Travel Photography: The Family Cabin
Illustration by

Travel Photography: The Family Cabin

with Ben Long

Video: Documenting passage of time in a photo

I'm at my second re-creation here, a shot up the driveway. I, I did the same thing, I brought my parents out here.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: The Family Cabin
56m 50s Intermediate Mar 14, 2014

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Do you and your family have a favorite travel destination that you've always gone to for rest and relaxation? Or did you grow up with fond memories of family getaways like these? Maybe you're starting the tradition with your own kids. These places become touchstones in our lives, filled with memories and impressions that grow and change as the years go by.

There are several layers to photographing trips to memorable destinations: you want to capture accurate depictions of the place and its surroundings, but you also want your photos to convey the notions of tradition and the passing of time. In this course, author and photographer Ben Long visits his family's New Mexico cabin. He shows how to create photos that not only capture the essence of the place and its surroundings, but also convey its significance as the backdrop for shared family experiences and traditions. Along the way, he shows how to recreate old photos to capture what has changed, shoot details that haven't been documented before, and explore the surrounding area, to capture the full essence of the place.

Ben Long

Documenting passage of time in a photo

I'm at my second re-creation here, a shot up the driveway. I was just looking at this picture and thinking, so much has changed. Obviously this was a film photo. This was probably taken late 70s, early 80s. Probably late 70s. This was a film photo, and I was just looking at the back. It's Kodak paper, but there's no automatic date and time stamp on the back that a film processing machine would have put on there, because this wouldn't have been processed by a machine. An actually human being somewhere processed these photos. I, I did the same thing, I brought my parents out here.

I actually really wanted to talk to them about, about this one because so much has changed in this picture. >> Stone wall, a nice vertical stone wall that's now kind of a pile of debris. >> Oh my gosh. >> Yeah. >> Yeah, wow. >> So, it's really coming apart. >> Well remember >> Yeah and look. Alright now look this used to be almost flat here. >> The driveway has changed a lot. And I just really had memories that it used to be easier getting into the driveway. So it was good to get, confirmation of that. >> Oh, it's the middle that's floated up and away.

>> Yeah. That middle is all gone. >> Their sewer that went to the outhouse. >> Right. You had to have steps because that was so tall. >> Yeah. And yeah, yeah. This was. Wow! >> Remember? >> Yeah, I remember the steps but I just didn't realize. >> The outhouse? Is it there? It is! >> Oh yeah. It's there. >> Yeah. You remember it so fondly. I don't speak so joyfully of it. Oh, remember the outhouse? >> You don't, >> There are a lot of other differences. The outhouse is gone. Which apparently my mom has feelings about. And one of the things that's interesting to me about getting to have these conversations with them. Of course it helps to better understand this picture and the changes that have happened, and although there weren't as many in this one.

But also, it's made me, it's sparking my own memory and it's making me understand more about, maybe what I'm interested in capturing here. I definitely now want to go shoot where the outhouse used to be and the steps to the outhouse. It's, it's a, it, this, this may sound gross, actually, but the outhouse was a place that was so familiar in so many ways because it was such an important venue when you were staying here. And it was such a miserable place to go, especially in the middle of the night when it was really, really cold and, and There are probably so many details that if I could see them right now, I would, I would think how in the world could I forgotten that the, the handle was one of those little metal curved handles that was just bolted to the front of the door.

I haven't thought of that, it probably made a particular sound when it opened, that I can't remember. I'm not going to be able to regain any of that, but it would just be nice to go up there and shoot around a little bit. I'm going to go back down to the road and shoot the Pine Crest sign that, again, was such an Icon for me personally. So having these conversations is great. It's reminding me of, of a bunch of different things, but now I'm going to set up and shoot this shot. I expect that most of the technical work is, is already done. I figured it out on the last shot. I doubt this whatever little instamatic was being used here had a zoom lens. It was probably a fixed lens, so the focal length that I found that was correct down there at the bottom of the driveway is probably fine right here.

So I'm going to stick with 35 millimeter equivalent. Now, in a photo, of course, you have perspective. All lines. Recede and converge to a particular place. I've got this strong line of this, of the, the, what used to be a straight wall on the edge of the driveway, and it's kind of pointing back towards the middle of the frame. So I feel like if I get on the right axis with that line, I'm probably good in terms of camera position. So that's about right here. So whereas on the last picture I used that fence post as a reference point and built my position and its positioning around that.

I'm doing it with this wall. But I'm, I'm not so much trying to position it. I am trying to position it in a particular point in the frame. But I'm also able to use it to really kind of line up where I think I'm supposed to be standing. But I'm, I'm doing that in a, in a slightly different way. So 35 millimeters equivalent, which is where I'm dialed in now. The outhouse is blocking the right side of the house, so I can't really use that as a reference but, but this tree is still there.

That tree is still there. They're both falling roughly on the thirds lines in my composition, so I can just try and position them about a third of the way in. And then I'm going to start paying attention to the amount of space at the bottom of the frame. I think it's maybe about there. And I get this. And this is looking pretty good. Think the house is maybe in the right position. Now I think maybe I've got too much space at the bottom. There's some strange kind of optical illusion stuff going on, because the trees are different, and the driveway shaped differently so, telling relative scale is a little confusing.

So let kill some of that, space at the bottom and do another one. In this photo, I can actually see a little bit of the driveway off to the left side. And I'm not seeing that in here, but I'm not sure that isn't just because of veg, vegetation that's grown on the hillside. I'm also going to say that I'm not taking this picture to record this one tiny little bit over here on the edge of the frame. So I'm not going to worry about that too much. This picture is about what's going on in the center and the outhouse of course.

Now, there's another problem though that I need to pay attention, not a problem, but there's another thing that if I really want to recreate this, I need to pay attention to the fact that, they weren't holding the camera straight. I shot perfectly level with the bottom of the cabin because I am a master photographer. No, just cause it's my habit, and cause I've got a level in my camera, and so on and so forth. So I'm going to tilt it a little bit, just to try and recreate that, that joyful, youthful time, long ago, when you shot images quickly, crooked, I don't know. So I'm going to try to frame it up.

Okay, wait. Which way do I tilt? I want the, I want the left end higher than the right end, so I'm going to tilt, no this way. Wow, that's really hard to figure out. I'm going to tilt to the left, and I don't know how much. I'll go about there. You know, I could also do this in post. I could also rotate my shot to match theirs. If I do that, I would end up with a little bit of a crop. So it would be nice to get it right in camera. Oh, interesting. When you, when you shoot it off kilter like that maybe you actually pick up a little bit of that road on the left hand side. Now, this is a choice you get to make about, you know, do you really want to recreate every flaw in the image and so on and so forth? Hey it's fun to try, you can shoot it both ways.

I'm struggling right now with the, the exact same problem I had down there. I want to take a better picture I want to, I don't need this stuff on the end, I want to crop in tighter, I want to do it, that's not what I'm doing here. I'm doing a photographic recreation, not trying to take a good picture of a driveway, which I have to say, is not something I spend a lot of time doing. So that's the second one. It's kind of glarey out here, I'm having a little bit of trouble seeing the, the display so I'm going to want to go inside and take a look at these on the computer, see what they look like. It's great though, all I have to do is walk right back out here and try it again.

I've still got the the clear sky, so again, if it turns cloudy, I'm going to want to re come and re-shoot this one too. But I'm feeling pretty good about this, I'm ready to move on to the third one.

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