Archive for the ‘Urban/Architectural Photography’ Category

Friday Foto Talk: Travel Photography Tips, Part II   3 comments

A misty view of some of the major temples at Tikal, the huge ancient Mayan city in Guatemala.

A misty view of some of the major temples at Tikal, the huge ancient Mayan city in Guatemala.

This is the second of three parts on travel photography.  Check out Part I, which covered gear & packing issues.  Given the time of year, this subject may be “right in your wheelhouse” , as they say.  So here are tips for when you hit the ground running (or jetlagged?).  Exciting stuff that first day on a long trip!  But how to go about getting your best shots?  Read on…

ON TOUR

      • Be ready:  While traveling, always be on the lookout for interesting photos.  This sounds obvious I realize, but many people seem to think their camera comes out only when they reach their destination.  As it is often said, it’s about the journey, and so should your photos be.  Many people get this of course, and I don’t want to preach.  Just keep your camera handy and ready to shoot from the time you leave home; that is my advice.
A common bird along Africa's waterways, the darter, is also known as the "snake bird" because of its sinuous neck.  I took a boat on the Chobe River to get this shot.

A common bird along Africa’s waterways, the darter, is also known as the “snake bird” because of its sinuous neck. I took a boat on the Chobe River to get this shot.

      • Start Slow:  If you fly a long ways, this is more important.  You will be jetlagged and/or adjusting to a completely different environment.  This is not a good time to be lugging all your photo gear around trying to imitate a crack photojournalist or Nat. Geo. stud.  In fact, this is a good excuse for pocketing your little point and shoot (which I recommend taking if you’re a DSLR person) and just wandering around shooting only when you see something you like.  Colorful murals, sculptures, you know, the easy stuff!  Beware:  that first day or so is by far the most likely time for you to be ripped off, or at least persuaded to buy something way too expensive.  You’re tired, naive and trusting.  It can be a good thing, just be careful.
Colorful murals like this one in Guatemala are an easy target for your camera while traveling.

Colorful murals like this one in Guatemala are an easy target for your camera while traveling.

      • Light is still important:  Get out early and be out late.  I see so many travel photos taken in horribly harsh light, even by people who usually shoot in great light near home.  The rules for good light, good photography, they don’t change because you are on the opposite side of the world.  Just because you are in front of a gorgeous and iconic sight like the Grand Canyon doesn’t mean your photo will turn out great if it is taken in bad light.  That said, when confronted with an amazing subject or event, shoot away, to heck with the light!
A young Mayan lady high up in the Guatemalan highlands, in the village of Todos Santos, one of 3 friends I met & had a barrel of laughs with.

A young Mayan lady high up in the Guatemalan highlands, in the village of Todos Santos, one of 3 friends I met & had a barrel of laughs with.

      • Wander:  There is nothing more exciting about travel than to head out with not much of a plan and an open attitude.  Seems obvious; that’s why you travel, right?  If I’m driving, I head down random side-roads.  In other countries, I will get off the bus if I like what I’m seeing and catch a later one.  Wandering the streets of a new town, especially in the early morning hours, gives you a different take on the place from those tourists who are sleeping in or doing the pool scene at the hotel.
Chili Peppers dry on a windowsill in the Himalayan village of Khumjung, Nepal.

Chili Peppers dry on a windowsill in the Himalayan village of Khumjung, Nepal.

      • Experiment:  You are traveling and in a strange place.  This is the time to take chances with your photography.  Try panning in colorful cities.  Look for unusual and gritty subjects.  Just take care to not exploit the locals, no matter their economic circumstance.  Another way to look at this is experimenting with your point of view.  Try new things!  It will get you into places from which you can take photos from a perspective that will definitely liven up your collection.  You might also meet interesting people you might never have run into had you not stretched your boundaries.
Experimental sunset, shot from a speeding boat in Sian Kaan lagoon in the Yucatan, Mexico.

Experimental sunset, shot from a speeding boat in Sian Kaan lagoon in the Yucatan, Mexico.

I climbed higher than I've ever done before while in Nepal - 6200 meters (20,350 feet).  Seemed like the thing to do.

I climbed higher than I’ve ever done before while in Nepal – 6200 meters (20,350 feet). Seemed like the thing to do.

      • Attend Local Events:  Related to the above point, be on the lookout for special festivals and events.  When the locals party, you can be sure there will be great pictures to be had.  If you have a little lead time, you can even chat up people you meet and offer to take pictures of them during the event.  You can even trade copies of the pictures for model releases.  I did this in Nicaragua for the family I was staying with, and oh boy what a party it was (see image below)!  I even ended up having my photography pay for my lodging and food too.
A wild and wooly Nicaraguan rodeo on the island of Omotepe was a riot of parades, parties and drunken bull-mania!

A wild and wooly Nicaraguan rodeo on the island of Omotepe was a riot of parades, parties and drunken bull-mania!

      • Variety is the spice with travel, so mix it up!  Get up close for detail shots, find expansive viewpoints, seek out very colorful abstracts (street murals are a gimme) and find good subjects for black and white.  Don’t eschew the over-photographed classics, just try to get a different take on them.  The goal is to not have any two or three pictures look very much alike.  Take a lot of pictures, yes, but make sure they aren’t all the same.
When on road trips, take pictures of the road!  But make it an interesting point of view.  This shot I got by climbing up well above this tunnel in Zion National Park, Utah.

When on road trips, take pictures of the road! But make it an interesting point of view. This shot I got by climbing up well above this tunnel in Zion National Park, Utah.

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned next Friday Foto Talk for the final segment, Part III.  If you’re interested in any of these images, just click on them to get pricing options for the high-resolution versions.  They are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission, sorry.  Questions?  Just contact me.  Thanks for reading!

A beautiful summer evening in Cape Town, and an illuminated Table Mountain looms over the city.  View from Signal Hill.

A beautiful summer evening in Cape Town, and an illuminated Table Mountain looms over the city. View from Signal Hill.

Wordless Wednesday: Back-Streets of Granada   2 comments

Two residents of Granada, Nicaragua slow down on one of the city's back streets as the day does the same.

Granada, Nicaragua

Single Image Sunday: Portland Cityscape   2 comments

This Sunday I’ll give a nod to my city, which is a nice one.  Most pictures of Portland that you see will have been taken from the east bank of the Willamette River.  This is a more unusual take, from the north on the upper deck of the Fremont Bridge.  I stopped very briefly on the left shoulder.  Luckily the light was beautiful and the traffic was light (it was late afternoon on Sunday).  The green field you see in the foreground was recently created from ugly industrial land.  I could have brightened the shadows a bit; the contrast is pretty high in this scene.  But I think I like it with the shadows and contrast, to further separate the buildings, which look fairly crowded from this perspective.

The view of the northwest side of Portland, Oregon's skyline is not one you see often.

This view of the north side of Portland’s skyline is not one you see often.

Hope your weekend is going well.  If you happen to have an interest in this image (which is copyrighted and not available for download without my permission), just click on it.  Then click “Purchase Options” to go to pricing options on the high-res. version.  It won’t be added to your cart until you choose one of the options.  If you want it framed, or have any other special request, please contact me.  Thanks for looking.

A Walk on Portland’s Waterfront   4 comments

The Willamette River flows through Portland, Oregon, as viewed from atop the Broadway Bridge.

The Willamette River flows through Portland, Oregon, as viewed from atop the Broadway Bridge.

Regular readers of this blog might wonder why on earth I would be hanging around so close to home for this long.  After all, most of the posts on this blog have been made from the road, either around the American West or in some of the world’s other beautiful places.  I am currently recovering from broken ribs.  I was thrown from a horse, and when I landed there wasn’t much doubt; the cracking sound was quite obvious!  So I’m trying to avoid cabin fever and getting out to shoot (in a mellow way) when the pain isn’t too bad.

Portland's downtown area nestles in behind the trees and grass of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Portland’s downtown area nestles in behind the trees and grass of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

This post will continue the occasional series on Stumptown’s highlights (it’s a cute nickname, don’t you think?).  I recently posted on some of our parks, and also on using urban photography as a way to shake things up .  In this post, I want to make a simple recommendation for any visit to P-town:  simply go down to the east bank of the Willamette River, just across from downtown.  Park somewhere close to that river, and then take a walk for views of the city.

A spiral bike ramp allows bicyclists traveling on the Eastbank Esplanade in Portland, Oregon to access one of the many bridges over the Willamette River.

A spiral bike ramp allows bicyclists traveling on the Eastbank Esplanade in Portland, Oregon to access one of the many bridges over the Willamette River.

You can park near or even at OMSI, the science museum on SE Water Ave. not far from the Hawthorne Bridge.  If you park at the museum, technically you should visit or else you could be towed.  Leaving time for a visit to OMSI is a great idea (I recommend the submarine), but if you don’t have enough time, just park near the museum to the north.  Then walk towards the river until you run into a pathway called the Eastbank Esplanade.  You can stroll north along this pathway and cross over to Tom McCall Waterfront Park (and downtown proper) on one of the several bridges along the way.

The setting sun in Portland, Oregon creates interesting interplay of shadow and light.

The setting sun in Portland, Oregon creates interesting interplay of shadow and light.

If you’re after photographs, shooting over to the city from the Esplanade is ever popular.  But getting up on one of the bridges will give you a multitude of other viewpoints.  My two favorite photos in this post, the Convention Center (below) and the picture immediately above, were both taken from atop bridges.  There are plenty of options, so just explore.  Using Waterfront Park on the west side, it is easy to do loops of varying lengths.  Just cross a bridge on the way to shorten the loop, or walk all the way down to the Steele Bridge to cross.

The twin glass towers of Portland's convention center stand against a deep dusk sky.

The twin glass towers of Portland’s convention center stand against a deep dusk sky.

Don’t expect foodcarts or other such options along the way, that is unless there is a festival of some kind going on in Waterfront Park.  This is a bicycling/walking/running path and is kept deliberately uncluttered so as to allow folks to stroll and enjoy the views of the city.  If you get thirsty or hungry, just strike “inland” away from the river and in a few blocks you should find something.

The Convention Center towers are in the background as I focus on the cherry blossoms on the cusp of nightfall.

The Convention Center towers are in the background as I focus on the cherry blossoms on the cusp of nightfall.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and that you’ll get a chance to visit Portland soon to see for yourself.  And if you’ve already been, come back soon!  It really is a nice city, very walkable and in the right light quite pretty with its bridges and riverfront.  If you’re interested in purchasing  prints or high-res. downloads of any of the images, simply click on them.  When you get to an image you need to click “add image to cart”, then you’ll have a tabbed list of prices.  The images are copyrighted, and so aren’t available for free download, sorry.  Thanks for your interest, and thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for a more nature-oriented post next time.

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

Friday Foto Talk: Cross-Training   10 comments

Sunset is a peaceful time to boat on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon.

Sunset is a peaceful time to boat on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon.

This Friday it’s all about cross-training.  No, not that kind.  We’re not going to bust out the sneakers and lift weights, run, swim and bike all before breakfast!  I’m applying this concept to photography.  The point I’m making here is this: whatever types of subject you are primarily interested in, there is much to be gained from going into a different environment to capture images from time to time.  Here I will use the example of landscape/nature vs. urban/street photography.

A view from the red Broadway Bridge in Portland, Oregon.  This required some real creative positioning to get the composition just right.

A view from the red Broadway Bridge in Portland, Oregon. This required some real creative positioning to get the composition just right.

Since I am primarily a landscape/nature photographer, it is a stretch for me to go into the city with my camera.  But as with many things, once I am there I lose myself in the moment.  For me, one of the bigger challenges in the urban environment is finding compositions without too much clutter.  I often need longer focal lengths on cityscapes than in landscapes for precisely this reason.

For example, there always seems to be annoying wires to deal with.  I’ve never found a picture in which wires add anything.  They only take away.  I wish that when Edison lighted New York City after inventing the light bulb, he would have pushed for burying utilities.  If they would have done that early on, it would have been much cheaper.  Now, with all the development, it’s nearly impossible to do so at a reasonable cost.

The cherry blossoms along Portland, Oregon's waterfront are a nice place for a stroll on an evening in springtime.

The cherry blossoms along Portland, Oregon’s waterfront are a nice place for a stroll on an evening in springtime.

Reducing the number of elements in your compositions is one of the many things the two kinds of photography have in common.  And moving into the environment with which you are less comfortable will force you to become better in this regard.  Finding more ways to simplify your compositions is but one example of how this kind of cross-training can benefit your photography.  I really feel that landscapes and cityscapes share much in common.  But at the same time they are dissimilar enough so as to make crossing over a useful yet fairly painless exercise.

A large warehouse, now in disuse, shows off its huge textured wall at Portland, Oregon's old rail station.

A large warehouse, now in disuse, shows off its huge textured wall at Portland, Oregon’s old rail station.

In both types of photography, you will be getting a variety of shots, from wide overviews to the smallest details.  And yet it will be a challenge to find leading lines, strong subjects, and dramatic backgrounds in the environment you are least familiar with.  A bonus for me is that living things are much easier to find in the city than in nature.  The kind of diversity you find among living things in cities is different than in nature.  And the approach you use to put the creatures at ease is quite different as well.  Animals are easier in some ways, in that they never ever ask for money and are never unhappy with their looks.  But in both cases, with people or with animals, once you have earned their trust, you’re in!

The Willamette River flows past Portland's port area with Mount Hood standing in the background.

The Willamette River flows past Portland’s waterfront with Mount Hood standing in the background.

Once the sun has set and you enter the realm of night photography, the city offers some unique challenges, not the least of which is the mixed lighting present.  But at blue hour, when the sky attains that deep purplish-blue color, and the lights have come on, cityscapes can truly be magical.  In the natural world, you are hard-pressed to include much of the foreground during blue hour, unless you have recognizable silhouettes or are next to water.  In the city, you can include as much foreground as you want since it is almost always well lighted.  Once the sky goes black, you need to minimize the sky in the city.  In nature, this is the time to go for the stars!

Deep shadows during the pretty but dimmer light of dusk presents a challenge for urban photography.

Deep shadows during the pretty but dimmer light of dusk present a challenge for urban photography.

This is just one example of photographic cross-training.  You can probably think of others.  Go ahead and include them in your comments below.  It is a great way to avoid the dreaded photography rut, of course; that’s the obvious benefit.  But it will also allow you to overcome challenges in a manner different from what you are used to.  Thus it will give you more tools to work with, both in and out of your favorite photographic environment.  I really think cross-training can greatly benefit the images you capture of your favorite subjects.  And as a bonus it will help to diversify your portfolio.

Downtown Portland, as viewed from the Fremont Bridge.  Not many drivers risk a stop here, so you can be sure this viewpoint is not over-photographed.

Downtown Portland, as viewed from the Fremont Bridge. Not many drivers risk a stop here, so you can be sure this viewpoint is not over-photographed.

Remember to click on any images you’re interested in to go to a larger version.  Then click “add to cart” to see price options.  It won’t be added to your cart with this first click; you need to confirm after seeing the prices.  Thanks for not downloading these too-small versions.  They are copyrighted and require my permission to use.  Please contact me if you have any questions or special requests, for instance if you wish to inquire about framed and signed pieces.

The skyscraper in Portland informally dubbed "Big Pink" reflects a technicolor sunset.  Reflective buildings often take the place of water in landscape photography.

The skyscraper in Portland informally dubbed “Big Pink” reflects a technicolor sunset. Reflective buildings often take the place of water in landscape photography.

Bridges   6 comments

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

The theme of the post is bridges, as inspired by Ailsa’s blog.  Check that out for many more bridge posts and pictures.  I live in a city with the nickname (among others) of Bridgetown: Portland, Oregon.  Most bridges span the Willamette River as it runs through the center of town.  But a couple cross the much larger Columbia  just north of town heading into Vancouver, Washington.

The view south from central eastside Portland takes in the Hawthorne and Ross Island Bridges.

The view south from central eastside Portland takes in the Hawthorne and Marquam Bridges.

The Morrison Bridge in Portland, Oregon opens for a pleasure boat.

The Morrison Bridge in Portland, Oregon opens for a pleasure boat.

When I go hiking out in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, there is a very interesting bridge I often cross in order to access trails on the Washington side of the river.  This is called Bridge of the Gods, named after the American Indian legend that tells of a natural span across the river at this point in ancient times.  It’s fascinating that geologists have, at this precise point along the river, determined that a landslide hundreds of years ago may have temporarily dammed the river.  In fact, if you climb up and view the area from above, you can see the remnants of this old landslide as plain as day.

The Bridge of the Gods crosses the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington.

The Bridge of the Gods crosses the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington.

The California Coast is the attraction to driving Highway 1, the Pacific Coastal Highway.  The Bixby Bridge is near Big Sur.

The California Coast is the attraction to driving Highway 1, the Pacific Coastal Highway. The Bixby Bridge is near Big Sur.

Along with scenic bridges such as those along the Pacific coast (such as the Bixby Bridge in California above), my travels have taken me across some great examples of foot bridges.  Take the suspension bridges along the trekking routes in the Himalayas, for example.  They receive constant traffic, both human and yak, and are just as important as highway bridges where roads not trails connect communities.  All of the supplies (not to mention the trekking tourists) that mountain villages rely upon must pass over them, so they are generally maintained.  I love any foot bridge, especially of the suspension variety, since you can make them sway and bounce so easily.  Strange that others on the bridge often get upset when I do this.

One of the main footbridges spanning a deep gorge on the way to Namche Bazaar in the Everest region of Nepal.

One of the main footbridges spanning a deep gorge on the way to Namche Bazaar in the Everest region of Nepal.

Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail crosses a high suspension bridge over Tacoma Creek.

Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail crosses a high suspension bridge over Tacoma Creek.

I like how on some bridges the builders took some time to decorate the abutments, or bridge ends (as in the image below).  Also the bridge itself is often decorated.  I have seen and crossed many bridges that unfortunately I haven’t photographed well.  The bridges over the Seine in Paris, Florence, the ones in Venice of course.

A bridge abutment in Thailand is carved into elephant heads.

A bridge abutment in Thailand is carved into elephant heads.

I live in an area with many old covered bridges relatively close-by.  It is sad that I have not spent the time to photograph them well.  This challenge has given me a kick in the pants, and when I can get down there (hopefully very soon) I will post an addendum to this.

The red light of a stormy sunset illuminates the Willamette River as it flows under the Steele Bridge in Portland, Oregon.

The red light of a stormy sunset illuminates the Willamette River as it flows under the Steele Bridge in Portland.

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