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“The best way out is always through.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Discover Architectural Details

Whenever I teach a class in photography the first assignment I give students is to photograph a piece of architecture. The practical reason I have for doing that is that everyone can find a building easily, while not everyone can find a great sunset or a pretty farm scene at will. Also, buildings don't run away from you the way your pets or other people might. Once you spot an interesting building you're pretty much free to explore it from as many angles as you can think of and in all kinds of different lighting and weather.

While overall views of buildings can be interesting, the real beauty of architecture is in the details. Whether it's the sign that says "Spike" over the doghouse door or the ornate embellishments of a cathedral, buildings are rife with photogenic detail. For example, I spent an entire afternoon photographing just some of the thousands of tiny details on the facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The shot of the figure here is just one of several hundred exposures I made. A zoom lens is a great tool for shooting details because the wide settings will let you photograph things like arches and doorways while the telephoto zoom settings will let you snatch more inaccessible details. No matter what the subject, grand or simple, spend some time with your building and watch as its personality and aura change as the light changes in direction, color and intensity.

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