How to shoot the obvious? / by Tom Henderix

When on holiday, it's hard to take pictures of landmarks that aren't boring. So how to approach a shot of something obvious like the Fernsehturm in Berlin? Best option would be to wait for the golden hour, or even night to have great lighting on the subject. Then figure out the best angles, taking lenses appropriate for those choices. Sure, but not everyone wants to spend their holiday planning where to be, hoping for good weather, just to get one picture. We keep moving, and we have to work with what we have at the time we're there. And not all of us want to lug several kilos worth of gear and tripods around...

First, do what everyone does: walk up to the landmark, point the camera at the centre of the thing and click.

There, nice sharp image, but boring as hell for the most part. So, what can we do to improve the image? Perhaps move the subject to the side of the frame, perhaps even to fit the rule of thirds?

Okay, bit more interesting, still not there yet though. Perhaps take a few steps forward?

Interesting, not as easily recognisable any more, but at least it's not the shot that everyone takes. So what else can we do? Perhaps fit in another subject to draw attention away. Difficult, since the tower is so big. Only other thing close enough would be a church. And I only have one fixed lens, so zooming out is not an option. Maybe slanting the image would fit everything in?


Right, not my favourite. Something else then? Aha! Eureka, a reflection of the object in a window! Bingo, the signs on the wall even say something about "DDR" and "free will". Subtle, not something everyone will have seen.

Right, that should be it, no? Something keeps nagging at the back of my mind that I still don't have what I want. Last chance, turn around, take a quick snap while walking away. Wait, power lines, let's use those to fill up the sky and add some interesting lines to the frame.

There we have it. Not the best image I'm sure, certainly not the best light or time of day. But it's not the obvious shot, and that's all I ever wanted.

Small disclaimer, I shot all of these in the opposite sequence while walking towards the tower, but I turned it around to better make my point. The point is to always look for another shot, change it up, don't just go for the obvious. It's a great creative exercise, especially if you've only got one focal length available. Only one lens does not mean only one option.

All images shot using the Fujifilm X-T1 and 35mm.