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Learning to See: Working Around the Iconic Vacation Shot

A few weeks ago, I spent some time in Ireland with my family. One of the places that was on our list to check out was Kylemore Abbey, a former boarding school and castle in County Galway.

There was a lake in front of it, and we had grand ideas of capturing the building with its reflection in the water; the mountains and trees surrounding it in the background.

But as we pulled up, we noticed something was different. One of the wings of the building was surrounded by scaffolding. It was under construction.

As bummed as we were, I knew that there were ways I’d be able to get creative, and still capture the essence of what was around me.

Compose Around the Obstacle

Despite the scaffolding that covered one wing of the building, I still wanted a way to “see” the whole building like I had initially envisioned.

To the left of where I was standing, there was a small tree. I realized that I could use this tree to block the scaffolding. It would create quite a sharp angle of the building, but it would be a different look than the typical front-facing shot of the abbey.

Get Closer

This might seem obvious, but get closer to your subject. With Kylemore Abbey, once we walked up to it, I could focus more on the details. I also discovered that I could capture the entire building by standing on the opposite corner of the scaffolding work taking place.

Change Your Focus

On the side of the building, there was a bush with a few pink flowers that were starting to sprout. I thought this would be the perfect instance of when I could focus on the bush, and create a out-of-focus building in the background.

You’ll see that, despite not having the building be the focus of the photograph, it still gives it justice.

Emphasize the Details

This is probably my favorite photograph that I took at Kylemore Abbey, because it’s more abstract than the others. I decided to focus on just one corner column of the abbey, and have the trees and mountains surrounding it completely.

While the column is still the primary part of the photograph, the plants on the lower part of it at the mountains at the top almost make it look surreal, like you’re in a jungle. It gives a totally different perspective to what’s there.

Conclusion

Just because the iconic photograph that you pictured in your head isn’t an option, doesn’t mean that the trip has to be a waste. Especially on a vacation, you might not get exactly what you envisioned, whether it be due to the weather, construction or otherwise. It’s a great lesson in learning to see, and adapting for the conditions.

And you just might make some really cool photographs out of it.

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