Three different versions of a waterlily photo
Lens-Artists,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: three ways of seeing

Photography is pretty simple stuff. You just react to what you see, and take many, many pictures

Elliott Erwitt

For me, one of the most important words in that quote is ‘many’. So often I observe some with a phone or camera taking a single photo of a sight and moving on, in a hurry to reach the next. In the pre-digital days when every picture taken meant a hit to your wallet, that made some sense (although even back then I was relatively profligate with film and was never happy with only one shot). Today it strikes me as strange, but then I am rarely completely happy with my first shot of anything!

This week for our Lens Artists challenge Patti reminds us to slow down, take a longer look at a subject, and experiment a bit. I tackled this topic in a Friendly Friday challenge a few months ago. There I talked about the importance of not always settling for the first shot that comes to mind. In that post I allowed myself the luxury of sharing multiple viewpoints of my chosen subjects, but Patti wants just three. So this week I’ve hunted out a few different examples from my archive.

Growing mushrooms

For my first set of images I’m taking you, as I so often do, to North Korea. But this is a very different side to that enigmatic country. On any tour there you are taken not just to the big sights but also to some very unusual ones. They are proud of their achievements in industry and farming and want you to see how advanced they are. (Any less successful efforts are of course strictly off-limits to tourists). One of our visits was to a mushroom farm, although to me it felt more like a factory. We were shown how a small team of women inserts the spores into plastic bags of compost. We then walked through large rooms filled with racks of mushrooms at various stages of growth.

Passage between metal stacks of growbags

My shot of one of these rooms was a good record of what we saw. But it was hardly very interesting photographically.

Mushrooms growing out of plastic bags

Likewise a closer look at the plastic bags with mushrooms sprouting out of them. It shows you how the mushrooms are grown, but visually it’s pretty dull.

Close-up of curved mushrooms

But when I got closer and started to play around with almost abstract shots of the mushrooms themselves, finally I felt I could get some decent images. I loved their sinuous curves and the play of light and shade.

The Virgen de Quito

El Panecillo is a small hill in Quito, the Ecuadorean capital. The name means ‘the little bread loaf’, because of its shape. The hill was a sacred site for the Quechua. They had a temple to the Sun god (Yavirac) here and called the hill Shungoloma, meaning ‘hill of the heart’.

Large statue on a hill dotted with houses

Today the hill is crowned with a statue of the Virgen de Quito who watches over and protects the city. This dominates the skyline when you look south down any of colonial Quito’s avenidas.

Large statue with wings and a halo

But you’ll get a better look at the statue if you climb the hill (ideally in a car or taxi, as the steps that lead here are notoriously bad for crime and tourist muggings).

A shot taken from the foot of the statue gives a better idea of its size, at 41 metres tall. You can also see how the Virgin stands on top of a globe and steps on a serpent, a traditionally symbolic way to portray the Madonna. Less traditional are the wings. Indeed, locals claim that she is the only one in the world with wings like an angel. The statue is full of movement – she might almost be dancing – very different to the usual static portrayals of the saint.

Face of a large statue with halo of stars

Zooming in on her face you can see just some of the seven thousand pieces of aluminium of which she was constructed.

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna

The Hofburg was built in the 13th century as the principal imperial palace and winter residence of the Habsburg dynasty. It has been much added to over the years, and today is the official residence and workplace of the president of Austria. It is a sprawling building, taking up a large plot on the city.

Curved building with columns and deep blue sky

This impressive frontage is the Michaelertrakt (St. Michael’s Wing), one of the palace’s newer wings, dating from the 19th century. We were here on a lovely sunny day but the light wasn’t great for photography, as much of the building was in shade.

White sculpted figures with a backdrop of green roof and blue sky

I decided to focus most of my attention on some of the details of the palace that were better lit. While details alone don’t show the scale of the building they do hint at its grandeur. I liked the contrast of green dome, white sculptural pieces and blue sky.

Roof with white sculpture of an angel blowing a golden trumpet

Zooming even closer I picked out individual figures within the sculptural groups. I liked this angel’s golden trumpet and feathered wings.

Salto Grande, Torres del Paine

These falls link two of the Torres del Paine National Park’s lakes, Lake Nordenskjöld and Lake Pehoé. They lie about a kilometre off the park road along a level but stony path. When we visited the winds were incredibly strong, making what must usually be quite an easy walk into something rather more challenging. But the scenery along the way was stunning. It would be well worth the effort even without the reward of a waterfall at the end of the path!

Waterfall in a bleak mountainous landscape

From a distance you can appreciate the falls’ setting in the landscape: rocky, barren, desolate. The beautiful turquoise colour of the water is due to Nordenskjöld being a glacial lake, fed with ice run-off from the surrounding mountains.

Branches in front of an out of focus waterfall

You need to get closer to the water to take a photo that shows the power of the falls. I took several here but I liked this one best, focusing not on the water but on the branches of a nearby bush stripped bare by the winds and spray.

Landscape with high snowy mountains and bare trees

But my favourite shot from this spot wasn’t of the falls at all. Maybe it’s not so obvious a shot to take, but I couldn’t resist the beauty of the landscape I saw when I turned away from them. While it was the falls that brought me here, I felt I got my best photos not of the waters but of the surrounding mountains and those bare shrubs.

Waterlily at Angkor Wat

For my last example I thought I’d have a look at how you can use a variety of editing techniques to show a subject in different ways.

Large deep pink waterlily

To start with, here’s a straightforward shot of a waterlily in the lake in front of Angkor Wat. It’s pretty much as it was straight out of the camera, just slightly cropped and with a touch of vignetting to draw attention to the flower.

Large deep pink waterlily

I used the ‘poster edges’ filter in Photoshop Elements to create this effect.

Black and white photo of a large waterlily

And finally, here I used Silver Efex Pro to create a monochrome version. I added a stronger vignette, upped the contrast and tinted it slightly with the copper filter. This, I think, is my favourite version, despite the draw of that vivid pink.


  • bluebrightly

    Nicely done! I like the third photo of Torres del Paine and the lotus variations best. When you’re traveling it can be hard to stay with a subject – it’s much easier on home ground. But when you do, it’s worth the time.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 In some ways it’s harder when travelling as there’s always that (often self-inflicted!) pressure to move on and discover what else there is to see. But on the other hand I find myself looking more closely and also trying harder to get the right shot, probably because I know I’ll probably never be here again!

  • Wind Kisses

    Such a great variety for the challenge, Sarah. You could have taken a bunch of different angles of the mushroom (as the one had so much detail to enjoy) and instead, the photos were more powerful because of the sequence you showed. The Virgen de Quito was impressive and I loved that you saved her expressive face for the third photo. Amazing workmanship 7000? wow. And I love the words that accompanied the waterfall photos. Yes, brilliant place to wander, and I think it is always important to, turn around as you did. I loved the second photo of the falls, but I can see why you loved the additional scenery. Such a nice collection as always. Happy travels.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Donna 😊 I do have several differently angled shots of the mushrooms, as you can imagine, but it suited this theme to show how I moved from finding it all quite dull to discovering an opportunity for interesting photography!

  • equinoxio21

    Very good.
    Angkor Vat? You’ve been there? When?
    (I want to go back before China completes the new airport to fly in 30 million visitors a year…)

  • SoyBend

    I especially liked your picture of the water lily in black and white, Sarah. The higher contrast and vignette effect highlighted the lovely structure of the flower.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Siobhan – I was pleased with how that one came out 🙂 At first I thought the poster effect one was my favourite but the monochrome shot grew on me and I liked it best in the end!

  • Rose

    I’m not a photographer, but I love looking at your pictures. My favorites are the first waterlily shot and the first waterfall shot. I may have personal biases for choosing those two. I love the simple perfection of waterlilies. And I can just imagine the sound, the smell, and the mist from the waterfall.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Marie 🙂 I’m slightly surprised at how well the mushrooms have gone down! I wasn’t especially engaged with that tour and the details of mushroom cultivation, so I devoted myself to close-up photos of them and was pleased to have ‘rescued’ some useful shots from an otherwise not very attractive facility!

  • wetanddustyroads

    The third photo of the mushrooms are stunning … but wow, that waterlily (the second – coloured – one) that’s my favourite! Today, I learned something from you … close up photos are amazing!

  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    I love how when you’re presented with a challenge you rise to the occasion and select the perfect images out of what must be a massive collection of photos. My favorites here are the second water lily and the third mushrooms. As always, a wonderful post, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you, but it’s always fun sorting through photos for these challenges as it takes me down memory lane and also helps me to assess the images anew and sometimes get editing to improve them!

  • pattimoed

    What a great collection for the challenge, Sarah. My favorites were the last images in each set. The mushrooms… the land near the waterfall…. Beautiful choices/images.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah, I do have three more close-ups, but Patti wanted just three in total and they needed to show a progression of thought about the composition so I had to share the less successful earlier attempt!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks John. We were lucky in Quito to spend a day with friends (actually, the parents of an Ecuadorean friend living in London) and this is one of the places they took us – in their car!

  • Tina Schell

    Agree wholeheartedly with your comments Sarah, and you chose some terrific subjects to illustrate them. I loved your final mushroom image and was fascinated by the close up of the statue’s face. I had the same exact reaction to the waterfall at Torres del Paine. It was an amazing sight and the roar of the water combined with the spray were amazing but the better photographer were around and nearby them. Beautiful set this week!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Tina 🙂 Yes, the whole of Torres del Paine was so stunning that somehow the waterfall was almost lost in that huge landscape even though it would be very impressive almost anywhere else!

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