27 — Find the Rest of the Story

Today we're going on assignment to Paris, France. We've been told to "take photos of the Eiffel Tower" by our photo editor, who, for some reason, this time is being very unspecific. (It doesn't matter if they're specific or unspecific, you should still do the things I'm going to suggest.)

Everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like. If you do a search on the term and ask to see the images, you get something like this:

bythom eiffel tower


Almost without exception you get full representations of the monument, generally with a fairly distant feel to them.

That last part is a suggestion to try something different: go closer:

bythom INT FR PARIS Eiffel6


Did you need to see the entire tower to know what this was? Didn't think so. Getting in closer gives you more of a feel to just how intricate the construction is, and all the strange angles and arcs it has. You also start to notice the staircase (left side) ;~). 

Or we could go more extreme:

bythom INT FR PARIS Eiffel10


But those two images don't tell us anything about where the Eiffel Tower is. Can we somehow get that into our image? Let's try:

bythom INT FR PARIS Eiffel9


Hey, we even got the French flag in there! I wish I had a wider lens when I took this, as I'd like even more of the street and other buildings involved, but you have to shoot with what you brought sometimes.

Still not enough local flavor for me, though. How about this:

bythom INT FR PARIS Eiffel7


This starts to get to the thing that I want to do for my photo editor in travel photos: give a sense that, despite the fact that the tower itself is a strong tourist attraction, life goes on around it, as normal (well, normal if you like basketball as much as I do ;~). Perhaps a slightly different approach to the same thing:

bythom FR Paris EiffelTower 01-24-2002 1


If you're getting the sense that I was using my legs and eyes a lot, you're correct. All of these photos were taken within an afternoon as I tried to see the tower not just as a tourist might (thing), but more as what it was, an interesting monument in an interesting city. 

My actual assignment in Paris had nothing to do with the Eiffel Tower. My photo editor had a very different assignment for me, which ended up with me on my back on the floor of Notre Dame with a priest standing over me (story for another day). I actually did my afternoon of walking around the Eiffel Tower partly because I wanted to see the darned thing for myself, but also to "warm up" my legs and eyes and try to get myself into a mindset where I was not thinking about the "normal" shots, but trying to get myself opened up to opportunities that others might not see. Of course, I was pretty jet lagged when I took these images—another reason why I wanted to walk and try to make myself think photographically—so I can't claim that they're anything great. 

But that's another thing that a lot of amateurs don't think about: whether you're in the right mind set and rhythm to take good photos. The old American traveler cliche—If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium—is typically not conducive to excellent imagery. Why? Because it's a rush to a place, grab that shot, rush to another place, grab another shot. Repeat ad infinitum. Hmm, sounds like a shampoo instruction: rush to a place, shoot, repeat. 

To me that's "collecting photos", not taking photos. What I was trying to do with this little self assignment after getting off the plane from San Franciso (e.g. long flight) was just get myself back into the right photographic mindset. You should do that, too. Allow for time to acclimate before you start mashing the shutter release when you travel.

So, ask yourself this: are you rushing to go take a particular photo, or are you going somewhere and let the photo find you? You can be technically competent at photography, do the former, and not get much in the way of oohs and aahs for your images. You can be technically not-so-competent at photography, do the latter, and get lots of praise. Of course, the goal is to combine being technically competent and having the photo find you. That's when you start to develop a style, start attracting attention with your work, and make another ascent up the long ladder of ability. 

In case you haven't figured it out, these are all basically full frame scans of slides, which may explain the slightly odd grain/noise. I haven't really tried to do post processing on these images.

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