Skip to main content

Shooting landmarks

Living so close to New York City, I have made numerous trips to the city for one reason or another. Sometimes I have gone with a camera, but usually I am with non-photographers so the camera stays home. However, I recently had an opportunity to do an all-day photo workshop with local pro photographer Bob Harrington.

It was a small group and we had a gorgeous model to work with throughout the day. Even though we had a ready-made subject, we found ourselves aiming lenses elsewhere. After all, we were in 'the city that never sleeps'. It wasn't until a few days after that I made an observation that might pertain to other new photographers just learning. Of all the 'landmark' shots I took in the city, they were all your typical 'tourist' pictures.

Now, I know I have learned a lot over the past year on what and where to shoot, etc. I even know that as a photographer you should strive to take that image that no one else has gotten. After all, every one has that Liberty shot and that Central Park shot and that Empire shot. I KNOW this, yet looking at the photos I took, they were, well, typical. Why?

I thought about it and realized a few things. First, while pros expound on the fact that everyone has taken those same shots year in and year out, I know for sure I haven't. I don't have that Liberty shot I have seen a hundred times. Nor do I have that overdone Empire shot. I realize I WANT those shots. I even feel compelled to purposely take those shots. It's almost like a right of passage. Find them, take them and get them out of the way so that next time you can go for the more artsy/obscure/less traveled angle.

Fortunately I live close enough to the city to know that I will eventually be making my way back to shoot more. Which leads me to my other revelation; having come to the realization that I have fallen into the 'tourist' mode and will do so again in the future, I now know what to look out for the next time. If the next time is a once-in-a-lifetime location, I now have the experience to foresee that I may fall pray to a mediocre shot. Knowing this arms me with the discipline to (hopefully) stop myself from traveling that well worn path and look for one less traveled.

So in conclusion, I will tell you, "take those gloriously overshot tourist pictures." Get them out of the way quickly but don't forget to discipline yourself enough to break away from the mundane and push yourself for something greater. It isn't easy and you will need to make it a conscious effort at first. But as with everything else, practice makes perfect.


Most Popular Posts

Large DIY Diffusion Scrim

One of the most commonly used tools in my photographic arsenal is the all purpose diffusion screen . I use it to soften light, create gradients and light fields or as a background. One of my current favorites is a metal framed 4' x 4' foot scrim with thick white artificial silk made by Matthews. I didn't think I would use it so much, being so large, but having borrowed it from a friend I really came to love it. The downside for me is the price. At just over $100 I couldn't really justify the cost, considering I want at least two of them. Time for a DIY alternative.

DIY Softbox Storage Hanger

If you own a softbox, or two, you understand how bulky and unwieldy they can be. Imagine owning several in different sizes. Storage becomes an issue. One solution is to break them down and store them flat, but that becomes a pain after the first few times struggling to put one of these things together. It is more convenient to just grab one "off the shelf" and go to work. Allocating shelf space seems like such a waste of valuable storage space. In my case I have two square softboxes, three striplights and soon two more rectangular ones. That's a lot of real estate. Time to come up with a storage solution that doesn't require floor space or shelf space. The solution I came up with is a compromise of an idea I originally had of hanging them from the ceiling on pulleys so they would be out of the way until needed. I still like that idea, but for now I will be suspending them from a wire rack shelf system in my studio. Here is what the system looks like.

Don Julio - Hero Shot

For starters, a hero shot is one in which the product is showcased in all its splendor. Careful attention is placed on making the product look its very best. For this shot of Don Julio I knew I wanted to give the bottle some majesty by photographing it from a low angle. That low angle makes the bottle look tall, towering over the viewer and creating a position of dominance. Can't you hear the choir of angels singing in the background? I also knew that I wanted a rich, moody image with lots of darks. I am partial to darker images, which is surprising to most people because the majority of the work I do are images on white backgrounds. But that's another story. I also tried a lifestyle type shot with glasses and lime slices but I wasn't feeling it and ended up scrapping it. Again, that's another story.

Observations on composition - Pieter Bruegel

In this article I am reprinting a critique I published on regarding the painting entitled ' Census at Bethlehem ' by famed painter Pieter Bruegel , who was born in what is now the Netherlands in the 1520s. The first point I would like to say is that you first need to consider both the medium and the time frame of this painting. Being a painting, the artist has a certain advantage of being able to carefully direct the large amount of content presented to the viewer, unlike, say, a photo of opportunity of the street photographer (I strongly believe Pieter would have been the 'street photographer' of his time). Even a studio photographer, with the luxury of space and time, would have a hard time justifying creating such a complex composition. Where you would see this type of visual composition today would be in modern cinema. In particular, period pieces that rely on background elements to "sell the era" .  Secondly, the era in which thi