Sunday, May 1, 2011

St. Louis Arch - Avoid the "Walkup Shot"

St. Louis Arch by Tom Whitney Photography
St. Louis Arch, a photo by Tom Whitney Photography on Flickr.
I was in St. Louis a few years ago and had the opportunity to visit the arch.  Unfortunately, it was mid-day and the lighting was far from optimal.  So I started looking for perspectives that would make the most of the harsh light.  In this case I think it really worked to my advantage and it certainly helped me avoid the "walkup shot".

The "walkup shot" is the view that you've seen 1000 times before.  Every major photographic target has the same problem, from Portland Head Light to the Eiffel Tower, to the Taj Mahal ; it's been shot a million times - and mostly from the same vantage point and perspective.  What is one to do?
Walk around, under, over, and in this case through :-) the object.  Look through the viewfinder if you need to for perspective.  If you are using a zoom lens (wide or tele doesn't matter) zoom in, zoom out.  See if you can find something that is appealing to you, check your aperture.  Check your ISO and shutter speed, and snap away.  Chances are that you'll have a few keepers.

In this case, I chose to use the lighting on the stainless exterior to emphasize the sharp, knife edge corner of the arch.  If you didn't know that it was the arch, you might not be able to figure out what it is.  Here you have the light and the dark with the sharp line of contrast heading toward a vanishing point, but you can't quite tell if it's triangular or square.  It's always rewarding to me when someone looks at one on my photographs of a popular land mark and remarks "that's a great photo - what is it and where did you take it?".

For those of you who have not seen the arch up close and personal, it is surprisingly huge!  Each of the little rectangles is a large (4' x 8') sheet of stainless steel.  If you would like more information about this landmark, visit Gateway Arch at Wikipedia.

Keep shooting,


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