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. 

Have you ever stood before something – natural or man-made wonder – and been so enthralled that you had no idea where to start photographing?  There are intricate details you want to capture, but you can’t miss out on the big picture.  In these situations, I usually try to go general-to-specific, photographing the scene from afar and then approaching it to get the intimate details.  I imagine most people intuitively do this already, so don’t expect this post to be mind-blowing, but I think it helps to have a set methodology.  That last point might be the engineer in me talking.
Example 1: Photographing Crater Lake from Watchman’s Peak (looking down at the lake from above)
I LOVE the iPhone sweep panorama option, and will have to write about it in a future post, but for now, here is a panorama of Craker Lake.  This photo is attractive because it captures the lake in its entirety:  
Once I was satisfied with my panorama, I started photographing the details that stuck out to me.  This will be different for everyone – and it’s what makes photography so amazing!  But in this view of Crater Lake, I imagine the majority of people would notice Wizard Island situated in the middle of the water.  I captured Wizard Island, and then zoomed in on one conspicuous section: The water at a lighter blue than the surrounding lake.   
From general to specific, these photos tell different stories: One of Crater Lake, one of Wizard Island, and one of a small portion of Wizard Island.  Technically, these things are all included in the panorama of Crater Lake, but the viewer will come away with a different “story” from the three different pictures. 

As a side note, the best photographers tend to see the scene in a way that no one else does.  For example, while most people might be drawn to Wizard Island, perhaps an innovative photographer will notice the rim of the lake, and find a novel way to photograph it.  Personally, I didn’t stay at Watchman’s Peak long enough to try stuff like that, because it was time to go home soon.  I also have no aspirations to become an elite-level photographer. 

Before moving on to the next example, I want to talk about one other Crater Lake panorama:
Now, I think it’s beautiful.  However, compared to the panorama above, there’s a small section of the lake missing.  Pictures certainly don’t need to always include the entire scene – in fact, innovative compositions are based on what’s not there as much as what is there – but cutting out a small part for no good reason will give a feeling of incompleteness.  

Example 2: Photographing the San Francisco coastline from Marin Headlands
This is really the same exact concept as Example 1, so I won’t rehash it. From my position up in the mountains of Marin Headlands, I took this picture of the coastline, in a simple point-and-shoot:
I felt like all the greenery was distracting from the coastline, so zoomed in a little bit.  I thought this picture had a better ratio of vegetation-to-ocean.  
In Example 1 with Crater Lake, I talked about focusing on the details that stick out to you.  For me, it was the rocky coastline, the way the rocks haphazardly joined the sea, that really stuck out to me.  Hence, I took this super zoomed in shot, to focus on the details of the coast.  I like how some ripples and waves on the water’s surface are visible.  If it wasn’t such a foggy day, the rock details would have been more discernable, but that was beyond my control.  

1.) North America  - Sundial Bridge, Shasta and Crater Lakes, July 2013: Day 1Day 2 | For Future Travelers
  • Day 2 above is relevant
2.) Adventures at Home  - San Francisco, July 2013: Marin Headlands and Sausalito

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