How do you determine the greatness of a photo? Is it the composition? The lighting? The technical ability involved in the shot? For me, it’s something different—it’s the shot’s ability to capture a moment. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing as photographers, after all, capturing moments.
In the world of modern photography—and by that I mean the world of Instagram photography, where the clash of shutters is turning into the clank of cash registers for many photographers—moments can be created, rather than captured. As I traveled across a foreign continent over the past several weeks, I toted a camera in the hopes of capturing the feel of a moment. Below are my Top 10 shots…the ones that I feel truly captured the spirit of a scene.
1. The Magic of Paris
If there’s a shot that will define Souled Out Europe, it’s this one. There’s a little photo creativity here, setting a long exposure with a fisheye lens at the turn of the hour when the Eiffel Tower illuminates with strobe lights. Like all great shots, there’s also a little luck going on here as well, as the camera must have been knocked over or picked up during the very last moments the shutter was open. The result is what you see here: a picture that captures the vibe under the Eiffel Tower, where wine bottles, travelers, and rats mingle in a blurry, magical scene.
This is as close as you can feel what it’s like to experience that three dimensional scene in two dimensions. And it’s a little bit of dumb luck on my part. Prints available on canvas.
2. Reach out and Touch Faith
I rarely shoot vertical, but here’s a lesson in looking at things from a different angle. If you’re willing to climb a few hundred steps, you can reach the pinnacle of the Sacre Couer, high above Paris. There, narrow stone corridors give way to spectacular panoramic views like this one. And because people are lazy, I nearly had the place to myself. I don’t know if people can really touch the heavens, but I know it felt like it up there.
3. Gandalf Stormcrow
If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you’re probably aware of the strange phenomenon in which corvids seem to follow me around. This particular crow fluttered around just inside the entrance to the Louvre. This isn’t really unusual, as hundreds of them seem to have set up camp in the former palace of Louis XIV. Still, the shot is one of my favorites for several reasons: it was a lucky catch with a great sense of depth, and it’s a nice freeze frame of the Souled Out mascot.
4. The Edge of the Empire
A snapshot from the most memorable sunset of the trip. 2,000 years ago this was the view from the edge of Rome. On your right, the lands were wild and full of danger. To the left, your life was guarded by the legions. Now, these stones stand guard over empty farmland and a few scattered cows and sheep. But there was a time when this was, for many people, the very real edge of the world.
5. The Heart of Rome
Three nights in Rome taught me how precious a few moments of silence are at the Colosseum. While I visited the heart of Rome every evening, it was my very first night there that proved the most memorable. The north side of the Colosseum is by far its most deserted corner, as people prefer to take photos of the half-ruined facades on the other three sides. But it’s the north side that still retains most of what the building would have looked like in its heyday. And it’s the north side that has a pile of rubble to rest on.
6. A Papal View
A pure travel photo at its finest. The glow you see is natural, created by a break in the mixed clouds above. The energy around the Vatican is palpable here, and this shot was snapped in a split-second between flocks of pedestrians and street vendors making their way to and from St. Peter’s Basilica.
7. Mont St. Michel’s Lone Light
This isn’t technically a great photo. The ISO settings are too high for my taste, leaving a decent amount of grain in the shot. Thanks to the farmhouse in the foreground, your view of Mont St. Michel is obstructed, and because I was walking at the time I took this, the entire shot is a little shaky. However, in contrast to photos taken as the sun rose, this shot captures the feel of first arrival at Mont St. Michel. Following a blueprint laid earlier this year at Yosemite, I woke up several hours before dawn to capture a brilliant sunrise here. Unfortunately, that shot never developed, leaving you with a murky, coastal castle with a single light keeping watch over its causeway.
What this photo lacks in star power, it makes up for in authenticity. This is as real as it gets.
8. The Queen’s Lawn Ornament
I’m certain this is a storied and hallowed monument. However, the fountain outside of Buckingham Palace (background), is still more or less the Queen’s lawn ornament. The clouds on this starry, London night swirled around its golden centerpiece as the laws of the Commonwealth must have done for so many decades before. Standard fisheye long exposure trickery helped to capture the mood.
9. The Night’s Watch
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins.” The oath of the Night’s Watch echoed through my mind as twilight deepened at Hadrian’s Wall. Since I had the place to myself, I found a seat on the wall and welcomed the night in. The mood was grim, with cold Scottish winds blowing down from the north, an unkindness of ravens fluttering about, and the eerie calls of nocturnal creatures nearby. The camera struggled to keep up with the conditions, but ended up capturing the haunting vibe nicely.
10. Scotland the Brave
You can’t tell the story of Scotland in a frame, but you can capture the beauty of its highways in one. This shot was grabbed out of the window of a moving vehicle, as we raced through Cairngorms National Park en route to London. Like the Highlands, the view went on for ages, but sometimes all you need is a lucky second or two to capture it.
Gear Roundup: Photo nerds want to know what gear I was shooting with. Here’s a breakdown. I think it’s less sophisticated than you might imagine: Nikon D5500 (refurb); Nikkor 35mm f/1.8; Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.5; Sigma 30mm f/1.4; Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8. Action shots via Garmin VIRB 360 and DJI Phantom 4.
I’ve made canvas prints available for a limited number of these photos. However, if you see one on the website that you’ve got to have, just shoot me a message and let me know about it. If you’ve donated at least $75 to the Souled Out Fund, check your email for a promo code to get your free print. If you didn’t, that’s okay too—just nab one in the store below. Don’t see an image you love? Scope my Instagram for more top photos from Souled Out Europe.
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