Archive for August, 2009

Taking Better Photos of People Part Two


2009
08.31

Here we go  – part two of people pictures.  The groundwork was set in part one, so if you didn’t read it, you should.  This post will make more sense that way.  But again, to clarify, by “people pictures” I don’t mean portraiture, or lining up the family in the backyard.  Those are important photos, to be sure, and I have taken enough of them that my family cringes when they see me with the camera.  I mean people doing what they are doing – while traveling, walking down the street, sitting in the park –  the photo opportunities are endless.

Let’s start, again, with a photo from the master of capturing “the decisive moment,” Henri Cartier Bresson.

Madrid 1933

Madrid 1933

I don’t know what the experts say, but this is why I find this photo intriguing.  First, the shapes.  You have several rectangles broken up with circles.  The circles are almost symmetric – one right in the middle.  Your eye lands on the gentleman in the center, almost perfectly centered in the center circle.  Then it travels up to the right, with the figure in the sign pointing the direction the man is walking.  Of course, there is the other man, partially out of the frame.  The big sign on the upper left, along with the smaller sign on the right, helps frame the photo.  So the photo flows, and your eye travels in a circle just like the circles in the photo.   I think it’s a good illustration of Cartier Bresson’s decisive moment principle.  Were the man on the left, there would be no flow to the photo.  Were the other man not in the photo, it would be more static.  He caught this scene at the decisive moment.

So lets do some more comparisons using my photos.

kinders candy

Here are some cute kids, no doubt.  And it’s fun to look at because children are fun to look at.  It is taken from eye level and that’s good.  I can caption it, “Children in a kindergarten class, Fengdu, China.”  Yet, all it is is cute kids.

kids m and ms

Here are the same kids, but in this photo something is happening.  They are obviously excited as they examine the bag of M&Ms.   It’s doubtful that kindergartners in the United States would examine a package of M&Ms with such absorption.  This picture really tells a story – not the full story, but a whole lot more than the kids in the first picture.  And it doesn’t matter that they are not looking at us.

Susan in Fengdu

We were in Fengdu still, and we joined a noon time chorus.  In China, communal activities take place all day, and retired people regularly meet to practice and learn new activities.  The group we visited was singing, asked us to sing with them, and all of a sudden I found myself ballroom dancing with this gentleman.  Afterwards, my husband took a picture of us.  Boring. (it wasn’t his fault.) I can look at this photo and remember what it represents, but no one else will find it interesting.

dancing fengduThis is much more exciting.  It tells a story – a member of our tour group is dancing with a Chinese woman who is obviously having a great time.  And you can see the other members of the chorus in the background.  It’s a photo of people – but it has some movement and meaning.  It’s unfortunate that an arm is “growing” out of her head, however.

Ok, one more set for today.

susan and mark rice

How nice.  Susan and Mark in some rice paddies in China.  Yes, we do want a certain number of “we were there” photos for sure.  And we can see the karst mountains in the distance.  But it’s a static picture and really just is “we were there.”

carrie with kid

We were in the same rice paddies and this man and his son walked by.  We still see the rice paddies and the karst mountains, but there is some interest to the photo.  Carrie, who we were traveling with, had taken a picture of the pair and was showing the photo to the child.  The composition is nice, the perspective is nice, and the shape made by the three people keeps your eye active.  It doesn’t just stop as in the first photo.  And again, it doesn’t matter that we can’t see the man’s face.  By the boy’s sweater shading his head, we can guess that it was hot.  More interesting than a full-face shot.

So – anyone who has followed these posts from the start has probably noticed that it’s hard to talk about good photos of people without mentioning the basics we started with.  People and travel blend, and telling a story turns out to be critical in almost all photos.

Stay tuned for part three.



How to Take Better Photos of People


2009
08.30

The famed photographer Henri Cartier Bresson said, “Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression”.  He employed this principle in one of his most well-known, if not the best known, photos, Behind the Gare St. Lazare.  Of this photo he said, “There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped.” He took the photo in what he termed “the decisive moment.”

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare

Few of us will become so skilled, but this is a good example of what I am talking about in taking better photos of people.  I don’t mean portraiture.  I mean street photography – capturing what’s happening around us.  This is particularly useful in travel.  And most of us really aren’t comfortable aiming our cameras at strangers and snapping away.

I’m going to give a few general pointers, then show some photos for comparison.  You’ll likely  find many of the same pointers, perhaps expressed in a different way, given by many photographers.  I’ve spent years learning by trial and error and here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, it really helps to have a telephoto lens (which is different than a zoom lens).  The farther away you can be from your subject, assuming it’s not someone you know, the easier it is.

Be completely alert to what is going on around you.  Watch the people, watch the focal point if there is one, and try to capture the decisive moment yourself.  Of course, you can take many photos, and in reviewing them, you may find the decisive moment.

If you have some time – especially when traveling in a foreign country – become part of the scene.  Sit at a cafe, have a soda, and soon people will stop looking at you.  Once you become part of the landscape, it’s easier to take pictures.

As a ruse, you can ask your companion to stand somewhere near the “target” at the same focal distance.  Act like you are taking the photo of your companion, then at the last minute, aim at the real subject and snap.

Take pictures of people in context – doing something.  It’s much more interesting than the person alone.

Don’t think you need the total person, head to toe.  It’s even ok to cut off some of the head.  And is your photo a little blurry?  Don’t reject it out of hand.  In other words, remember, photos tell a story.

If you are photographing children, get on their level.  Squat – easy to say but hard to do for those of us of a certain age, but do your best.

This is enough for starters.  I’ll finish with one comparison.

static noodle

This is a noodle-maker is Xian, China.  Interesting enough I guess, you can see the noodles and the face of the young man.  But it doesn’t tell us anything except, “Look at my noodles.”

active noodle

This, on the other hand, is the same noodle maker in Xian, China.  But this photo is not static:  he’s actively making the noodles.  We don’t see his face but it’s a much more interesting photo.

Stay tuned for part two.


Technical Difficulties


2009
08.29

We’ve been having a few technical difficulties lately while transferring this site from one page to another.  Several posts were lost, including the first installment of photographing people.  I will try to recreated that over the next couple of days, but meanwhile, here I am at the cabin with lots to work on.  I have a couple of essay/stories in mind, some posts to do, a number of eHow articles I’m ready to write – but their site is having technical difficulties as well.  Plus, I’m working on some material for Burn the Witch – the upcoming all-woman art show.

So meanwhile, I’ll let you know what it’s like here at the cabin.

Swings are squeaking from the A-frame down the way – the weekend renters have some young kids.  Every once in a while the hummingbirds swoop in, making a mighty big racket for such small birds.  Nuthatches are combing the bark of the pine trees, woodpeckers are knock-knock-knocking down the way, and the blue jays are ever watchful in case I put out more peanuts.  Breeze wafting through the trees, a little warm, but at least 20 degrees cooler than Bako.  And occasionally squirrel chatter as they feel the need to announce themselves.

Ever-watchful jays

Ever-watchful jays

Success!  Found a peanut.

Success! Found a peanut.

Hummers

Hummers

hummer 2

I’m really grateful to  have this time alone – so much I want to do.  But if I weren’t alone, it would look something like this.

kids on bench

Various assortments of kids would be on the porch – feeding the blue jays constantly.  Once in a while, they gorge.

Celebration

Celebration

With such a big family, there is always something to celebrate.  This cake, from a recent visit, had been eagerly awaited all afternoon.  The kids put the sprinkles on.

And then there is Lily, again, doing what she does best.

Lily

Within the next two days I’ll rewrite and post how to photograph people.

Nice Article in The Bakersfield Californian


2009
08.26

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/local/x538994522/Photo-technique-in-bloom


New Collages from Wild Animal Park and Disneyland


2009
08.20

I knew that my recent trips to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Disneyland would produce some good collage material.  I’ll add the new ones here and explain the process.  BUT – disclaimer – these are just fast snapshots.  I’ll scan them at home for true images.

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

The background photo is I believe Beverly Drive; at any rate, it’s a street in Beverly Hills.  All the animals are from the Wild Animal Park except the peacock, which is from Hart Park right here in Kern County.  The little pool of water the elephants are standing in is from Pismo, and the “wing” at top left is peacock feathers.

So why this configuration?  Sometimes I have to ask myself and I don’t have the answer. It just looks right and seems to balance.  That’s like one of the ways good spellers know if they have the word spelled correctly – it looks right.  I just know that recently my husband and I were in Beverly Hills and as we made a slight turn on this street, I knew I had to have that perspective, that curve of perfect palm trees.  So I grabbed the camera and shot.  I had to photoshop the picture quite a bit to get off all the spots from the windshield!

The lineups of animals makes no sense except that I was going for a kind of vee shape with the elephants and giraffe meeting the palms, and the other lineup of animals also meeting.  Would you find these animals in Beverly Hills?  Well, this is part of the Altered Landscapes series, and in wealthy Beverly Hills, full of Hollywood types, I suppose you could find anything you wanted.

Queen resized

Savannah Queen

The background image for this picture was another “must have” shot.  I was in a balloon at the Wild Animal Park, 400 feet in the air, and looked down to see this wonderful photo of palm trees and their shadows.  I knew immediately I’d like it, and I’ll use it again in a collage keeping it sparser so the trees and shadows show better.  This one was supposed to be that way but sometimes these things take on lives of their own.

So we have flowers – from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, from Paonia in Colorado, from a visitor center in Utah, and from the Getty Villa in Malibu.  And I mustn’t forget the venus flytrap from the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena.  The white bird sitting on top of her “throne” was in the garden shop at the Wild Animal Park.  I was shopping with my daughter and grandkids when we heard someone laughing at us.  We looked around to find out it was this bird!  He made us laugh, and in turn he laughed, and we laughed even harder.  Laughter rules!  The rhino and the cheetah are paying homage.  The rhino is paying homage because he is a sorry beast, but the cheetah is only doing it because it is expedient at the moment. The cheetah has his own agenda.

And that brings me to a special and unexpected moment this morning.  As I was cutting out the cheetah, it was as if I could feel his power, the compact tension and strength in his muscles.  I felt “catness” as I cut.  I don’t know quite how to explain how I can become one with the animal I am cutting out, since it’s never happened before.  And with the rhino, again I felt the animal.  I felt his stupidness, his droopiness, his lack of purpose.  And from then on, I felt nothing from any of the other images I cut out today.  Not even the elephants.  Well, maybe a little with the elephants.  I love elephants.  But really, I love cats, big and little, the most.

See

See

Terrible photo, but when I do these I am at the cabin and have no scanner.  I forgot my tripod so couldn’t get a good, steady photo.  But this is an obvious play on words.  I took the background image through the porthole in the submarine ride at Disneyland.  The mama and baby belugas are from the Vancouver Aquarium, and the seal is from my dad’s collection of old metal wind-up toys.  And my cats are resting on that whatever it is supposed to be.

This collage is just for fun.  There doesn’t always have to be a reason.


Bulbous Bouffant – Fun Video


2009
08.16

I love this routine so I’m posting it for fun.

My whole family loves this and sometimes apropos of nothing, one of us will say “macadamia,” and the rest of us say, “oooh.” You have to watch to have this make sense.

How to Take Good Photos: Odds and Ends


2009
08.15

Some photos can’t be categorized or can be placed in many categories, so I thought we’d explore some of those to finish up with what makes a good photo.  At the end, I’ll summarize.  All of them draw on the principles we’ve already discussed.

G4-208; Victrola

Every year we go to a friends cherry ranch for a barbecue.  I always have my camera because, well, you never know.  I’ve been in this friend’s living room at least four times, but this time, I saw this old victrola speaker for the first time!  Wow – how did I miss it?  I love the color, the shape, and already I’ve been able to use it in several collages.

A very bad photo of Desert Spirits - but the victrola is here

A very bad photo of Desert Spirits - but the victrola is here

Here’s another photo I find interesting.

G4-123; Pismo Beach Building and Sky

This photo is a good example of when you might see the unexpected if you stay alert.  It is a building in Pismo Beach  – AND the sky.  The neat thing is that the sky is just about the same color as the building – or is it the other way around?  Hard to tell where one starts and the other stops. Monochome can be interesting.

Another example of what you might see if you always look around you:

G4-137; Road

I was driving over to the beach and the only car in either direction for a long time. I looked out the rear view mirror and saw this wonderful, undulating road.  I stopped, went to the middle of the street, and took the photo.  I love it!  What if I’d not been looking?  Or looking but not seeing?

G4-214; London Eye

This is a portion of The London Eye – an observation wheel (Londoners didn’t want to call it a ferris wheel).  Sure, it’s a travel photograph but it’s not real obvious what it is.  I just liked the shape, the ambiguity, the composition, and the general grayness of it – sort of monochrome.

Here’s another monochrome photo I love.

G4-80; Randsburg Junkyard

I was at an old junkyard in Randsburg in the Kern County Desert.  This wonderful, dilapidated trailer was there, and what I found intriguing was that the trailer was blending back into the color of the environment.  Sort of like adaptation.  Where does the organic matter begin and the artificial end? This is the third almost-monochrome photo on this page.

I’ll leave it to you to determine why these photos are interesting, if indeed you do think so.  A couple of them take some consideration, especially the blue building and sky, because at first you don’t really see what it is. Remember that a few blogs ago we started by saying you can take good photos with any camera and without technical knowledge if you learn to develop your eye.  Perspective, angles, lines, placement of subject, color, texture, contrast, light – all the things we’ve been discussing – should help you improve your photography.  But to do that you have to take photos – lots of them!  Don’t forget to carry that camera with an extra battery!

Happy snapping.

How to Take Good Photos: Nature


2009
08.13

Everything I’ve talked about in recent posts applies to photographing nature. Nature isn’t static – it tells a story.  Sometimes nature waits for you – Half Dome is Half Dome and it isn’t running off anywhere.  But the light and shadows change constantly and don’t wait.  Sometimes nature is beautiful, sometimes harsh, but it’s always interesting.  Colors, patterns, textures, contrast, perspective, shapes – all of these are critical in nature photography.  And light, always light.  Sometimes we don’t have a choice about the light.  We can’t always be where we want to be in early morning or late afternoon:  sometimes we must deal with the harsh midday sun.  But it can all be handled.  So let’s take a look at a few photos and analyze them.

G4-124; Pismo Beach

This photo was taken at  Pismo Beach.  It’s a great example of how you have to look everywhere – not just at the ocean.  This photo is all about texture and shows that nature can be in the details – doesn’t always have to be the big picture.  It’s a little hard to see in this blog photo, but maybe you can get an better idea here.  The sand is so distinct, making its own little patterns, hills and valleys, and so gradated in size – well, you wouldn’t really notice these things unless you had a sharp eye out.  The feather makes it a bearable photograph and gives some perspective also.  Without the feather, I’m not sure how interesting I could make the sand.

G4-122; Ocean at Cambria

While climbing about the rocks in Cambria, I looked down into a little eddy and saw this red thing – I would guess seaweed.  I had to shoot fast – nothing at the beach stays the same for more than a few seconds.  But what a photo! It’s graceful, the color is intriguing, and the patterns and light are so varied.  Sometimes nature stands still for you but sometimes you have to be quick.  And while photos of the ocean can be majestic in scope, the little things count also.

G4-111, Near Capital Reef, Utah

We were in Capitol Reef, Utah, a national park we didn’t even know existed until we passed a sign on the highway and said, “Let’s go there now.”  It was magnificent with the sculpted rocks so common in Utah.  As we left, we drove past this desert!  What a surprise.  The colors are intense, the sand has gorgeous contours, and the sky is graceful.  At one time I might have rejected this because of the fence – it’s not “all natural.”  But that’s ok, because I’m not in the Sahara, I’m in Utah, and the fence is part of the story.  The West may be settled but as the sand shows, with the contours made by wind, settled doesn’t mean it’s tamed.  This photo also has a foreground, a midground, and a background: your eye takes you from the bottom left up through the midrange and to the sky.  There’s a thing called the rule of thirds in photography that can help you compose, but the aim of these blogs is to stay non-technical and develop your eye.  And the rule of thirds can be broken.

G4-44; Rice Paddies Yangshao

Nature?  Yes and no.  But I say yes.  These rice paddies outside of Guilin, China, draw the eye back to the beautiful, mysterious karst mountains on the Li River.  I could have just snapped a quick shot of the rice paddies but by taking just a moment (they weren’t going anywhere) I could determine a pleasing perspective and give the photo real depth.  I am very fond of this photo, going from the rows of rice seedlings methodically planted to the karst mountains which are most often shrouded in mist.

G4-242; Vernazza sunset

This photo is a good example of a number of items we’ve discussed.  The Ligurian Sea is nature, no doubt about it.  But the fishing boat at sunset adds dimension and interest.  Imagine the photo without the fishing boat and it would be rather dull.  Also, the boat is not centered in the frame – just a little off-center, which gives the photo a less static feel, and the horizon does not divide the photo in half.  I was sitting at the Vernazza harbor writing postcards, and I was really concentrating on the cards.  I glanced up and wowza!  Sunset had crept up on me.  I had almost forgotten to be alert and look around me

Many more nature photos are on my website and it might be interesting for you to look and try to figure out what makes them good.  Or, at least, in case you don’t think they are good, what motivated me to take them and how they were composed.  I’ve focused quite a bit on “macro” nature in this blog entry, but you can see that nature isn’t as clear-cut as it seems.  Man-made objects do not necessarily detract from nature.

How to Take Good Photos of Flowers


2009
08.12

Flowers are beautiful.  People like photographs of flowers and they are my best-selling photos.  We need beauty in our lives.  But have you noticed that, while you see many photos of flowers, some grab you more than others? There is so much to consider – how to frame the photo, how to get a sense of shape instead of having an image plopped in the center of the viewfinder, how to avoid over-exposing.  So many floral photographs reflect the sunlight so brightly that it detracts from the image.  So I’ll explore a number of photos that I consider especially good and I’ll tell you why.  You may not agree, but at least this can expose you to possible considerations.  These are not typical flower photos, but you can see many other floral photos here.

One advantage to photographing flowers is that they aren’t going anywhere.  They may sway in the wind, but they won’t run away.  So you have time to get to know your subject.  By that I mean look at the flowers from different angles, observe the smaller details, get down at ground level with the flowers, stand directly above them.  And using digital, you can then take as many photos as you want.

G4-141; Sunflower, Edna Valley

I saw this sunflower while driving through the Edna Valley across the highway from Pismo.  You might think, well, that’s a forlorn-looking flower, past its prime, sort of faded. And you’d be right.  But the lack of perfection is what I like.  The pattern (I talked about pattern a couple of blogs ago) of the missing seeds looks like eyes.  The section of darker seeds looks a bit like a mouth.  In other words, when I looked at this sunflower it became anthorpomorphized for me – I saw a flower that indeed was forlorn, not really happy, a little droopy.  Another thing I like about this picture is that the sky blends off of the page – so you can’t really tell where the photo ends.  Just a few patches of blue show through.

G4-198; Rancheria Rd

I took this photo up on Rancheria Road in Kern County, CA.  I focused on the patch of fiddlenecks  running from top left to bottom right and let the rest fade out using the macro setting.  This just gives some interest to the photo.  A field of flowers is fantastic; this is just a way to give it a twist.

G4-196; Rancheria Rd

This was also taken on Rancheria Road – 2009 was a banner year for wildflowers.  I kept the foreground in focus and let the back keep an impressionistic feel.  I wasn’t sure that it would work to have the one, lone orange flower on the left show up, but it did work.  By keeping that to the left of the photo and not centering it, the composition is more interesting.

G4-185; Orchard, Bakersfield

In this photo of an orchard, I deliberately centered the horizon.  I wanted symmetry and was thinking perspective.  I think these are almond trees but I’m not sure.  I was keeping my eye on this orchard until there were enough petals on the ground to give a feeling of snow.  I wanted the long view.  But I was after another look also, which is the next photo.

G4-186; Orchard, Bakersfield

I moved the horizon over to the left but didn’t cut out the other side entirely.  I was trying for a diagonal line from corner to corner.  There are lots of exciting ways to look at something with the pattern of an orchard.  Hold up a paper to this photo and cut off the left side and have the photo border be the end of the row of trees.  It looks a lot different that way.  I like it better like this because leaving that little bit of the other side of the row gives more depth to the photo.

G4-177; Buchart Gardens, Victoria

This dahlia was taken in Butchart Gardens, Victoria, in Canada.  I am a bright-color person.  I know that subtle shades are more sophisticated but color is still “it” for me.  However, this photo interests me  because the bud of the unopened flower in front of the already fading flower actually looks like the center of the flower – as if it’s one flower, not an old and a new.  If you want to really get into symbolism, it’s like birth and death. Then there is the bud on the lower right – almost upsidedown, giving a slight feeling of movement to the photo.  When photographing flowers, they aren’t going anywhere.  So you can take your time and get to know your subject before shooting.


G4-168; Impression and Leaf, Stanley Park Vancouver

I”m going to call this a flower for the sake of this blog.  At least it’s a leaf.  And this is an excellent example of what I was talking about in a previous blog – look in front of you, in back of you, to the sides – AND up and down.  I was looking down at a path in Stanley Gardens in Vancouver and saw this beautiful leaf.  It had left an impression on the walkway and somehow got flipped over.  I think it’s beautiful and I would have missed it if I’d just been looking straight ahead.

G4-75; Costa Rica

Finally, color, contrast and pattern.  These green leaves would be unremarkable but for the vivid blue wall behind them.  Leaving the tall plant on the left, which is casting shadows on the wall, gives some depth to the photo and also allows for gradation of color.  This was in Costa Rica, and we loved all the bright colors so much that we found paint colors based on photos and painted our living room walls all a different bright color.  Not for everyone, maybe, but it makes us happy!

So these are just a few ideas to vary how you photograph flowers.  Perhaps the most important point is to take your time to understand your subject from all angles.  Also, if you are after wildflowers, some years are good, some are bad, and  you need to do a lot of driving around to scope out the situation.

How to Take Good Photos: What to Look for when Traveling


2009
08.11

Most people carry cameras when they travel to record memories of the trip.  What you photograph depends upon your interests of course, but it’s fairly common to see photo after photo of the traveling individual or couple or group, but very little about what makes the destination important.  When my husband and I spent three weeks in Italy, we realized we only have one photo from the entire trip of us together!

Besides the pretty pictures – which I love, by the way – I want photos that convey a sense of place and a feel for the culture.  While you look at these photos, remember what we already talking about in developing your eye, looking for texture, color, light, and so on.  These photos also tell a story.

Here are a few examples of what I think makes a good travel photo.

G4-16; Chongquin, China

This is a photo from Chongqing, China – the biggest city in China and one of the biggest in the world with a population of over 33,000,000 people – yes, that’s 33 million!  This photo has several intriguing aspects.  And at first, I thought well, it’s just a monochrome photo of infrastructure, boring.  But – I couldn’t stop looking at the photo.  It’s not boring.  First the lines – the angles and almost parallel/perpendicular appearance.  The perspective also gives you an idea of how massive things are in Chongqing.  And in the bottom right you can see people.  I took the photo from the bus window so it adds that interesting aspect of reflection.

So it’s a travel photo – it’s not “pretty,” I’m not in it – but it will certainly make me remember Chongqing when I look at it.

G4-17; David and Goliath, Chongquin

I’ve used this photo before to illustrate telling a story with your photographs.  But as a travel photo it’ll be far more expressive of our experience and the differences between our country and China.  So instead of just photographing pretty lakes or historic sites, photograph something that gives you a sense of place and culture.

The Battery is Retrieved!

The Battery is Retrieved!

This may possibly be my favorite photo of all-time.  It conveys a sense of place and culture, certainly, with the Chinese characters.  I took it in Xitang, a “water city,” not too far from Shanghai.  This is like a mini-Venice and it has just appeared on the tourism radar, so we got there before it had turned completely commercial.  So why do I like this?  First, the Chinese love slogans and pronouncements.  Second, anyone who has tried to put together a toy on Christmas morning knows that the Chinese to English translation can be confusing at best.  This tells me that the people are being urged to recycle and this little box with two holes on the front is a receptacle for used batteries.  But best of all, when I read THE BATTERY IS RETRIEVED I felt triumphant! I got a huge kick out of it.  I thought, hooray!  We have it!  The battery has been retrieved! Almost like finding buried treasure.

This may be a highly personal reaction to a photo, but it tickles me and it conveys a real sense of place and of culture in a changing China.

G4-243; Vernazza Sunset

Here’s a picture that is “pretty.”  Actually, it’s gorgeous and it does convey a sense of place.  I took it in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy.  Vernazza is one of the five hill towns on the Ligurian Sea.  When I look at this photo, I am transported right back to the harbor in Vernazza, and the feeling of relaxation I had there washes over me.  Definitely a sense of place.

But this next sunset photo is just as good in its own way.

sunset blog

Our last night in Shanghai, a city we loved.  I looked out the hotel window and saw that the sun was just about to set.  I grabbed the camera, aimed and shot – you know how quickly the sun disappears, so you do have to be fast.  The sunset can be just as pretty in a city, silhouetting tall buildings.  As a travel photo, it of course evokes this city we loved.  So don’t fall into the trap of thinking infrastructure can’t be compelling.

G4-99; The Grand Canal, Venice

This is the Grand Canal in Venice.  The photo was taken from the bus system, which are boats called vaparettos.  I had to take many photos because the boat is in motion – no stopping the currents and the bus system so I could line up a photo.  This partiular photograph conveys a sense of motion, shows the wide opening and the curvature of the Grand Canal, and gives a sense of the buildings and boats.  This is what I’d call a “pretty” photo but it sure conveys a sense of place!  Dorothy may say there is nowhere like home, but I say, there is nowhere like Venice.

The final photograph I want to discuss is a tube station in London.

G4-216; Tube Station, London

I was walking down this passageway and I don’t remember the name of the tube station (subway).  I was in a hurry but I just grabbed my camera – which is always around my neck when I travel – thinking, I need a photo of the interior of a tube station.  I wasn’t prepared for this photo – it surprised me!  Besides evoking a sense of place and culture, I think of all the jokes about looking into the light, approaching the light.  I think of the movie Poltergeist and Finding Nemo, which satirized  “stay away from the light.” So this photograph makes all kinds of things go through my mind, but really, I just love the shape of it all and the stripes and handrail – those  little bits of color.

I hope this has opened your eyes to how you can take interesting photos on trips that convey a sense of place and culture.  Much more interesting to recall and look at than a bunch of people standing in front of each cultural attraction – but don’t forget to take some of those too!