A Sense of Place (Part II)

Before you arrive in a new location, do research. Looking at map is not enough. Nor are guidebooks necessary the only printed form of information at your fingertips. Get a compass so that you will be able to anticipate how the light will be at different times in the day in different locations. If your shooting location is near the tidal zones, look up the tide charts. Read as much as you can about the place not just in guidebooks but go to the web archives of travel magazines to learn what's new.
Visit the city's website to see if there are going to be events that will interfere with your plans or that you can use in your images.
Fireworks over the Bay Bridge, San Francisco
Chinese Parade
I have been reading the print edition of The San Francisco Chronicle during my stay this week. I discovered that its website has a great section of images of the city. Snooping around newspaper websites shows locations that differ from the standard tourist ones. Plus you might see some great photography. Today's lead shot on the Chronicle website is a beautiful aerial view of the Queen Mary sailing under the Golden Gate bridge. It will be in the Chronicle archives if you miss it on the home page.
Shooting tips specific to Dreamstime: there are not enough images of tourists themselves with San Francisco as a backdrop. See if you can street cast and get a model for a small fee if you find yourself there. Union Square is difficult to photograph because it is crawling with people who would need a release. But study it long enough and you will find a way to capture this landmark and be one of the first to have it on Dreamstime. Small architectural details are good subjects too as long as they are specific to the city. The light posts in Chinatown are evocative of San Francisco. And Fisherman's Wharf is famous for crab.
Chinatown, San francisco
Crab for sale
In this day of digital images, I really don't recommend leaving the camera behind as I suggested in Part I of this piece just in case an opportunity for a terrific image shows up. But if you exercise the discipline to look with your eyes before you put the camera to work, you will be more likely to study composition and light. I have created a collection of San Francisco skyline pictures for you to see. I also urge you to step off the beaten path in famous cities during a portion of your time to catch the unexpected.

Photo credits: Absolut_photos, Hasan Can Balcioglu, Chee-onn Leong, Christophe Testi, Michael Riccio, Karin Hildebrand Lau.

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Great article!...and thanks for using my Dancing Chinese Lion. Ellen. really appreciate it :-)



Wow...thanks so much for using my crab photo, Ellen! You just made my day!!! :-D


You have to be lucky, but you can push your luck with proper preparation.
Good point. I rarely leave my camera at home. And many times I have been very happy, I had it with me. Luck or preparation?
But you seem to be a very lucky person - with so many really great photos in your portfolio. :) Or was it because of preparation? ;))
Hey, thank you for the Dennis Gray link. That guy is amazing!!


Thats EXACTLY what I aim for in everyone of my landscape images
have a look
I had a look, but I can't imagine the landscape was like that ;-)
If you look at Ansel Adams and Dennis Gray (Absorbing Light), you just feel the landscapes weren't like that. Apart from catching the moment, you will always have to retreat in your digital darkroom and make the image sellable or pop up.
From the camera.
After Photoshop.


It reminded me Ansel Adams saying: There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
Another quote of the Great Master is that he went out on shoots often, but that he was happy with just one superb image per month. The point, however, is, that he would never have gotten that superb image without going out every day.

The lesson of this post is that you can't catch a unique moment without proper preparation, but then be ready to catch the moment. I'm an addict of tropical sunsets myself. For the few good ones I have, I can't recount how many times I have been sitting in the sand or between the mosquitoes and having to leave hungry (missing dinner) with nothing usable at all.

You have to be lucky, but you can push your luck with proper preparation.


"I really don't recommend leaving the camera behind as I suggested in Part I" - I wanted to make the same comment. It's great to have a compass and to read about a place in advance. But weather, clouds, light and sun can vary. What looks great today (and in theory will be better tomorrow) can be clouded then. Just take your cam always, make sure your batteries are charged, and be ready for the unique moment that never might come again. Planning is bright, but opportunity is a gift and not predictable.


Again, enjoyed this blog ! Thanks Ellen !


Maigi: Great quote. Thanks for your thoughtful input.


Great article! It reminded me Ansel Adams saying: There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. To have a clear concept in mind, one has to do exactly what you suggested. You have to get to know where you are, why you are, and what do you want. When talking about travel photos, it's vital to know what makes that particular place and moment so special that you want to freeze it and show it to others. Yeah, it's all about, do you wanna just click camera buttons or make a photo. When you wanna make a photo, you have to think and study much more. But it's worth it. The results are much more delightful. Thanks for reminding it! Great examples!
I have always wondered how to shoot perfect photos, what everyone likes to frame and look. But that's not the real question. The real question is, what I want to say, what is my message. And only then, how can I convey it through my photos. Studying of places can give a lot of fresh ideas for messages, what we could freeze in our photos. So, that's really great! Thank you!


Thats EXACTLY what I aim for in everyone of my landscape images
have a look
I attempt to make the viewer imagine that "they are there" part of the shot.
PS this is a DUMMY website. It's not open to the public

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