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The Cloud Gate Quandry: A Travel Photography Tip


Every great city has at least one icon–Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York the Statue of Liberty (well, Paris has one of those, too).  There’s the St. Louis Arch, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Washington Monument and the Parthenon (ok, that last one is way more awesome than the first three, simply because it is super old).

And every person who visits each of these places comes home with at least a photograph or eight of one of these iconic sites.  And most of these photos are boring.  I know–I’ve taken far, far more than my share of exactly these types of photos.  Here’s how:

How to take boring photos of an iconic site

1.  Visit site.

2.  Find perfect sight-line/viewing angle.  You can locate this by standing over where all of the other people with cameras and camera phones are gathered.

3.  Wait until there is no one in the shot.  This may require waiting for excessive amounts of time for as many tourists as possible to leave the area. (as I did at the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.  In the cold rain.)

4.  Take a very postcard-esque photo.  Print it out.  Frame it (there may be a photo of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse hanging in my home office.  Just saying.  I don’t stand in the cold rain for extended periods of time for nothing.)

But there’s good news–that’s not your only option.  I recently discovered the magic of un-perfect shots–that is, shots with people in them (gasp!)  Here’s my new approach to travel photography:

How to take interesting photos of an iconic site

1.  Visit site.

2.  Observe for a while.  What are people doing in the space?  What seems to be a common theme amongst people visiting?  (Note: it will often be ‘taking photos’–but taking photos HOW?)

3.  Snap a few shots of people interacting with the space.

The thing about taking photos with people in them is that they are only visually pleasing if the people are spaced out–and placed in relation to the icon–in a pleasing, semi-balanced way.  So while this may seem like ‘the easy way out’–pointing your camera at a crowd and pressing the shutter button–it really isn’t.  It actually takes a much patience as waiting for a people-free shot.  But it is much more fun–and I think you will like the results.  I know I did.

My Cloud Gate Photos


This guy’s all like ‘oh yeah, check out my super-awesome selfie!’


I like the STOP (in the name of love) woman on the right. And the victorious guy on the far right. And the people who don’t appear to realize they are chatting in everyone’s shot.


The guy on the left is all like ‘eh I don’t care, just doing a walk by shot’. But he totally cares.

Of course, this is just one tip/technique for capturing famous travel sites.  What are your tips and tricks for taking photos of oft-photographed places?  Please share them in the comments section.  Thanks! 

Much thanks to the lovely people at Hotel Felix in Chicago for hosting me and allowing me a few days to check out this absolutely stunning–and very photogenic–city.  Many more posts to come!

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