Friendly Friday Challenge: think about your viewpoint
Photography is an art of observation. . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.Elliott Erwin
Before photographing your subject, it’s worth taking time to think about where you will shoot it from. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. As well as shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.
For this week’s Friendly Friday Challenge I’d like to share some examples of what I mean about the importance of thinking about your viewpoint before pressing the shutter.
The South Gate, Angkor Thom
It’s always worth moving a few steps away from the first position you select for a photo, just to explore other possibilities. When I posted a photo of the bridge at Angor Thom a few weeks ago Rusha commented ‘I loved that bridge but never thought to go off the bridge to capture the whole’. That’s exactly the idea I want to promote today.
The perhaps obvious thought when you first see that bridge was to photograph it from the road.
But it’s probably impossible to do that without getting a lot of other tourists in the shot. Plus, you don’t see the detail of the carvings along the balustrade either side of the bridge, or of the magnificent South Gate at the far end.
My next shots were better. I concentrated on individual elements of the bridge. The statues of gods and demons; the face (probably) of King Jayavarman VII looking down at us from the gate; the view down to the moat. All of these help to build a picture of the bridge.
But I was still on the bridge. So next I tried some shots from the side, down on the bank of the moat. From there I could show the line of gods supporting the naga (a mythical multi-headed snake) leading to the gate beyond. And the gods successfully hide the other tourists up on the bridge! But even here I experimented, taking both landscape format and portrait format shots. I also tried a more zoomed-in one which foreshortens the perspective and adds some drama.
But in the end my favourite was the landscape one which I used in that previous post. I feel this works well on several counts. It shows enough of the bridge to tell its story, while also showing you the setting. The trees frame the shot nicely (remember my Frame your Subject post?); there’s a bit of a reflection of the gods in the water; and the sunlight positively gleams off the lichen in the partly dried-up moat.
Maybe you’ll disagree; photography is subjective after all. But for me this image is a significant improvement on that first shot on the bridge, and was worth the small effort to seek out a different, better, viewpoint.
Some other examples
Here are some examples of pairs of shots from the same location, one more ‘conventional, the other a bit different in its approach. I’m not suggesting one is better than the other; often you need multiple shots to tell the full story of a place. But it can be the case that the choice of a more unusual viewpoint gives you the chance to be more creative with your images. Sometimes that will result in a more pleasing shot, sometimes it won’t. But it’s always worth the experiment!
The ‘proper’ name for this temple is Rokuon-ji or Deer Garden Temple, but no one seems to call it that. This is for sure the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji; no other name would suit it half as well. It is one of the most visited sights in Kyoto, and also one of the most photographed. You wouldn’t know it from this shot but I had to stand elbow to elbow with many other visitors to get the views I wanted.
Having taken the classic shot of the temple reflected in the water we started to walk around the lake. As soon as we left that first viewpoint the crowds thinned; I am sure a few visitors never progress further than this in their rush to ‘tick off’ the sights of Kyoto. They’re missing a lot, as the gardens here are beautiful and there are also some interesting different views of the temple to be found. I was particularly struck by its reflection in the lake, turning the water as golden as it is.
Pak Ou Caves
These caves in Laos are famous for the hundreds of Buddha statues of all sizes deposited here. They range from tiny to huge and are in a variety of materials.
There are just a fraction of them visible in my standard record shot taken inside one of the caves. Many of them were situated so far back in the cave that the light wasn’t sufficient for decent photos. I’m not sure flash would be allowed but in any case it would seem disrespectful and also kill any atmosphere.
The caves are located in a cliff above the Mekong River, which you cross to reach them. Looking out at the river from inside the cave enabled me to get this rather different shot of the statues, silhouetted against the bright light outside.
While this loses all the details of the figures, it places them in context in a way that the standard shot cannot do.
Ahu Tahai, Rapa Nui
Ahu Tahai is the name commonly used for a large complex of moai, on three separate ahu, located very near to the town of Hanga Roa.
One of its three ahu, Ko Te Riku, is the only one standing on the island to have had its eyes restored. This, and its proximity to the town, make it one of the most photographed of the moai. This is a pretty standard face-on shot.
Nearby stands Ahu Tahai itself, with a single rather weathered moai. The contrast between the two is striking, and it’s possible, with some careful positioning, to get both in the same shot.
Berlin’s famous television tower is much-photographed of course. It is the tallest structure in Germany and was built in the former East Berlin as a statement of Communist power.
The sun’s reflection on its windows forms a cross, leading to its nickname of the ‘Pope’s Revenge’; the GDR government had removed all crosses from the city’s churches.
But talking of reflections, I find it fun with city buildings to look out for opportunities to photograph them reflected in the windows of other buildings nearby.
The Monument to Party Foundation
I’m finishing with a set of three images, although in truth I took far more than three of this iconic sight. The Monument to Party Foundation in Pyongyang was erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party. My first shots here were regular record shots of the monument with its massive clenched fists; one holding a hammer, one a sickle and one a writing brush. I included some people this time as I wanted to show the scale.
But I took my time looking for some more unusual shots too. Looking directly upwards from inside the circle gave me a very different angle on the fists towering above me.
And from the far side I could show it dominating the trees of a small park; and with a couple of passing locals to further emphasise the scale of the monument (you may have to squint to see them!) As an added bonus, here I wasn’t having to compensate for shooting into the sun which had resulted in rather flat lighting in my initial shots.
Over to you
In the past, using expensive film, we didn’t have the luxury of being able to experiment like this. But now, with unlimited digital shots available to us (as long as you remember to carry a spare card and battery!) we do. So have a go, take lots of shots from different angles and see which ones work best. Under normal circumstances I’d also advise learning the art of self-appraisal and weeding out the less successful shots before sharing your results. But for this challenge I’d love to see some examples where you tried different approaches before settling on your preferred viewpoint! See what you can find in your archives; or maybe get out on a photoshoot and experiment with different angles and views.
Please leave a link in a comment below, as pingbacks don’t always work on my site. Also, my nephew is getting married this weekend so I’ll be tied up with family most of the time. That may mean I’m slower than usual to acknowledge your comments and contributions; but rest assured, I will read everything and respond eventually!
Thank you to everyone who had a go last time around, sharing your leading lines images. I loved seeing them all!
- Bren shared a line of beach huts under stormy skies
- Teresa showed us London’s Millennium Bridge, perfectly placed for shots of St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern
- Aletta led us along some inviting paths
- Brian doubled up with the LAC light and shadow theme
- Siobhan took us along the Lower Crooked River
- Philo used walls, streets and even a travellator to create leading lines
- Manja looked for lines in her cat photography
- Elizabatz took us around the world with her leading lines
Oh, the Places We See
Here’s a link to my post Tulips and Windmills: Just another day in The Netherlands. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives of the windmill De Herder: https://ohtheplaceswesee.com/2022/07/11/tulips-and-windmills-just-another-day-in-the-netherlands/
Thank you for linking and sharing your post 🙂
Oh, the Places We See
Your photos from the bridge and beyond at Angor Thom are terrific! I was with a group that didn’t want to wait on me to go below, so now I can see what I missed! As always, I’m learning from you.
Ah yes that’s a disadvantage of group travel, and one reason we try to avoid it. We’re always the ones holding up the group while we take just one more photo! OK three more 😆
Oh, the Places We See
I can identify!
I found some photos to illustrate your point of view post. It brought back some wonderful memories. Thanks for these great lessons. https://alwayswrite.blog/2022/07/10/wear-red-and-just-be-silent/
Thank you for joining in Marsha, it’s great to have your contribution 🙂
Sarah this is a very informative post. You have such magnificent subject matter in addition to your skill and practice. The Bridge and South Gate shots from different angles almost don’t look even like the same bridge. I’m going to check out your Framing post. My dad always took record shots and taught me to frame my shots. In your last group, I like the person in it to show the perspective. I also like the greenery around it. I’ll have to look through my archives to find some different perspectives.
Thanks so much Marsha 😊 Do come back if you find some examples to share, as I’m sure you will!
philosophy through photography
Love the bridge and South gate.
Lovely examples for the theme.
Thank you Sarah
Thank you for the feedback and for joining in the challenge 🙂
Love the quote at the beginning of the post, Sarah! I agree with you on the best shot of the bridge. The leading lines draw your eyes and the trees frame the shot.
Thank you Siobhan 🙂 For some reason I only just got notification of this comment – I do apologise for the delay in acknowledging it, your feedback is always very welcome!
And for this reason (by taking time with your photos and think about it), your photo’s are just in a different class of beauty. The reflection of that yellow temple in the water – that’s something I would never have thought about and what a brilliant picture it turned out to be!
Thank you, that’s such a nice thing to say ☺ I do feel it’s worth taking the time to look around and consider if there could be a different angle on the photo or an opportunity to shoot something a bit out of the ordinary.
Your photos are terrific as always. You are an inspiration to many of us.
Here is my entry for the week.
That’s such a lovely thing to say Cee ☺ Thank you for joining in the challenge, and for the work you do collating all the challenges so that others can easily find them.
Beautiful collection of different angles and perceptions in these pictures 🙂
Thank you 🙂 I hope you’ll join in the challenge with some examples of your own?
I’ll have to give that some thought because I think it would be really fun 🙂
I. J. Khanewala
I first photographed Kinkakuji from that classic corner, but in the middle of an incredible downpour ,with a real 35mm camera (the camera survived). All my subsequent visits have seemed pale and insubstantial in comparison 🙂
Wow, I would like to see that image but I suspect as it’s 35mm you’re not able to share? The rain must have ruined any reflections but created a very different atmosphere!
I. J. Khanewala
The atmosphere was superb: irises growing along the pond, and a misty view of the golden temple.
Great images, Sarah!
Thank you Sue 🙂 Sorry about the delay in replying to your comment but I’ve been away for the weekend celebrating my nephew’s wedding!
You provided excellent examples and descriptions of the pros and cons of different viewpoints! I’ll keep these tips in mind when shooting and editing.
Do – and maybe share some examples for the challenge?!
Good examples and advice Sarah. In this age of digital pictures, it’s always affordable to experiment with different viewpoints. Looking for the one perfect shot doesn’t doesn’t have to happen while taking the picture, it can be chosen after, as long as there’s a selection to choose from. Thanks for taking me back to Angkor & Laos, I recognise those places 🙂
Exactly Sandy – digital allows us to indulge ourselves in exploring multiple viewpoints 🙂 I do hope you’ll join in the challenge?
Sorry for the delay in replying to comments but I’ve been away for the weekend celebrating my nephew’s wedding!
I haven’t been taking a lot of photos recently, so I don’t have anything new that illustrates your point exactly.
However, to demonstrate the benefit of taking multiple pictures with different viewpoints, I’ve finished a video essay from an earlier trip to Japan.
Oh yes Sandy, that demonstrates the point I was making perfectly. A single image or even a handful of images couldn’t have achieved the same ‘coverage’ of that temple that your wide variety of shots has done. And compiling them into a video is a great idea (one I may pinch!)
I never knew about the ‘Pope’s Revenge’ on the Berlin TV Tower Sarah. I love these sort of snippets 🙂
Thanks Malcolm – that’s part of the fun of sharing and reading blogs, isn’t it? You learn all sorts of new things!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
Thank you for the excellent tips, Sarah. I am by no means a professional photographer. I basically aim and shoot, but I will take your advice and start looking for other vantage points for better photographs. We’re never too old to learn, and I appreciate you for sharing this lesson.
You’re more than welcome. I’m certainly not a professional photographer after, but I’ve studied a bit and like to learn from looking at other people’s work too. Anyone can have a go at improving their photography, and trying different viewpoints is a great way to start! If you have a go why not share them for this challenge?!
I’m a big fan of different viewpoints, and oddly, among a clutch of fabulous photos here, my favourite is that of the reflections of the TV tower on the Alexanderplatz. I used to favour very low viewpoints for some scenes too. Now my body tells me that’s not such a good idea. Bother!
That’s one reason I love my Panasonic Lumix – it has a rear screen that swivels out and can be tilted, to I can take low viewpoint shots without getting down on the ground!
Oooh, I’ve got a Panasonic Lumix too, but evidently not quite so posh!
I’ve got two – a compact with a fixed screen and my bridge camera with the swivel one (and a much better lens)
Appreciate learning new tools of the art of photography, Sarah!
Good to hear – I hope you have fin trying some new photography angles 🙂
I’m with MARGARET21 – I no longer have the option of figuring out the best angle. My main problem now is to figure out whether I can even take a photo of something – not what the best viewpoint is but whether I can get any photo. If I’m on a scooter, my straight ahead photos are lower down to the ground than most people’s, and I can still take photos looking up.
I have to disagree about film – even with film, I experimented with angles. In those days I might not have taken as many photos, it was fun to see whether I could come up with a different view of something that everyone else had already taken a million photos of. I couldn’t see them right away, of course. But I did take them. Maybe I got this from my parents. My parents were very frugal – except with film.
Oh, but do you remember the frustration of waiting for them to be developed.? And the anguish when you got the wrong ones back? (It only happened to us once)
Oh yes, Margaret, I remember that delay while waiting to see the images! Luckily we never got the wrong ones back however 🙂 We learned to develop our own 35mm slide film so would spend evenings after the holiday in our kitchen doing them in order – two at a time (one from each of us for fairness), left drying overnight on pegs. Then it was my job to cut them and clip them into frames before we could finally see them with the projector! It was a lot of work (we used on average a film or a little more each every two days, so a two week holiday would mean 14-16 films) but fun, and saved us a fortune!
Rosalie, I can imagine the scooter would add an extra set of challenges but I’m pleased you persevere 🙂 I too used to shoot a relatively large number of shots with film and would experiment quite a bit with viewpoints, but I don’t think that was the norm. As I said to Margaret above, I would take probably 18-25 shots a day, which is very few by my own standards today but was a lot then compared with other people I knew. I would come back form a two week trip with maybe 10 rolls of film when my friends were returning with just two!
Indeed! Good plan. I never learned to do that. We once got sent back some photos clearly taken in the early days of a baby’s life, returned then quite horrified at thee young family’s loss, and the developers shrugged their shoulders – and did nothing. You were saved such diasasters for sure.