For Spring Break I was lucky enough to take chilly strolls through the canals of Old Amsterdam, warm up with a piping cup of hot chocolate in the Dutch countryside, and dodge bicycles as I learned the importance of yielding to a ruthless and high-speed biking lane. I filled my camera with hundreds of photos of windmills, canals, chocolate, waffles, cobblestone, bridges, and narrow red buildings.
This is the first of a three-part series that will give y’all some fun & helpful tips for travel photography: how to capture the essence of a culture, city, or place with photographs. Part One focuses on capturing newness in details.
The Importance of Being Specific
When you step into a new city, there’s a moment where you see everything at once. Your blinking eyes see the colorfully narrow buildings, the zipping bikes, the tallish people, the pastry shops, the sometimes ornate street lamps, the canals, the stone bridges, the water everywhere. And at first, you want to take sweeping photos of everything. While cityscapes (hello, Part Two) are beautiful shots, you’ll find that it might be hard to capture everything you’re feeling, all the newness you’re experiencing.
So take a moment, and look for the details. Find shots of smaller things that capture the bigger things.
The floral photo of Amsterdam above captures the beauty of an entire canal in Amsterdam, without taking a shot of just the canal itself. The flowers reflect my springtime visit and showcase some native or at least common flora (ferns in the top left for the colder climate). Note that while the overall focus of the photo is on the plants, the focal point is different — the edges of the canal lead our eyes to the bridge, presumably one just like the unseen bridge that hosts our flowers. This creates a dual-focus on both detail (natural flowers and bridge decor) and cityscape (the structure of the old city via waterways), creating more of a comprehensive portrait, than a simple photo.
Travel photography tip: look for specific, small features of the city and use them to tell a greater story or [metaphorically] fill in a larger frame.
Take a look at the slideshow below for ideas! The photos capture details from Marrakech, Morocco.