Getting into Travel Photography: Find the Details
As you travel, little things—colorful murals, regional fabrics, mosaic floors, or local flowers—help embody culture and define sense of place. Focus your camera toward these elements and you’ll discover that they are the spices that flavor your experience.
Look at a photograph with an interesting texture and it might give you the impulse to touch it. Examine a photograph filled with pattern, and your brain may start to extrapolate that pattern or perceive movement in it. Both sensations are common and heighten the connection between photograph and viewer. We have an innate level of comfort with what we can touch and visually understand, so images with texture and pattern draw us in and make us pay attention.
Photographically, textures and patterns are one and the same, and you can expect to photograph them in much the same way. I'll refer to them simply as Patterns and you’ll know I mean both.
THE IDEAL LENS
ANGLE AND PERSPECTIVE
Many times, the most obvious or comprehensive view of a Pattern is the overhead, or flat, frontal view. When photographing floor tiles, cobblestones, a brick wall, or peeling paint, you’ll get the best sense of the overall Pattern when the front of the lens is parallel to the Patterned surface (Figures 3 through 5). From this perspective, it should be relatively easy to get the full Pattern in crisp focus regardless of the aperture and resulting depth of field (DOF).
Angled shots will help draw out dimensionality (Figure 7), a sense of endless repetition (Figure 8), and perspective through converging lines (Figure 9).
When shooting Patterns from an angle, you can either keep the full depth of the image and Pattern in focus using a narrower aperture in the range of f/8 to f/22 (Figure 10) or imply the continuation of Pattern through the depth of the image with a shallower depth of field by way of a wider aperture like f/1.4 or f/2.8 (Figure 11).
VARIETIES OF PATTERN
Mathematically, a Pattern is the exact replication of a value, or a formula. Patterns require rules and exactitude. In art, the concept of Pattern is much broader and encompasses three distinct categories: Repetition (one object repeated over and over), Motif (a recurrence of multiple objects or elements in a predictable order), and Rhythm (a recurrence of multiple objects or elements in a varied or unpredictable order). For artistic purposes, the key is to recognize that Repetition (Figure 12), Motif (Figure 13), and Rhythm (Figure 14) are equally important for creating compelling images.
Fortunately for me, the dropper of calculus and flunker of statistics, this isn’t math. We’re seeking beauty, not exactitude. Search for Repetition, Motif, and Rhythm in the world around you and you’ll certainly find beauty across any photographic genre from architecture to nature photography. Once you begin to see Pattern everywhere, experiment with interesting ways to frame and highlight it.
You can frame an image to highlight a break in Pattern (Figure 15), focus on Patterns or conflicting Patterns that seem to move, vibrate, or disorient (Figure 16), or utilize Pattern to create a sense of harmony or dissonance. Patterns with leading or converging lines can demonstrate to viewers how you want them to move through the image.
Patterns can present a new way of looking at something that many would dismiss as ordinary (Figure 17). They exist in light and shadow (Figure 18) and often feature important cultural motifs that will help support a sense of place in your images (Figure 19).