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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Showing the size

Often when I first come across a scene that blows me away I need to take a few minutes to sit back and take it all in. The temptation is to start photographing away without really taking the time to properly think about what exactly it is that's impressive. This often leads to images that often don't get to the heart of what really impressed you - and lead to that old phrase 'I never seem to be able to get in a photo what I saw.'

Is it the beauty, the light, the intricacy, the whole area? What it is that really stands out will greatly affect how you want to frame an image - in particular which lens you'll reach for.

In this particular case something I really wanted to show was how bloody huge the Taj actually is. Many of the shots you see are taken with wide-angle lenses and show the surroundings, but such lenses tend to make distant objects look small. To make a subject look really big you need to reach for the telephoto lens - the longer the lens the bigger it will look.

The other thing you often need to do is put something in the photo that is instantly recognisable - like a car, house or person - to give people a sense of scale.

So the first thing was to get the long lens on the camera and zoom to its longest focal length. (at that time a 75-300mm zoom) Once I had done that I needed some people to give a sense of scale so I waited until a large group of people were standing on the forecourt balcony. By filling the frame with the Taj (almost squeezing it in there) and having the people looking like ants at the bottom of the frame it really gives a sense of size.

While I had the lens on I started scouting around for other things that really stand out. I often find it easier to actually be looking through the viewfinder when I do this, although some photographers seemingly have the ability to just pull the correct lens out of the bag and hey presto they've got a composition.

Anyway while I was scanning I came across this.

I hadn't yet got close enough to the Taj to see the intricate detail and precious inlaid stones up close but seen from afar with a telephoto lens, the Arabic writing combined with the rounded curves of the Minaret just screamed out at me.

I love the juxtaposition of the almost hard lines and sharp curves of the front square part against the rounded, soft domes behind. I wanted to show the amazing attention to detail and love and care obviously put into the craftsmanship of the construction.

In the next post we'll start to walk closer to see what we can see.

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