Landscapes and Landmarks

For decades, Kodak Picture Spot signs have dotted the American and European landscape. Wherever tourists might wander, to see the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon, or even Disney World, Kodak put up signs instructing amateur photographers to "stand here" to take that one best, most memorable picture of the famous scene. Untold rolls of film were sold to the many millions of tourists who shot nearly identical pictures from the same lookout points. Others chose, instead, to buy the inexpensive picture postcards, which were often also taken from the same vantage point, though sometimes at a different time of year and/or in better weather.

If you want your photos of landscapes and landmarks to stand out from the millions that were shot before you, you'll need to break the mold and make the scene something that is truly personally your own.

Here are some suggestions for getting great photos of landscapes and landmarks:

■ Get off the beaten path—Walk away from the road; get out of sight of other tourists (taking care to remain safe, of course). Look for views and places others have never seen.

■ Try interesting angles—Sally recently photographed a scene from her childhood: the bronze goat at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, where generations of children have played. So, she lay down on the ground on her stomach to shoot from the viewpoint of a child.

■ Look at the scene in new ways—When everyone else is standing at a lookout, pointing their cameras in the same direction, turn around and try to discover what they are missing. Sometimes, it's a photo of the group, all with their cameras in front of their faces.

■ Find the small details that define the moment—Is it a tiny flowering berry bush? Then, get on ground and shoot the scene from the viewpoint of the bush, with it in the close foreground. (You'll need to use a narrow, large number /-stop for such a picture, as we explain in Chapter 6.) Or, see what interesting shapes the shadows carve in a rock face.

■ Use telephoto to zoom in on a great graphical element—When others would use wide angle, try the opposite. "Isolate an interesting item," suggested Lewis Kemper. "Use the telephoto and eliminate foreground and background and distraction. Open up the lens to a fairly wide aperture." (See Chapter 6 about /-stops.)

■ Use people and animals in photos to give scale —When we were on assignment in Antarctica, we found it difficult to give a sense of scale in our pictures. Is that clump of ice in the ocean a small floe or an enormous iceberg? The problem is there's no human dimension in that most alien place on earth. If a seal were sunning itself on an ice floe, it suddenly made it easy to understand the size and scale of everything else in the picture. We use people as graphical elements in the same way. However, remember, you need to decide what the subject of your picture is. If it's the person, put him or her in the foreground and use a fill flash. (See Chapter 9.) If it's the scene, reduce the impact of his presence by putting him in the background or midground. However, don't let his placement appear accidental. It should be part of the entire composition, in terms of texture, color, light, contrast, and tension.

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