A common phrase coined by property experts is that the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property are “location, location, location”. I believe this same terminology can be applied to photography in that the most important factor in many photographs is the location you shoot the subject from. Take some of the iconic and famous landmarks or scenes that are photographed, many from the same location thus making the image rather repetative and boring after a while. What makes a unique photograph is to come up with a different perspective of the subject matter, taken from a different angle or location differentiating the image from the usual norm.
The subject of this posting “Vantage Point” will explore this specific issue and was initiated by the Pinterest board of Light, a new camera technology company, wher photographers share a favourite location or unique spot where I have taken some images and describe how my image was captured. So I would like to explore the topic of choosing a unique vantage point in creating an image that stands out from the crowd and shows the subject matter in the best light (pun intended!).
Light – A Revoloutionary New Camera
Before discussing how to get the best vantage point in creating an image I’d like to take a moment to briefly introduce the incredible new technology from the Light camera company. It is not often we see an entirely new and radical piece of technology that could revolutionise current thinking but I feel that this new camera technology from Light could be regarded as such. We have all heard of small compact cameras or even phone cameras that claim they can produce high quality, high resolution images to match those that are created by full sized DSLR cameras. We, as serious photographers, realise that there are limitations of these devices and in difficult light situations or fast moving action they cannot match the capability of a high end DSLR.
The L16 compact camera from Light uses breakthrough optics design with the most advanced imaging engine ever created to give you the control of a DSLR with the convenience of a smartphone. With many cameras firing simultaneously, the L16 captures the details of your shot at multiple focal lengths, then fuses that information to create an incredible image with up to 52MP resolution. Using multiple lenses with different focal lengths and unique software to merge these images can create high resoltion (52MP) images which look incredible. Check out all the details of this unique technology and sample photos at their website https://light.co.
A photographer can take a photo in a fraction of a second ….. what could be easier? With autofocus, auto exposure, auto white balance, and fully automatic camera settings a photo can be taken by anyone. But, how do you make an image, how to make an image with impact and meaning and how do you provoke an emotion in the viewer to understand the story you are trying to tell. There really is a big difference between taking a photo and making an image. I have seen so many photographers go to the standard viewing point of a well known view or landmark and simply snap off a few frames without thinking.
Here is an example …… I was at the famous and iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, India and captured a “standard” image of the magnificent building as shown below. Great photo but then everyone who visits this locations has the “same” photo.
However by just walking a short distance to one side I managed to take an interesting and different view of the building with some foreground interest as shown here.
Alternatively moving in the other direction I took a completely different perspective again through the trees of the garden.
Walking around the back of the famous landmark I took yet another view not often seen by most of the tourists and which gives a completely different perspective.
So it is important to move araound your shooting location and get yourself in a different spot.
Before even going to the location where you plan to shoot the image it is sometimes very important to do some research on potential locations from where you may potentially get a different view. Nowadays with online map applications like Google Maps it is so much easier to do your scouting online prior to arriving at the shoot location. There are also some great apps now which give you sunrise/sunset and directional information which can help you to determine the best time or direction to shoot from.
Once I arrive on location I take some time to look at the subject and try to find a different view or perspective. Take a walk around the area or even a drive around to evaluate different viewpoints. This can take some considerable time but is really the most important factor in determining how the final image is captured.
Once the prime location to shoot from is determined you may also need to spend some time at the spot waiting on just the right time to capture your image depending on the ambient light conditions at the time. Perhaps you are waiting on the dawn light or sunset or some special cloud conditions to add some atmosphere to the image. So many times I have almost walked away from a location thinking I have finished when the light changes and the scene changes dramatically for the better. So take your time and when you think you are finished, take another walk around the site and wait some more …. you may get a pleasant surprise.
Just a short while before I captured the feature image in this article the weather conditions were bad, it was rainy and cloudy and I was almost going to give up the shoot. The photo below highlights just how bad it was.
However I persevered and waited and incredibly the weather cleared the cloud and mist moved and I got my image.
Time is the most important investment you can make in getting good landscape pictures.
My Vantage Point
The image I have highlighted for this story is from one of my favourite locations here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I feel this captures the very nature of this city with the modern concrete city nestling in the dense jungle and surrounded by the hills. You can see many of the key landmarks of the city such as the Petronas Twin Towers, the KL Tower as well as some of the key architectural buildings of the city.
The image was captured from high up in Bukit Kenny (Kenny Hills) from a small dead end road that runs up to a radio mast tower and some Government official’s house. The location provides an open, unimpeded view over the city and with the jungle foliage of Bukit Kenny in the foreground gives it a luxuriant, tropical feeling.
I was lucky to be very familiar with this part of the city as I lived in this area for many years. I knew all these small side roads. So if you are going to find a good shooting location anywhere it is important to speak to the locals ….. they know may locations or areas you would never go to just as a visitor.
So I knew this location, knew approximately where I was going to set up, knew what equipment in terms of lenses I would need and was already to capture my envisaged image …… however I did not account for the weather. On arriving on location the clouds were low, it was misty and there were banks of rain coming over. After waiting some considerable time I was ready to abort the shoot but I stayed on and amazingly the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the mist evaporated.
So after waiting on the weather to clear I captured the final image by taking 7 separate bracketed shots using a Canon 5DMkIII mounted on a tripod and using a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. The images were them merged using AuroraHDR, recropped and slight adjustments made to to exposure.
Just for comparison here is a single shot I took of the same scene …… the bracketed HDR shot certainly brings out far more detail and a lot of drama in the clouds which make this image.
Mission complete …… worth the patience and perseverance.
I managed to capture this final image by choosing the best vantage point but also by using the best camera and software technology I had available to me. I am excited by the new Light L16 camera which has leading edge camera technology and software in one unique compact bundle which would be great to carry around with me everywhere. I look forward to the opportunity to try out this unique camera and perhaps re-shoot this featured image location with the new Light L16.
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
Stuart Taylor of HighlanderImages Photography has been making images for over 25 years and can offer a diverse range of photo imaging services with a focus on Asia and a documentary/photojournalistic style. These services include planning and executing a photo shoot on location but importantly all the post-processing and image preparation needed for the specific finished media format required by the customer. Stuart’s experience and knowledge in all of these aspects makes HighlanderImages Photography a one-stop-shop for a comprehensive and professional image production service.
Stuart can be available for a variety individual assignments or projects and he specialises in areas such as photojournalism, commercial, architectural, real estate, industrial, interior design, corporate, urbex, adventure, wilderness and travel photography. Stuart can also offer some innovative and advanced techniques such as HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Panoramic Photography.
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