How to photograph something classic

Leaving Eltz Castle by a Car

Eltz Castle in Germany.

How do you shoot a unique photo of something that one million others have shot before you? It’s tricky and it requires preparation and patience, and in the end, the result may “just” be your version of a classic shot.

For a long time I have wanted to take a photo of Eltz Castle in Germany and finally, I got the chance when I came back by car from my exhibition in Paris.

I really wanted to have one that I had not seen before, but it has been shot to death and therefore no easy task. There is quite a steep walk down from the parking lot and the first time you see the castle is from a viewpoint you pass as you walk down.

As preparation, I had watched other photographer’s photos of the castle and studied the paths around the castle at www.openstreetmap.org. OpenStreetMap has a lot more details than Google Maps when it comes to paths and hiking routes. In short, I had some kind of idea how to area was arranged and the viewpoint was high on my list of potential shooting locations for my hopefully unique shot.

All shots I looked at when I Googled Eltz Castle without exception was shot at daytime, at various times of the year. I realized I could shoot a night time shot and that alone would make it a special photo and that was my plan.

I arrived well in advance of when I planned to shoot my “photo”. That is always a good thing to arrive in good enough time, to allow you to search the area for compositions as well as be prepared for the light.

I examined the different places to shoot the castle and shot various compositions. After having taken the classic pictures in … classic light (ie daylight), I decided to use the viewpoint. There are probably 10,000 photographers who have got a nice picture home from there, but I prepared myself to wait for the light.

When I had waited for 30 minutes I realized that I had forgotten my jacket in the car. Mental note for later: Always bring warm enough clothes. As the light dimmed the cold came too and the wind felt really cold and I still had a couple of hours ahead of me.

As I waited the clouds began to clear somewhat, from a total clouded sky to something with holes. That was good. A very nice little moon appeared, but of course outside the frame and the composition would suffer too much if I tried including it, so I ignored it.

After hours, the staff began cleaning up and driving back up using the shuttle bus.

Finally, they lit the light on the castle and just as I thought that I had shot the last shot, a car came up from behind the castle and while it picked up the last group of people, I set the camera to a 20 second exposure and I got my picture of Eltz Castle, which I have not seen before.

Sony A7RII, 24-70 f/4

EXIF: ISO 50, f / 8, 24mm and 20 seconds.

–Jacob

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