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Friday, October 30, 2009

New Perspective On Iconic Subjects

How to move beyond the "stock" shot for better photos of popular subjects

This Article Features Photo Zoom

The Bean is so highly reflective that there only are several times of day to shoot, but I found that twilight, that 30 to 45 minutes after sunset, gave me my most interesting results, and the rich blue of the sky (that makes up so much of any shot of the round, highly polished structure) looked better than the daylight sky. The warm lights of the skyline reflected in that surface also looked good.

Weather Conditions. If you happen to be around when there’s an unusual weather condition, say, fog, a driving snowstorm, pouring rain or howling wind, don’t miss going out to shoot your icon in these special circumstances. That’s why, when I hear the weather might be turning bad, I hope it turns really bad because those extreme conditions provide a rare view of your icon. Mildly bad weather, on the other hand, a little haze or a nondescript sky, usually won’t give you the drama you need to make a striking shot.

Just Shoot A Part Of The Icon. Some icons are so, well, iconic that all you need is a part of them for your viewer to infer the whole. So, if you can find a great little café scene with one tower of Tower Bridge soaring in the background, you’ve placed your shot in London. In the case of The Bean, I came in close with a tele-zoom and shot the reflection of the Chicago skyline in just a part of the sculpture’s shiny surface.

Using the icon as a backdrop for prom kids having fun.
Juxtapose An Action In Front Of The Icon. Another way to get a new look at an icon is to use it as a background for some other, perhaps more common activity. A lot of photographers, for instance, shoot the skateboarders on La Place de l’Etoile with the Eiffel Tower behind them to give that Parisian icon a fresh look and a sense of moment.

I was in Chicago in May, prom season, and I noticed a lot of gussied-up high-school kids in tuxes and gowns coming down in the evening to shoot pictures of each other in front of The Bean. So, of course, I did the same thing, often hanging back with a long lens so all I’d see were the kids with this huge mirror surface reflecting the skyline behind them. It was fun to see how creatively these kids would pose and horse around in front of this giant mirror.

Use Extreme Optics. If you own a really long tele or an extreme wide-angle or fisheye, try using it on your icon. The extreme rendition of perspective with these lenses can help you come up with fresh angles and juxtapositions.


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