Feature Image by: Rach Stewart

Capturing the Human Element in Nature

6th July 2017

Rachel is a kiwi landscape and travel photographer based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand.

Inspired by landscapes and a love of travel, she likes to explore the unknown, and find the all-important elements that connect humans with nature.

Her passion to be with nature along with a love of art, adventure and exploring is what characterizes her photography and forever fuels her desire to seek out and find the beauty created by the natural world. Long exposure photography is a style she loves and adds that point of difference when it comes to creating stand out images. It is a method of photography she was intrigued by right from the beginning, and always keeps her trying to perfect her art.

We caught up with Rachel to talk about what fuels her passion for adventure and photography: 


Photography for me is about finding those all important elements that connect humans with nature. It’s nothing I can say I am convinced to have found yet, but its something that I strive to achieve in the photographs I take.

I am always on the search to find a stand out composition showing humans interacting in the natural world, and how to resonate that sense of wonder felt when surrounded by such incredible landscape. 

Rach Stewart Sunset long exposure
Most of the photographs I take involve scale, incorporating a small human against the grandeur that is mother nature. Be it in the mountains, the ocean, the sky or any of the elements that we are lucky enough to encounter, I always try to capture the feeling that we really are just a tiny part of the natural world, and just how important humans are in protecting the things that give us the most rewards and natural well-being.
  Rach Stewart boardwalk
There are many times when a landscape doesn’t require the human element at all, those times when the scene just speaks for itself. I would say that more often that not, my images do not contain an actual human element, but yet the photograph itself tells the story of how it came to be. Sometimes mother nature puts on such a show that anything other than the natural elements would just not do the scene justice.

It is a rule of mine that when I am out there in the field, especially at sunrise and sunset, that I put the camera down for a while, and actually take in the scene unfolding in front of me. When I am feeling at one with my surroundings, the photos can then speak for themselves.

To me a good photograph is when the viewer can connect with the image in a way that is unique to them. Maybe it brings to light a fond memory, an experience that meant something, maybe the image brought peace after a stressful day, or maybe its just that they feel as though they want to experience the scene themselves. Any connection in a positive way to an image is a winning formula in my books.

If an image of mine encourages someone to go outside and be with nature, then that is the best thing I can ever wish for.

Rach Stewart

Having said that, I absolutely believe there is great importance in the technical preparation and skill to capture a scene and do it justice. When it comes to setting up a shot, the key elements that I believe need to be considered include:

Focal point: Search for the main subject that is going to be the stand out in your image.

Depth of field: With most of my landscapes, I shoot with a greater depth of field so everything is in focus.

Rule of thirds: Align your focal points or main subject to create a well balanced image (rule of thirds is not law however!)

Light: Golden and blue hours can be the best time to shoot a landscape. The light is always much nicer and less harsh during golden hour, and can create some great patterns on mountains, water, trees.

Overall Composition: Do some prior research if you can on the area, try to find some good foreground, middle and background if possible.

Rach Stewart Overall composition


The best piece of advice that I once read … ‘Not every scene makes a good photo’. Sometimes you just have to accept that try as you might, some scenes, be it through conditions, light, composition, just won’t work in a photo. I always try and ask myself that question every time I am about to press the shutter .. does this make a good picture?


It a nutshell that is what it is all about for me. Those are the things that make me want to go out and take a photo, and then share them with people who take an interest in what I do.

I have always been fascinated by the natural world, and I am forever thankful to have found a way to connect with our surroundings in a creative and artistic way through photography. As long as it pushes me to go further and explore the possibilities out there, I will continue to do it.


Rachel was recently published in the Australian Photography Magazine, D-Photo magazine and has been recognized by many industry leaders for her photography.

The kit behind the shot:

EOS 5D Mark IV


Follow Rach Stewart:

Instagram | Facebook | RSNZ Photography Website | Email

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