how to make landmarks look different*

* not a guarantee

When I went to Sydney a couple of weeks ago with my excellent mum, the sole purpose of our overnight trip was to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibition that was on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Which meant that we would be staying near the museum, at The Rocks, for the sake of convenience. Which in turn meant that a lot of our activities would take place around the ultra-touristy Circular Quay area. And that meant that a lot of my photos from the trip would include those inimitable structures, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

My very first post on this blog included the ghostly image of both of these landmarks, and in that post I lamented the difficulty of photographing such over-photographed scenes. In an(other) attempt to capture these breathtaking structures with some degree of originality, I took several approaches that gave me varying degrees of success.

get some perspective

That is, an unusual perspective. You obviously can't change the position of the structures themselves, but you can find places that most people don't shoot them from. For the photo above, I took advantage of the attractive fence that runs around the harbour, and shifted focus so that the House would take the background. Which, of course, is impossible - as soon as you recognise what it is it necessarily takes centre stage. And that is precisely the point.

This another example of the different perspective approach.
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send it back in time

Obviously the taxi in the foreground modernises the photo, but what I really mean is, shoot in black and white. Just because you have a digital camera with a gazillion megapixels and brilliant colour, it doesn't mean that's going to give you the most interesting result. Black and white brings a whole lot of baggage with it, mostly to do with history, which can sometimes be a bad thing. But the Bridge has just as much baggage on its own, so bringing some other preconceptions to the table can't be a terrible move.

* * *

get up close

Can you believe this is the Opera House? I never think of it as being tiled. But when you really get up close to the thing you can see the incredible lines that the patterned tiles create. Doesn't it look fascinating? Definitely one of my favourite landmark shots.

* * *

paint it black (and green)

This tip is twofold: first, silhouetting a building as famous as this one is really effective because there is no risk of mistaking the iconic shape; and second, using a film that distorts the natural colours of the sky adds a dimension that very few other people will have (and the previous photo demonstrates this to an extreme).

An additional (personal) feature of this photo is that my mum is sitting just to the right of the second peak.

* * *

double up

If you have a camera that excels at multiple exposures, embrace it! If that original photo of the Sydney icons from several years ago taught me anything, it's that layering images is a sure way to make them look unusual. 

The clouds in these two (very similar) photos makes the House look as though it's shrouded in smoke, creating a quite ominous effect. 

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put people in the picture

How I wish I never made this a multiple exposure! It would be so lovely without the second layer. Regardless, I think it's successful in the sense that it foregrounds my mum to the extent that, like in the fence photos, the House takes a long-overdue back seat.

I guess these photos reveal that I was much more preoccupied with the house of opera than with that massive bridge. Hopefully they also point to a few ways to semi-successfully get some interesting and worthwhile images of some extremely cliched landmarks. Before this trip, I wondered whether I would even want to take more photos of these Sydney staples, but seeing them up close I couldn't help but be completely overwhelmed by their breathtaking presence. I mean, they truly are spectacular. So making the effort to capture that magnificence, even if it means going to more effort than usual, is absolutely worth it.

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