Monday, September 3, 2012

Adventures in Photography: Reflections of the Past

For many years I have been inspired by some photographs in one of my favorite local Italian restaurants. Every time I dined there, I would gaze at the images of the Coliseum in Rome and St. Mark’s Square in Venice and wish I could be there too. This summer I finally visited these places of my dreams.

Having studied the images in the restaurant so many times, I have every detail of them memorized. When I was actually standing in these locations it was difficult to conceive of a different way to photograph these iconic locations.

Photographing iconic locations can be fantastic. Standing in the same spot that master photographers stood at and created great images in the past, is a wonderful way to study the craft of photography. Simply trying to recreate masterpiece images is a great way to improve your skills and understanding of photography.

Another step towards improving as a photographer is to visit iconic locations and create new images. This is harder than it may seem. Iconic locations have been photographed and painted thousands, if not millions of times. Finding a new way to portray them can seem nearly impossible.

On my recent trip to Rome, I was able to visit the Coliseum multiple times. On the first and second visit, I made images that were similar to those that I had seen before. I was happy with those images, but I knew that I had not added anything of my own to the scene.

On my third visit to the Coliseum, I went after a late afternoon rainstorm. Stormy weather often provides the opportunity to create great images. I was not disappointed. I started with some street photography in front of the Coliseum. I kept my shutter open for 20-30 seconds and allowed the traffic to zoom through the frame with bright tail and headlights. These images were very pleasing to me, but I was standing next to another photographer who was making similar images. I knew my images would be unique, but I could only imagine how many times similar images had been created before.

Crossing the street, I headed towards Constantine’s Arch to search for a new composition. I didn’t have to go far before I found a large puddle reflecting the Coliseum in all of its glory. I studied the scene for a few moments and decided to photograph only the reflection. The puddle thinned out at the top of the frame making it look almost like a river flowing into a lake. I placed that thin part of the puddle in the upper right corner to pull the viewer’s eye into the image.

After making a few images of the reflection, a Russian lady asked me what I was waiting to see. I showed her the reflection and the image that I had made. She was very surprised to see something that was right in front of her. Like most people, she had probably only looked at the Coliseum in the same ways that we have always seen it.

This month’s tip: Try seeing familiar locations in new ways. View them from above or below your normal vantage point. Visit these locations at different times of day or in different seasons. Look at them upside down. You may just find some art in your everyday life.


  1. I don't have much to contribute to a discussion on photography, except to say I love that photo.

  2. Thank you Lives4tv! I am glad that you like the image and I appreciate you taking the time to share that!

  3. Fantastic image Greg and as always, really enjoyed the narrative to go along with it. You have hit the nail on the head (so to speak) with exactly how I am planning on approaching my upcoming Foliage trip to VT. I will be leading my camera club to my favorite "iconic" places which I have already photographed numerous times. I am planning on doing exactly as you have described here on this blog and have been really looking forward to finding some unique and different compositions. (by the way there's still room for you if you wish to join us.......):-)

  4. Great blog, Greg. So fortunate that you could spend time in these historic locations.

  5. Thanks Kate. I have been truly blessed to be able to spend time exploring the world!


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