Would you like to improve your travel photography? Ever wondered why professional photographer's images look so very amazing, and when you visit the same location, you don't get that 'wow' factor? Pro-photographers, have a few tricks up their sleeves. We'll show you how to make your pictures awesome.
“So Tim and Ally, you went to Paris for a week. Awesome! What was one of your favourite times? Maybe the romantic river, how about the photographic interior of Notre Dame?…..”
“Er no. It was when we went to photograph Paris graveyards.”
Now this conversation could only have been with a non-photographer, as most photographers are aware that graveyards, especially ornate and dilapidated ones, can produce some quite stunning and unusual images. To photograph Paris graveyards was one of the highlights of our trip and we thoroughly recommend it to any photographer who needs more than the usual tourist images of Paris.
This cemetery had so much character and photographic opportunities
Why the cemetery (Cimetière du Père Lachaise)?
Let us tell you about it and we’ll try not to put in too many death puns. Although it doesn’t sound too inviting, a morning or afternoon spent wandering around the mausoleums, some well-kept and some dilapidated, is a very relaxed experience and not in the slightest bit morbid. The photographic opportunities abound with more beautiful textures than you can shake a bony old stick at. While out there look out for graves of Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison to name just a few. However, they are not as photo-worthy as the old and forgotten ones.
How to find it
Cimetière du Père Lachaise lies at the North East side of Paris about 3 km from the centre but is really easily accessible by car or the Metro. Père Lachaise (line no’s 2 and 3), Philippe Auguste and Alexandre Dumas (both on line no 2) and Gambetta (line no 3) all surround the cemetery. There are various entrances around the walled graveyard and depending on which one you use, you can usually find a map of the who’s who of Paris dead and where to find them. (Or you can download and print one before you go).
Getting in the supplies
When Ally first suggested we photograph Paris graveyards to me, I was really excited. How romantic – not! We started off for an early breakfast at an awesome café nearby called Chambelland Boulangerie. They do gluten-free bakery items and the continental breakfast we had was superb. We enjoyed it so much we even bought extra to eat after the cemetery photography. Turns out there is a lovely small wild park on the south side of Cimetière du Père Lachaise and we had our lunch there.
The photographic experience
Don’t feel bad
Arriving at the graveyard we were totally taken aback at how gothic it felt. Don’t worry about offending people by having a camera out. Most people we saw were either making photographs or on a pilgrimage to see their favourite dead artist’s final resting place (and photograph themselves in front of it).
What to look out for
Mini stained glass windows in mausoleums throw amazing light shapes on the stone.
Ravens that frequent the tombs give the images a sense of mystery and Edgar Allen Poe feel
Trees growing through or around old graves can make interesting images.
Try looking for contrasts like saturated colours in a bleak stone surround, or small delicate flowers blooming next to a rusting old façade.
Textures. There are just so many awesome textures we couldn’t get enough.
Post production editing.
Black and white – Try some moody black and white versions of your images. Up the contrast but keep the shadow detail for a little macabre feel or a high key misty image for mystery.
Toned – A duo or split tone can give a eerie feel if for example you mix blue shadows with yellow highlights to get a green; Cyanotype gives a cold feel and selenium or Sepia tone for an old vintage feel.
Desaturated colour – This equally gives the feeling of life being drained
From well-tended to so old that a large tree has taken over the grave there are image opportunities aplenty when photographing Paris graveyards. Set aside a warm afternoon, take your favourite camera and lens and dig-in. (Sorry, I couldn’t help that one.) You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever seen a scene that is so expansive and beautiful and thought to yourself something like “A single image with my wide angle lens just can’t do this beautiful vista justice”? On the other hand, maybe when you’re out creating images, you just don’t have a lens that is wide enough. Whatever the problem we would like to show you how to photograph a panorama and get pro results.
We were is Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and had spent the afternoon on camels, riding to an area of the Sinai desert. As this trip was to go stargazing through the large telescopes they set up in the desert and we were on camels (not the most comfortable experience!), we were travelling very light.
Just before sunset we got to the amazing scene you can see in our Panoramic images. Obviously it was too wide for our widest lenses we were carrying but this was where the multi image stitched panorama came into play.
How it was done – The Photography
The video we took – the vista was incredible however far too wide and also very “flat” contrast-wise.
We photographed the scene using the standard focal length on our cameras so as not to get any distortion on the images. The standard focal length is about 45mm to 55mm on a full frame camera and 28mm to 34mm on an APS-C camera. (This is known as standard focal length as it gives the similar field of view as the human eye).
When you photograph a panorama, ideally you should have your camera on a tripod so that when you take each image the horizon stays in the same place. We didn’t have that luxury so we just did the best we could by putting the horizon at about the top third of the image. When you photograph a panorama scene make sure you overlap each image or you will end up with gaps in your final image. It’s really easy to miss a bit out so do be careful at the photography stage. We always do 2 or 3 sets just in case.
As you can see from the un-retouched raw images below we underexposed the images to get a bit of sky detail. We always prefer this method as it’s easier to lighten dark shadow areas than it is to get back blown-out highlights in Raw. We expose digital like we used to expose transparency film. For more ideas on how to make the sky dark in a photo, see our post. You can also use filters to help darken down the sky.
Un-retouched Raw images
How it was done – Preparing the original images
The next stage is to correct all your images in Raw. We do them all at once in the Raw file converter from Adobe bridge but you can do the same in Lightroom. The most important thing is consistency.
Images in Raw ready for processing for panorama
Contact sheet of images once processed in Raw
How it was done – Creating the Panorama
Using Adobe Bridge in Creative Cloud, we went to the tools menu and found Photoshop and chose Photomerge.
This can also be done from the File menu in Photoshop (any version) and choose automate and then Photomerge.
We used the Auto setting as it seems to give a good stitch result for most scenes.
The stitched Panorama photograph is made up of masked layers. Each original image is a separate layer. Once I have checked the image for any issues, I flatten it down by merging the layers.
Pro Tip: You can create your Panaroma as a raw file, so the original Raw images are editable within the pan. When you open the Raw files in Camera Raw, select them all and then choose Merge to Panorama in the drop down menu by the film strip.
Initial stitched image in Photoshop
Next stage is to crop the image to size. We still do some more editing at this stage. In our scene there were some temporary dwellings created by the nomadic Bedouin people. We removed them from the scene as they are not permanent features of the landscape. We do the same with rubbish as it’s not part of the scene and might not be there on a different visit a few weeks later. Removing permanent structures is changing the scene totally and requires a totally different conversation for another time, about how far your own manipulation can go.
This is the un-retouched final Panorama
Here are the temporary structures that we removed
We used the Spot Healing tool to very quickly remove the unwanted details.
Ever wanted to photograph a secret place in London?
Waterloo in London, is the busiest railway station in the United Kingdom with a quarter of a million people traveling through it every day. How do we find a secret place in London to photograph, in one of the most crowded cities and areas in Europe? I discovered this place by accident a few years ago while out exploring and have visited to take photographs again many times. Yesterday, Ally and I took our cameras to photograph a secret place in London where she had never been before. Let me tell you about it and how to find it.
What is this secret photographic place?
It’s a tunnel covered in graffiti!
“Really Tim? You expect me to read a post about a grubby road tunnel next to an overcrowded station?”……
Now before you stop reading let me explain a little more …
Banksy tunnel or to give it its correct name Leake Street Arches is an incredible photographic paradise.
It is nicknamed “Banksy tunnel” because the well known street artist called Banksy organised The Cans Festival there in 2008. He invited graffiti artists with stencils to paint their own pieces.
Street Artist hard at work in the Banksy Tunnel unaware of us taking photographs.
Banksy Tunnel is now a spiritual home to some of the best street artists in Europe and the best thing about it is, you can usually find some of them working on a huge piece there. Most of the artists work freehand rather than stencil so the scope for interesting images with artist doing big sweeping movements is immense.
The tunnel is just an amazing photography opportunity for people and textures as none of the artists object to being photographed while they work.
Another Street Artist creating a very large piece. The smell of aerosol spray paint can be overwhelming. We were surprised he wasn’t wearing a mask.
As this is quite a dark tunnel we put the ISO on the camera up to 1600. A bit grainy but I feel the grain adds to the secret London place feel of the image. It’s grungy, dirty and in your face so the grain seems to work really well. See our post on low-light photography.
The Vaults, Leake Street, London where you can safely photograph a secret place
Is it safe?
Absolutely. Despite what you might read in the press, London is very safe. Unless you go to totally deserted areas at unsociable hours you’re highly unlikely to have any problems. I have been photographing in and around London for the past 25 years and have never once had a problem. Be sensible, and like anywhere in the world don’t flaunt your equipment in dark deserted areas late at night when nobody is about and you’ll be fine.
A bonus not quite so secret place
When I was out exploring areas of London with our son Jethro (excellent Illustrator – see his illustrations here), he took me to this most awesome, quirky and cool little bar/café. It’s just outside the far tunnel exit and is called the Scooter Caffe. You might walk right past it without a second look.
You could walk right by the Scooter Caffe London, Waterloo, and miss a phenomenal experience
Coffee with Jethro (left) and pan of the interior of the Scooter Caffe, Waterloo, London
The theme of this beautiful grungy bar is old Vespa scooters and all the details that go with them: helmets, number plates and appropriate film posters. Go in and you’ll be rewarded with a unique experience.
The staff are so friendly and whether you have a quick coffee or spend a few chilled hours with several bottles of very good cider (yes I did both), you will be rewarded with some interesting details to photograph.
Lighting is a challenge as there is darkness with neon lights inside but daylight streams through both ends of the building.
Wander down the tiny spiral staircase for more interesting details to photograph. We had a similar issue when photographing Truth Coffee in Cape Town.
Beautiful textures and shapes that you can photograph when you find a secret place
To quote from the We Are Waterloo website, “It featured in the third Bourne film, Johnny Depp has dropped in for a drink and Ethan Hawke is a regular when he’s in the area.”
Where to find these secret London photography places
When exiting Waterloo station (there are at least 4 main exits) you need to head around to the back of the station. The easiest way is to go out out the front, turn left and find York Road. A very short way down York Road (you’ll see the London Eye on your right) you’ll find Leake street. Turn left into it and after a short walk you’ll be there.
Once you’ve finished creating amazing images and wondering how some artists painted the ceiling, head out the opposite end of the tunnel and turn right into Lower Marsh Road and you’ll see the Scooter Caffe.
Ally inside Scooter Caffe after a long day of photographing a secret place in London
Two secrets for the price of one
If you are just passing through Waterloo station and have some time before you next train or your visiting the London Eye (five mins walk away) be sure to take a tour of the Banksy Tunnel, and once you’ve finished making images there, give your creative soul a treat and head over to the Scooter Caffe. You will not be disappointed.