Disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer, just a traveler who appreciates a good shot.  I don’t shoot with fancy equipment, just digital cameras or phones that fit inside my pocket.  
I know professional, elite-level photographers often spend plenty of time, sometimes several hours, exploring one subject and experimenting with various compositions.  They may photograph the scene from several angles, playing around with juxtaposition of different elements.  I think my disclaimer above affirms that I don't do this, but I do like to put some thought into my pictures, at least beyond a mindless point-and-shoot.  In this post, I talk about some photos I took around San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building, and my thought process behind the composition and juxtaposition of surrounding elements.  

1.) Photographing a Statue with the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Behind It
The Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market takes place in front of the Ferry Building, and features several local artists displaying their work, local farmers offering fresh produce, and local chefs sharing their creations in food stands.  I noticed this statue and from where I happened to be standing, and took a quick shot:
Ignoring that sun ruining the picture ("real" photographers wouldn't photograph at this time of day but I've made it clear I'm not one of those), there are several problems with this shot.  The bottom of the statue is cut off, and those tents from the Farmer's Market were so close to the bottom of the frame.  I felt like it would look much better with some space underneath.  Hence, this shot:
Okay, we can see the whole statue now, and there's some ground underneath those tents.  However, the clock tower of the Ferry Building is now covered up.  While this doesn't take away from the statue, the clock tower is beautiful and it would be a shame to waste an opportunity at juxtaposition with a San Francisco icon.  I changed my position and took these two shots:
These two shots are similar; the Ferry Building is straighter in one, and they're just at slightly different angles from each other.  The main thing I noticed was the flag pole in front of the the clock tower, and I wanted to offset it.  Also, it looked weird that part of the American flag was cut out, so I decided maybe just cut it completely:
The picture above was my last attempt at photographing this scene.  Professional, elite-level photographers may spend much more time here, trying to find the perfect composition and juxtaposition of all elements.  I, however, decided that I had spent enough phone battery on this scene.  As for the above picture, there's several things wrong with it - i.e. sun glare, the statue is too far to the right (1/3 rule) - but there are also several aspects I like: Not only are the tents from the Farmer's Market visible, the aisle where shoppers browse is also visible, so the "action" is captured.  Also, the clock tower is not blocked by the flag pole.  If I had to try and get the "perfect" shot, I think it would be this one, but I'd back up a little more so the statue is not so far to the right, and maybe the American flag could be captured.  It'd also help if the sun wasn't in that position.  

So if I had to choose just one picture to show friends, which one would it be?  I think it'd probably be the fourth one I posted above, although it's clearly not "perfect."  The takeaway message from all this is:
  • In order to take good pictures, you have to take a lot of pictures.  Professional photographers take SEVERAL shots of the same thing before getting that "perfect" shot.  If you're a tourist trying to sightsee, you simply don't have this kind of time, so don't expect the same kind of results. 
  • That being said, everyone can take a moment to think about composition and juxtaposition, instead of just doing a mindless point-and-shoot.  

2.) Photographing the San Francisco Ferry Building Clock Tower

I've always thought the San Francisco Ferry Building's clock tower was gorgeous, and finally decided to snap a vertical shot. Looking at the two shots below - which do you prefer?  For me, the one on the left wins hands down because of the juxtaposition:  A street sign hanging on a beautiful street lamp is next to it.  In the shot on the right, the street lamp is cut out and instead, there's a dull green tent and a wall with nothing on it.  In both shots, the clock tower is captured in the same way, but the juxtaposition of surrounding elements makes a big difference.  
3.) An Panorama Shot Obstructed by Poles
I've often said that the best photographers come up with compositions that no one else thinks of.  People generally want a clear, unobstructed shot of the subject.  I'm sure tourists who've waited impatiently for other tourists to get out of the way of a shot can attest to that point.  Therefore, I was initially dissatisfied that big poles were in my line of vision, but then I realized the pictures were kind of cool.  The poles sort of divide the photos into sections in a neat way.

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