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Tips on shooting tourist attractions

The Alhambra in Granada is one of the must see tourist attractions of Spain. A selection of the images I shot there are in my You Tube video in full HD and you can view the still images at your leisure in my places portfolio. Here are a few tips on photographing the Alhambra which can be applied to other popular tourist attractions.

The Alhambra limits visitors to between 5,000 and 6,600 per day and it frequently sells out of tickets for the main attractions. So book well in advance if you want to gain access to the Palacios Nazaríes.

Think carefully about what equipment you really need. The place is packed with tourists and in the palace the security guards ask you to carry your bag in front of you. So if you've got a big camera rucksack you're going to have to walk around like a pregnant lady for the afternoon. Being bumped and bumping into other people is not a pleasant experience, so it's best to travel light.

When you have to book in advance and work with ambient light you're at the mercy of the elements. Fortunately Spain is a lovely sunny country so chances are the light will be good, but it's always worth thinking about the best time of year to photograph a particular tourist attraction.

What do you photograph in a place where 6,000 tourists a day, armed with cameras, snap everything in site? I made a few decisions:

  • Try to find views that show the atmosphere by showing the surrounding landscape
  • Avoid the obvious where possible
  • Focus on typical details and the real essence of the place
  • Look for interesting and unusual angles
  • Chase the best light (if the subject does not have interesting light then forget it)
  • Try to minimise having other people in the shot

In the opening shot of the video you see the Court of the Myrtles. Typically this scene is shot vertically and includes a water feature in the foreground. I went for something different that worked with the hard angled light and reflections. It just needed something more. Then I saw the lady wearing red wandering around on the other side of the pool. I had to wait for several minutes before she walked into the perfect spot to create that extra focal point that completed the image for me. It's small elements like this that give an image that extra kick they need to lift them above the ordinary. You have to constantly ask yourself, "How can I make this image better by using what's available in the scene?"

Here are my tips for photographing tourist attractions:

  • Do your research first so you know what to expect
  • Plan when would be the best time to photograph and book in advance
  • Travel light so you can enjoy the experience
  • Try to find a different angle or viewpoint and avoid the obvious for your art images
  • Don't forget to take the tourist shots as well for your family album and memories
  • Look for subjects with great light
  • Remember to capture the interesting details

On this last point my thoughts were that the essence of the Alhambra is the craftsmanship and and attention to detail in every element, but the really amazing thing is the sheer quantity of detailed work, and that's what I tried to show in several of my images. There's just so much going on in every room in the palace it is breath taking.

Hope you found this insight useful.

Till soon,
Paul (check out my other photo stories here)


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