Monday, March 14, 2011

Photography by numbers

click photo to enlarge
One of the tips I remember reading decades ago when I started out in photography was this: if you go to a place you've never been before and want to be sure of getting photographs of the "best" sights, go to a shop that sells postcards of the locality, buy some, and let them be your guide as to what to shoot and where to shoot it from. For someone who simply "collects" photographs and places it was good advice. But, if you were interested in making images that were the product of your own eye and mind, photographs where the subject is only part of the point of the shot, then it was very limiting advice, the result of which was not too different from painting by numbers.

Having said that, the shots that are sold as postcards are often taken from obvious and good vantage points, and frequently exhibit fine compositions. They should too, because they are usually the product of someone who makes his or her living from photography. Moreover, you can find yourself taking a shot that you subsequently see on a postcard simply because it presents itself so conspicuously. Such is the case with this photograph of Lincoln Cathedral seen from Castle Hill. The funnel of Georgian, Victorian and medieval buildings that lead to the fourteenth century Exchequer Gate (the arch of which one passes through to enter the cathedral precinct), together with the tall towers of the Norman and thirteenth century west end of the cathedral, make a satisfying composition. I've seen it reproduced in water colour by Peter de Wint, in oils and acrylic by contemporary artists, and in many photographs of the city.

Had I wanted a shot like the much reproduced images that one sees of this location I'd have waited until later in the day and year, when the sun was better illuminating the scene, when there was some blue sky, and there were more people in the foreground. As it was, I came upon it on a fairly dull, cold day in early March when the only person on view was a man giving out leaflets extolling the virtues of the meals at the local pub: he didn't seem to be getting many takers when we passed by.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On