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Pareidolia

Do you see faces in the clouds or in rock formations? This is known as pareidolia and, as Ian Plant argues, it can be a great strength to a landscape photographer

1994. A bustling town called Hollywood, Florida. On a day like any other, a woman named Diana Duyser makes herself a seemingly unremarkable grilled cheese sandwich. But her day – and her sandwich – are anything but normal. After taking a bite, she notices a face – and not just any face, but the Virgin Mary herself – staring back at her from the toasted bread. She keeps the partially-eaten sandwich for a decade, reverently stored and displayed on her nightstand. After ten years, she decides to cash in, auctioning the mouthwatering miracle on eBay for $28,000 to an online casino. Truth, indeed, is often stranger than fiction.

Seeing faces in things is called pareidolia, defined as ‘the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.’ Simply put, our brains are wired to recognize faces, so even when we see something that only vaguely looks like a face, we often interpret it as a face. It is the reason why we see...

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Ian Plant is a full time professional nature photographer, writer, and adventurer. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, books and calendars, and he is a frequent contributor to Popular Photography and Outdoor Photographer magazines, among others.

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