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Travel Photography Subjects: Architecture

Travel Photography Subjects: ArchitectureRounding the corner and heading to the finish of this 21 post series, today’s Travel Photography Subject is Architecture. Photographing architecture is more than just taking pictures of every building you during your travels. A bit of background: I am not an architecture expert and I don’t pretend to be. And this post will not be a lesson in architecture because I honestly can’t tell Baroque from Romantic. But I do notice patterns.

Being a novice in the field of architecture, when I travel I look for patterns. Patterns in architecture are easier to spot in homogenous areas, where towns were built up in a given period and thus given to that period’s forms. I think here of the cliff-side towns in Greece, the classic whitewash buildings standing out over the Mediterranean. A whole town of the same flavor? Easy to capture.

The challenge comes when trying to get a grip on an area with varied architecture. This happens often in towns more than a couple of hundred years old. As the previous Travel Photography Subject of Modern vs. Traditional pointed out, this mix within a city can be very photogenic. But that old building standing there amongst the modern skyscrapers, is it an anomoly, or are there others like it? And the skyscrapers themselves, sure there are the standard, block style concrete and glass structures famously built in the 70s and 80s. What about more modern designs that escape the dull four sided look?

It is certainly a good idea to learn a bit about the architecture of the location you will be visiting during a trip. With a quick search, I found this resource a handy tool to look up and learn the various styles. I am sure the more astute architecturally inclined in our readership can help with other online resources.

Beyond the subject of architecture itself is the means of photographing it. You may notice in the site I referenced above most of the photos are fairly standard, straight on shots. This is fine for a general feel, but starts tipping into my sore spot of average travel photos. My suggestion with architectural photography is to take those wide angle photos (I certainly did with the picture of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland) but also get into the details. That cathedral has enough ornate details work to fill a full day of shooting, especially in different light. Every building, or bridge or spire need not become a week long photographic obsession, yet more can be learned by zooming in and seeing how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

I love architecture because it always presents two questions for me; Why and How. These are structures that took time and intent to erect. Someone, likely more than one person, spent time designing with a specific purpose and then another group spent time to bring those ideas to fruition. Explore how it all fits and look for the why, be it ornamental, structural or practical.

I wold love to see your take on different architecture from around the world! Share a photo or a link in the comments section below.

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Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People, Religion, Sports, Socializing, Icons, Rich, Poor, Transportation, Economy, Food, Food Preparation, Weather, Art, Modern Vs. Traditional, Downtown, Views and History.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and highlight thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.  Be sure to subscribe to this site to receive the last subject when it posts!

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Peter West Carey

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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