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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.
Skill Level Intermediate
Course, one of the things that's pretty obvious that I want to do if I'm shooting the family cabin, is to shoot the family cabin. So I want to just get some interior stuff. Right away you go, well, I'll get my wide angle lens and I'll get some nice big wide shots of the place. And I did that, and I can definitely capture a lot of detail that way. But the sense of space in those images has nothing to do with what I remember about this place, or the sense of space that I think of when I'm here or, or when I'm thinking about this place.
So, I switched to more reasonable focal lengths. Almost all the way to normal lenses, which means I can't get one shot that encompasses the whole place, so I've just shot a few different angles. They're not great. They're not super pretty. They're not Architectural Digest kind of photos, but they do just give me nice overall references that also capture something of my sense of the coziness or, or the space in here. But more important than that I went after details. So this cabin is a 50s or 60s era trailer that someone somehow got up on this bluff and they built a room onto.
So I'm in the old trailer part. We've tried to figure out my dad and I have tried to figure out a make and model, but there, it's not written anywhere. We'd probably have to tear the siding off. It's weird to think of a time when something wasn't branded all over but, it was a simpler time. So we don't know what this was, but it's got all of these wonderful details really specific to the era in which it was made. And those are so much a part of my sense of the feeling of this place. And I've never done this before, actually. It's been really interesting to realize I've never shot any pictures of the, knobs on the stove or the, the wonderful textures on the wall, or the light fixtures, or any of that stuff.
So I spent a good amount of time here just, shooting those. I was working with my normal walk-around zoom lens, but I also have a 100 millimeter macro which on my camera ends up being a 160 macro. Which really let me focus on, on going right in. Now I did kind of two things in the process of shooting those. First, I looked around going is there something here that actually does resonate with me somehow because not everything does. The microwave oven, the toaster oven, those are kind of recent additions. The fan is a critical piece of equipment in the summer, but I, I don't really have any attachment to it.
But these textures, these knobs, the fixtures, things like that. This little cartoon that's stuck on the wall there are things that do resonate with me. So first I try to feel my way through that and identify them. And then I went into a purely logical formal shooting mode. So working on these knobs on the stove, for example. I went to just straight rigid formal compositions. Really trying to work just from a purely technical angle, how do I get a nice composition and a good shot of this. I'm going to want to look at those and see if those work. Have I stripped the feeling and the humanity out of them by going to cold? The fact is, this is the first time in my life that I have ever seen those knobs on the stove from head on.
Normally, I see them from up here. So maybe the evocative shot is to shoot it from here. I, I kind of don't think but we'll see I'm going to look at the images and see what I come up with. The point being, I'm moving around the space looking for the things that resonate and trying to find a way of recording them as best I can. And, and I'm really enjoying the formal process of just getting in tight and shooting them. In a way, it's introducing them to me in a whole new way. It's letting me go deeper into these things that have been so familiar. And that's a really fun process.
I'm actually, so far this exercise is making me know the place even better and, and getting me more into it. So, experiment with that when you're shooting any location or venue that has some kind of historical resonance for you. Yes, you want the wide shots that capture some sense of the entire space, but your moment by moment life in a space is about the details, so try different ways of shooting those. And see which ones resonate with you and trigger memories.