Overlook, Old Town, Bruges

The UNESCO World Heritage classified old town of Bruges is one of my favorite cities. While it photographs very well in black and white, a view of the town from the Belfry at the top of the Bell Tower may be best in color.

From my point of view this would be one of the worst photos I’ve ever posted on this site. Yet, despite that fact, I feel it’s a successful photo.

I was in Bruges in Belgium. It was late afternoon and I made a quick dash up many, many steps to the Belfry Tower for this overview of the famous city. The light is okay without being inspiring and the subject matter is interesting, without being amazing. I suspect you’d agree with that assessment.

So, Why Make The Photo?

For the same reason most other folks would. I was there and, after climbing all those steps, I wanted a record of the view. I kid you not, I was on all fours climbing up some of those steps. They get progressively steeper, yet more shallow as you climb higher.

I guess I’d call it an enthusiast level snapshot. While there is inherent beauty within the buildings, the photo itself is not overly beautiful.

Now while I can achieve a better result through experimentation on the desktop, I wanted to make the point that we all make photos, on occasions, that are little more than visual records of the places we’ve been and what we’ve seen.

So Why Would I Call This A Successful Photo?

I was photographing through a window covered by wire. The idea being, no doubt, a disincentive for throwing foreign bodies (including the odd tourist) down to the city square below.

To be able to make a sharp photo through wire or bars it’s necessary to bring your camera as close to the bars as possible. The fact that they are so close will render them significantly out of focus. If you’re lucky you can effectively photograph through the wire/bars and produce a result that, pretty much, disappears the wire/bars. I think I’ve achieved that which is why I’d refer to this as a successful photo.

This is a technique that can work well for you when photographing through bars at a zoo. Though you would do so at your own risk. You understand I’m not suggesting that you either poke your camera’s lens through the bars nor am I suggesting you climb over any physical barriers designed to separate you from the animal in question. I’m simply saying that when the bars are positioned close together you can, on occasions, photograph though them by moving your lens as close to them as possible. The thinner the bars the better the results are likely to be.

The UNESCO World Heritage classified old town of Bruges is one of my favorite cities. This black and white view was made from the Belfry at the top of the Bell Tower.

Just for fun I’ve added a black and white rendering of the very same photo for your perusal. I’m a bit surprised as I thought the textures and shapes within the buildings would have indicated a better result in black and white. I think now that the color image has produced a somewhat happier result, while the black and white rendering is somewhat reminiscent of the sameness of tenement housing.

So which is more successful? That’s dependent on your intentions and, probably more importantly, on the relative success of each photo to elicit an emotional response from your viewers.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru