In my March 3, 2013 post, Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in Details, I have presented to you Part 1 of the 3-part series on how to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower the unconventional way. In that particular post, I showed different images of Eiffel focusing on the intricate architectural details using close-ups or detailed shots.
Part 2 focuses on how to get foregrounds right in photography. I am not talking about the technical aspect such as Depth of Field or changing the settings of the camera’s aperture. That is for advanced photographers to find out. I want to focus on creative composition and the framing aspect of taking images, as my intended target audience for this series is mainly the ‘tourist’ photographers, those who are not actually photography enthusiasts but love to take photos during their travels for photo souvenirs or for facebooking! As one photographer said, being creative does not require highly technical skills and knowledge; it just means looking at the world a bit differently.
Therefore, this post will show you different ways to compose a photo of the Eiffel Tower using the right foreground to add depth to your shot. Keep in mind that your composition tells the story that you want to project out of your photo, whether you use the DOF technique or keep the entire image sharp it does not matter….(as long as you know and understand what messages you want to convey and how it can be accomplished!)
As I mentioned in Part 1, the challenge is in finding the right angle or composition and taking the right shot in order to have your own unique photos of France’s global cultural icon.
So let us get started!
Part 2 of Eiffel Tower Series — Framing and Foreground
Most of us are fond of taking long shot or landscape shots like this with all the elements including the foreground sharp and clear.
In choosing your foreground for a landscape photography, you have to look for ‘leading lines’ that will draw the viewer’s eyes to your subject. If you see natural horizontal and vertical lines in the foreground such as roads, light posts or building, either you can line them up with your viewfinder to make them parallel or you can tilt your camera to create a sense of imbalance. Either way, your goal is to use these ‘leading lines’ to draw the viewer’s eye inside the scene up to your subject.
In landscape photography, you can also take in a vertical orientation instead of the usual horizontal landscape shots. You can use the same technique in applying the parallel elements in photography mentioned above. But I personally prefer the latter…using a subtle tilt to create unevenness in the surface to have a distinctive and out of the ordinary shot.
One thing you have to keep in mind before clicking the camera – Always check your foreground before hitting the shutter release. A common fault of photographers is to include unnecessary or distracting foreground. This happens when the photographer stands too far away from their subject. To eliminate distracting foreground, you should move closer to the subject or change your viewpoint or camera angle. Whichever ways you choose, do not forget the message you want to convey out of your composition.
For instance, the foreground of the photo above is a carousel from a nearby street fair. I eliminated the rest of the parts of the carousel with only the colorful decorated circular roof remaining. I angled the camera in such a way that the tower is placed on top of the roof showing as if it is part of the tower itself. Who would think it is the Eiffel Tower eh?
In the context of taking a shot of an iconic structure or landmark, consider adding foreground that compliments your subject. For instance, people can add significant foreground interest in a landscape shot of a famous landmark. It could be tourists taking photos or anyone within the foreground of your frame.
You can also find an interesting foreground that shows how your subject fits into its environment. For the tower, you can use any elements around that signify that the tower is situated at the heart of the city. It can be roads with passing cars, a park, a busy street etc. However, this is very ordinary so I looked for something unique. I was walking at the bank of River Seine when I saw this huge tree up on the highway. I zoomed in and angled the camera to include a portion of the tower. What comes to mind when you see the image below? One would think that the Eiffel Tower is not in Paris but somewhere on top of a mountain isn’t it? Or probably one will wonder if there is a hill near the tower!
You can also focus on details of the foreground by zooming in or moving closer. But keep in mind that your foreground should not take away the attention of your viewer’s eye to your main subject. Foreground is used to enhance the center of interest and not to outshine it.
Another to consider when choosing a foreground is the use of tone to set the mood of an image. A dark foreground can set a dramatic mood just like the photo below. You can do this by breaking the rule of “keeping the sun behind you” — Shooting against the light can result in a strong back lighting creating a very intense silhouette effects putting your foreground and subject in total darkness. What kind of mood do you think this technique was able to establish?
Another option is to use any structure or part of a building as your foreground to add depth to your image.
You may also take advantage of the available natural lines in architecture to create an intense visual impact to your image. Using strong vertical lines as foregrounds can give an impression of strength and stability drawing your viewers to your subject and creating a sense of artistic continuity.
Foreground does not only create a strong feeling of depth and scale but it also adds a little interest and leads the eye onto the main subject. It can also convey a different message or add to the emotion that an image communicates adding more impact to the image. What do you think is the message that is being conveyed by this image?
Try out taking the foreground interest at different sides to get that particular detail without drawing the viewers away from your subject. You can do this by moving yourself to get in close to some of its details with your subject clearly seen in the background.
By moving in closer, you make your foreground larger giving an exaggerated perspective of the scene. Applying this concept to taking a photo of an iconic statue or a famous landmark such as the Eiffel Tower, it gives you an unconventional shot, far different from what is regarded as normal. Looking at the photos below, would you even think it is the Eiffel Tower? What is your interpretation?
Foreground is an important element in composing an image. Therefore, check your foreground before taking a shot and find out what is missing that could enhance your image. Don’t just pick what is obvious, get creative and invite your viewer to see things the way you see it.
As Elliot Erwitt, a famous photographer, said, “Photography is the art of observation. It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I have found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Which images do you like the most? Do you have suggestions or tips for other ‘tourist’ photographers?
For more of the Eiffel Tower series, check out Part 1 here.