How to Photograph Anything
To minimize the angular distortions of looking upwards, always look for a high viewpoint. Ascend stairs, stand on top of another building or the crest of a hill. If you can’t get high, stand far back.
Use the widest angle you have (24-30mm). Bright blue skies are to offset the gray of the building. A polarizer cuts down on window reflections. Try to include people for scale and human interest.
Look for interesting details, often around the doorway, columns or windows. Zoom in and isolate the detail. Here the diffused light of an overcast day works best.
Stand well back or shoot from outside through a window. The low-light dictate a long exposure, so load up with fast film. Bring a tripod if they’re allowed or, if not, find a support (a wall, your friends shoulder, or lean against a doorway). Use a cable release, or the self-timer to avoid moving the camera.
Remember to switch off the flash If it is not allowed. If it is, you can bring up dark areas by firing a hand-held flash into them while the shutter is open. Natural lighting casts shadows for a tranquil atmosphere. Expose for the highlights.
Always have something in the foreground. This gives depth and scale — using a person also adds human interest. Look for a high vantage point such as a hotel balcony, roof-top restaurant, or wall. Late afternoon is usually best. Use a polarizer to enhance the sky. Haze increases with distance and this aerial perspective gives a subtle impression of distance and depth. Ansel Adams declared landscape photography to be the supreme test of the photographer.
With sprayed water, use side- or backlighting for a translucent look. This also works well with smoke, grass and leaves.
Experiment with a slow shutter speed, perhaps 1/30 to 1/4s so that the rushing water creates a soft, romantic blur. I like 1/8s. A tripod or other support is necessary. Be careful with a polarizer — it can enhance the colors but it also removes reflections that you may want.
The best times are when the sun is just about to touch the horizon, and the afterglow 10-30 minutes after the sun has set. Usually automatic metering works fine, but with high contrast, meter off the brightest part of the sky. Try adding a person in the foreground (they’ll appear as a silhouette) for human interest, depth and character. Either include a reflection from the ocean, or eliminate the scenery and keep the horizon low in the frame. A zoom lens is useful and You’ll need a tripod or wall for support as the shutter speed will be slow.
Dusk and Night Shots
Dusk shots are best about 15-30 minutes after sunset, when there is still some color in the sky. To add depth, shoot from one end of a bridge or find some other feature coming towards you. A tripod is a necessity. Auto exposure usually works fine but also try manual exposure using a cable release and the ‘B’ (bulb — open) setting. Take several shots with 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 seconds. Use an FL-D magenta filter to overcome the effect of tungsten lights on daylight film, and to add a pink to the sky.
In Bad Weather
Bad weather doesn’t mean bad photographs, it just changes your options.
Overcast skies reduce contrast and are preferred for trees and foliage. Colors may appear cool and blueish so add an 81A, B, or C filter to warm up the image. If the sky is boring, disguise it with an overhanging tree, or exclude it completely by raising the horizon in your frame. When low clouds or rain reduce color saturation, try black and white film to emphasize the range of gray tones. You may need a faster film (ISO 200 or 400) since there’s less light.
Storms and heavy rain add drama and power to an image. Dusk shots are improved with reflections of neon lights in puddles. Clouds create moving patterns of interesting highlights, particularly when a storm is clearing. Fog make lakes, rivers and valleys look ethereal and primordial.
Rain or snow makes people, kids especially, wear colorful clothing. Cover your camera with a coat, umbrella, or even put it in a plastic bag. In snow, give a slight overexposure (slower shutter speed or ‘+1’) to keep the whites free from appearing dirty gray.
Copyright 1997–2007 Andrew Hudson for PhotoSecrets / Photo Tour Books, Inc. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email me for permission.