Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Tourist Shot

Late last week, Larry Patrick posted a photo of a California landscape on his blog. It was a classic Pacific Ocean/cliffs/beach scene, taken from high above. He did a really fine job with a neutral density filter to bring out the great dynamic clouds in the image. But I don't think he was 100% happy with the shot, and there were lots of comments and suggestions on how to improve it. A few days later he posted a second version which was cropped more panoramic, darkened, and converted to black and white. Here are links to the original and the altered. I think Larry's feelings about that image happen to all of us who are traveling and come to a scene that is, as they say, "mature." Scenes like the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower -- scenes that are so often photographed that it's difficult to come up with something novel. But you're there, you have your camera, so you pretty much have to take the cliched shot. The same thing can be said of my photo above. This is the rotunda on the University of Virginia campus, and I took this 5-frame HDR as I was setting up for some dusk/night shots later that night in May. It's straight in, not dynamic and unimaginative. It's a shot every out of towner takes as he or she walks through the beautiful campus. I suppose if you lived there you'd go to this location when it was snowy or icy and shoot the statue of Jefferson with bare trees blurred in the background -- a much more creative approach than this straight-in shot. But as a tourist on a late spring evening, you drop your tripod and take this shot, not because it's art but because it's your postcard-like memory of May 9, 2009.


  1. It's a well-exposed shot, thanks to HDR. I think you have already set the mood for the photo with your back story, which even to you is a postcard shot. It doesn't convey any real emotion to me nor elicit any from me.

    I went back and tried to look at it without thinking on the story and it still feels the same. It's a postcard; a very good one I might add!

  2. I like the shot a lot Steve! The lighting creates a nice play between the warm tones of the artificial lighting and the cool colors of the sky!

    Postcards are usually great shots taken by professional photographers so to that extent I suppose this would fit the label!

    Well done!

  3. We get so involved in trying to take museum shots that we sometimes forget that other types of images have a purpose. I think that this image will have meaning to you as you suggested.

    I agree with you. Many times we are somewhere and we may never be there again. Conditions are not perfect but we do the best we can!