

Peering Out

5. Barbed Wire Belt

(Las Lajas, Panama)

Cut in Half

6. Tree Prison

(Vilcabamba, Ecuador)

Tree Prison

7. Nature Vs Nature

(Countryside near Cuenca, Ecuador)

Nature Against Nature
I know–this one doesn’t have any metal, wood or rope in it. Still, it does seem to convey something, right? I see scissors perhaps.


8. The Blue Gate

(Las Lajas, Panama)

The Blue Gate

9. Wired Leaf

(Las Lajas, Panama)

Imprisoned Leaf

10. Pink Tears

(Pedasí, Panama)

Weeping in Pink

What’s Your Take?

Do you like shooting photos like these–ie, including the objects that others see as obstacles to composition? If so, how much prominence do you give the unnatural object? If you’d rather not shoot this way, why is that?  What do yo do? Do you move to another spot that’s clear of these objects?

Also, when you photograph nature, does it put you more in the moment–or take you out of it? What do you like most about this kind of photography?

PS for Photographers

I shot these photos with my new Olympus XZ-1, a high-end point and shoot, which I bought right before my trip after a lot of homework and debate. (I almost bought a mirrorless camera, but in the end I went with this one). It has a slightly tricky menu system, but a nice, fast lens (f 1.8) and many creative options, which are important to me. Having said this, I only used a filter, “dramatic effect,” for one shot–that of the bricks and flowers. The others were shot with aperture priority, etc.

18 Responses to Nature in Chains: 10 Photographic Paradoxes
  1. Red Nomad OZ - Adventures in Australia
    September 12, 2011 | 7:31 am

    Tragically, I’m not creative enough for captions – clever ones, anyway!! But you’re right about including the unexpected in the pix. My camera currently has a spot in the lens upper right hand quadrant – unable to be removed without $$ & maybe weeks in a camera shop. Solution? Compose the shots to obscure the dot!! I used angles and I NEVER would have thought to use without the dot ‘problem’! And got some unexpected results!!
    Red Nomad OZ – Adventures in Australia recently posted..Australia’s Scenic Public Toilets #17 – White Cliffs, New South WalesMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 12, 2011 | 1:30 pm

      Hi, Red…and thanks for checking out the photos! What a shame about the dot issue, yet it’s worked out somehow? That is so cool to hear. Sometimes seeing things differently or trying another way works great!

  2. Lauren
    September 12, 2011 | 1:25 pm

    I really like these photos! Most of the time it puts me off or frustrates me if I have ugly wire etc in the way of my photos, so I’ll try and shoot from a different angle so it’s not in the photo… I think I’ll start taking more now though, really like the whole pretty/ugly angle.
    Lauren recently posted..Stunning Views From the Top of Bled CastleMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 12, 2011 | 1:32 pm

      Hi, Lauren. Thanks…glad you like the essay! I hear you…I get the most frustrated by cables hanging from telephone poles, etc. Those I find impossible to work with versus what’s in these photos, which worked out somehow due to the nice contrast.

  3. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    September 12, 2011 | 1:57 pm

    Brilliant notion to actually seek out and embrace those “aberrant” intrusions in your photography. g-knows in this world of Photo-Shop-everything these days – so very refreshing. Thanks for the inspiration to keep my eyes open for such interesting shots.
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..10 Years Later – a Soothing Glimpse of BeautyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 12, 2011 | 3:00 pm

      Hi, Dyanne. Cool that you related to this idea and have been inspired, too. Yes, in a PS sort of world, it’s nice keep it natural. Thanks so much!

  4. Maria
    September 13, 2011 | 7:10 pm

    Barbed wire or razor wire – rarely used where it’s actually NEEDED. 9 times out of 10 I can’t figure out why it was used where it was at all and I’m usually left standing in front of it scratching my head trying to figure out WHO is being kept out – or do i have that backwards and should be asking WHO is being kept in?
    Maria recently posted..Bird’s-eye ViewMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 13, 2011 | 11:24 pm

      HI, Maria. Good point re: the barbed wire. What’s the deal? :) In some cases, I saw it in place for the animals. In others, it was just sort of there. Anyway, it sometimes makes for an interesting visual element–despite its intrusion.

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    September 16, 2011 | 3:05 pm

    Also gotta love the broken glass lining the tops of pretty, old buildings.

    • CB Driver
      September 17, 2011 | 10:32 am

      Hi, Stephanie. Absolutely! I took plenty shots of that in Ecuador, some of which are quite creative and sort of in the same way that these are.

  6. Angela
    September 17, 2011 | 4:17 pm

    Contradiction or not, these photos are beautiful!
    Angela recently posted..Covent Garden in picturesMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 18, 2011 | 8:43 am

      Thanks so much, Angela….glad you saw/enjoyed their beauty!

  7. Erik
    September 21, 2011 | 9:16 pm

    Love this photo essay! I wish I had a more artistic eye. Very creative.
    Erik recently posted..Photo of the Day- Rock Hyrax, IsraelMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 21, 2011 | 9:42 pm

      Hi, Erik. Thank you so much…I appreciate that you appreciate it!

  8. Jenna
    October 3, 2011 | 10:38 am

    So creative– I love it! My favorites were #5 & 6. :-)

    • CB Driver
      October 3, 2011 | 1:57 pm

      Hi, Jenna. Thanks so much for the feedback. I also love those two shots. I think they really capture the essence of what I was trying to communicate. I’m so glad you enjoyed the essay and shared your thoughts!

  9. Wilfredo
    January 21, 2013 | 2:12 pm

    Even chains and barbed wire can’t contain beauty.

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