Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Photographing Landmarks and Historic Sites.
It is almost impossible not to be motivated to capture images of structures associated with special places while traveling. Whether it be a church, monument, lighthouse, or civic building, one almost has to line up behind others to record that special place. However, when you get home the image often just looks like either a "what-the-heck-went-wrong-with-this-picture" picture or a cliché, postcard type image. With the former image, you best take a basic photography course. With the latter problem all you need to do is get creative and think outside the box. I will use Mayne Island's Lighthouse Park as my example.

This first picture is, from my point of view, that cliché image. Nicely framed by the trees (top) and shadow (foreground) with the lighthouse structures placed a touch off centre. Yes, take that picture but don't stop there.
One way to think differently is to make your main subject a secondary part of the image by placing it in the context of the setting.
With this image I got down to the shore and just started to scout around. (Photography is a lot about discovery.) I noticed that we had some nice puffy clouds and a generous supply of driftwood so I used them to bracket the lighthouse. Notice, the lighthouse is only 1/5 of the image yet the story is still about the lighthouse. From a graphics point of view, the logs do draw your eyes up to the lighthouse and the clouds provide a nice cushion at the top.

In this next image (taken a year later) I explored the location again this time at low tide. From this location the seaweed provided a nice context for the lighthouse. The lighthouse is still only 1/5 of the image yet remains the subject. As well, notice how the seaweed draws your eye upwards towards the structures. Also, the clouds are present enough to make the sky a little more interesting. Another difference between the images is the sun - defused on the first image and strong and direct on the second. I like both.

With this third image, the tide was coming in but the point was yet to be covered by the ocean. Willing to get my feet wet, I ventured out as far as I could go to see how things looked. From my point of view, this was a horizontal image where as the previous two were vertical. By the way, I normally shoot both angles then decide later which perspective works best. Digital is cheap! The sun was coming from my right creating nice shadows and a dark blue sky. To make the foreground more interesting, I got low and waited for the waves to arrive (notice the white water on left side). Notice again, the lighthouse is but 1/5 of the image yet still the main subject.

My final image is one many of you may not like ... it is rather artsy! Remember, you can always delete but you can't capture later what you have passed up.
With this image I placed the lighthouse on the left with the sun right behind it and placed grass on the right to create some visual dynamics. (Don't you find your eye dancing between the grass and the tower?)
Well, there you have it. One lighthouse, five perspectives. Give it a try. The next time you find yourself in a special place, be creative with your image capture.
Let me know your thoughts.



  1. Agreed. Taking that cliche photo is like butterfly collecting. When you seek a different angle or view of something it is like creating your custom species of insect.

    1. You nailed it ... and the world may not appreciate your POV but if it gets a second look, it has a life if its own.

  2. wonderful feelings here Toby. You communicate a powerful sense of place. National Geo work!

    1. Thanks ted ... your comments are inspiring ... shoot on