Archive for August 8th, 2008


A new look on the Scott Monument

A new look on the Scott Monument

You are in Edinburgh and want to take a photo of the Walter Scott Monuments, its okay everyone does it. Except you want your photo to be different then everyone elses so when you show your friends back home they will remember it as your photo and not another photo of that monument. Looking at the Scott Monument from the ground you may notice that there is the castle in background, with wee little people on the top. You decide to head up there to find a better shot of the Scottish construction. Alas, everyone at the castle is also taking photos of the monument, yet they are taking their shots from the easily accessible stair case that leads to the top of the wall. So you wander off to a more vacant area and come to the rows of cannons. And look the small space between the cannon and the top of the gun hole provides a clear shot of the monument. Now you can juxtapose a cannon in the foreground while retaining the majesty of the monument.

To get interesting shots there are two easy options. The first is too take a popularly photographed place and find a new angle on it. The second is too go off the beaten track to normally unseen areas, these are usually a few corners away from the popular areas. While I try to get a good mix of the two when traveling I tend towards finding new angles on the popular sights, this usually involves awkward shooting positions, stretching and precariously holding my camera over precipitous ledges. To find places off of the beaten track start wandering around the area, consider getting lost for an hour or two and if a place looks like no one goes there, go there (unless there are armed guards or bands of hooligans, use a telephoto for those). In the Swiss alps I was at the tram station heading up the Jungfrau (the one before the top) with two choices, head down the north slope or the south slope. Everyone on skis or snowboard were headed down the north slope while everyone on foot were taking the tram to the top. I headed down the south slope. I descended 2600 feet in the snow with only a few skiers passing me on their way down. This path offered great vistas of the mountains including views down the valley to Interlaken.

With the location of your new photo shoot found you now need to consider how to frame the shot. I never formally learned how to take photos and at the same time I am not a professional photographer. After photographing my way through europe (between eating gelato) I read some basic books on photography from Kodak, they were written in the 70’s so I skimmed over the parts on film types. On the subject of framing photos they mentioned the rule of thirds. I had never heard of it. While I suppose this method could work as a starting point I used another set of criterion:

  • Would I want to look at the photo again?
  • Is there something in the photo to focus on?
  • Could I use it as a desktop background?
  • If it was not my photo would I give it a second look?

Of course not all of my photos meet these or any of the criteria. I normally apply these when considering if I want to put the photos online. The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take lots of photos. If unsure if a photo came out or if the composition if off I take another photo. I then never delete photos until I see them on my computer (I would also recommend to calibrate your monitors color). I shoot for 5% of my photos to come out as decent photos, sometimes I get 10% but I never worry about take a bad shot. I have plenty of those.

Another tip for low light or zoomed photos, make yourself a tripod. Lean against a solid object, brace your elbows/arms against your torso (or the solid object) and hold the camera as steady as possible. Also try placing the camera against or on the solid object. Low walls work very well for this.

And when in doubt head over to where the guy with the DSLR is shooting, if they are not taking photo ask them where they have been shooting from you could make a new friend.

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