When we travel and take pictures in different locations around the world, we always want to capture a sense of place. In the industry we call these pictures establishing shots. One of these is oftentimes the two-page opening spread that carries the title, intro, and credits for a National Geographic Traveler story. On a weeklong photo workshop in Paris, this was one of the photographic concepts we focused on with the participants.
One photo shoot took us to the Eiffel Tower, where we talked about the exciting challenge of capturing a sense of place at such an iconic destination. When photographing a well-known monument like this one, you don’t need to include the entire structure in the picture. The photograph can often be more interesting if you include less of the building and use a shallow depth of field, so its presence is more suggestive and less obvious.
For example, when we shot our feature story “Paris in August” for Traveler, the summer heat was stifling. Crowds of visitors were in long lines waiting to ascend the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the views from the top. In the middle of the afternoon, the temperatures were getting hotter and hotter, and in order to make it bearable for the people waiting in long lines, water mist was sprayed to cool everyone down and prevent people from getting heat stroke. Getting down low and photographing this young girl who clearly was enjoying the cool mist, we were able to combine her joy with just parts of the Eiffel Tower in the background. Here, the arch of the tower frames her in the composition.
Photographed with a Nikon D3 and a 24-70mm lens. Exposure setting 1/500 sec, f5.6, ISO 200.
Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson are a husband-and-wife duo based in Glasgow, Scotland. The pair routinely photograph assignments for National Geographic and Traveler magazines and teach photography aboard National Geographic Expedition ships. See more of Sisse and Cotton’s collaborative work at keen press.com.