When I chat with other local photographers, we discuss equipment and styles, taxes and networking, troubleshooting customer service ideas or marketing tactics. Invariably, the talk turns to locations, and someone mentions that they are tired of photographing at the Stone Arch Bridge.
If you don’t live in Minneapolis, the Stone Arch Bridge was built in 1883 as a pedestrian and rail connection linking downtown to the working areas of Minneapolis at the time. It is the only arched stone bridge along the entire Mississippi. Because it connects downtown Minneapolis to the neighborhoods across the river, it offers unobstructed skyline views from the east.
Also, for the record, it was built 6 years before the Eiffel Tower.
I mention the Eiffel tower because, if you are a photographer in Paris, I am sure that you take photos at the Eiffel tower all the time. You might recommend times of day to meet so as to avoid the throngs of people – you might have preferred locations away from the scrum of the parks. But you can’t fault people for wanting something iconic and magisterial to be included in their images.
I view the Stone Arch Bridge as the Eiffel Tower of Minneapolis – stunning, architectural, well situated, and over documented.
And I love it.
So, if you want your photos at the Stone Arch Bridge, I am thrilled to recommend times of day (sunset!) or days that would work better. But it is gorgeous all the time, and if you want it to be in your photos, that is what I want too.
All of which is to say, if you are a professional photographer, you need to find the joy and challenge and delight of bringing new energy into familiar locations. Here are a few radically different approaches I’ve taken to portrait and wedding photography on the Stone Arch Bridge so that it is always new and exciting for my clients.
Same Location Better Photos: getting the time of day just right
Sometimes, you arrive to a location, the people are happy and gorgeous, the sun is setting over the buildings, and you just don’t over think it.
Technical specs: D600 camera, Nikon 24-70 lens at 2.8
Same Location Better Photos: isolating your subjects from the background
On the morning when I took this image, the sky was overcast and dark without detail. Everything felt grey, which didn’t fit at all the vibe of Dhaval and Sneha. So I popped a yellow filter on my strobe, set it on a lightstand, and color balanced for tungsten. This made the background blue and gave a sense of intensity and vibrancy to the couple. Technical specs: D750 with Nikon 24-70 2.8 (probably taken at f5.6). SB900 flash with tungsten filter at 1/16 power to camera left. Color balanced to tungsten.
This was a winter afternoon – bright sun and a very clear sky as dusk rolled in. A little bit of flash balances the light on the couple with the light coming behind them.
Same Location Better Photos: flash composite
I do a decent amount of flash composites for weddings and portraits. Besides making things look a little super powered, they also allow me to have a more intense flash since my assistant is holding the light very close in a series of images and then I edit my assistant out. In turn, this allows me to shoot at a larger f stop and bring more detail to the sky and background when the sun is so intense, as in this mid-day image. I also shot images at this location without flash, and then the effect is to almost blow out the the sky and buildings.
Technical specs: D750 Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens at around f8. Nikon SB-910 flash at full power – three image composite.
Same Location Better Photos: playing with lenses
Its amazing what using different lenses can do to the feel of an image. These two images are under very similar conditions – the first is with a 35mm lens, then second with an 85mm, both at f 1.8. I enjoy the softening of the background in the wider image, but also the way the 85 has made the buildings into an abstraction.
Nikon 35mm f/1.8
Sigma 85mm f/1.8
Same Location Better Photos: Panorama
A panorama is just stitching together many images to make a wider image from a narrower lens. In some ways, it replicates the relatively smaller apertures or large format cameras. It also doesn’t distort facial features the way a super wide lens would do. These are both panorama images.
Technical specs: D750, Sigma 85mm 1.8 lens at 1.8. LED light with tungsten filter. Around 50 images stitched together.
Technical specs: D600, Sigma 85mm 1.8 lens at 1.8. Approximately 30 images stitched together.
Same Location Better Photos: Different planes of focus with tilt shift
Tilt shift lenses are designed to follow a plane of focus on a non parallel plane from your lens. Most of the time in modern photography, they are used to narrow the band of focus. You might have two heads in focus, but then the feet and hair are blurred out. But, when you are talking about subjects that are hundreds of yards from the background skyline, it means you can have them both in focus along the same plane.
D600 camera, Nikon 45mm tilt shift. LED light with slight tungsten filter on.
D750 with Nikon 45mm tilt shift lens. Flash held behind subjects.
Same Location Better Photos: Silhouette and proportion
Just playing with the idea of a silhouette here to echo the buildings in the background and have enough depth of field to feel structural.
Technical Stuff: D750 with Nikon 24-70 2.8 at 24mm and f/2.8. Strobe behind them on lightstand.
Do you have a favorite “must have” location for photos?