Experience Germany Like a Local

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Travel Photography: Progress Report

Progress Report: Has My Travel Photography Improved? Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

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I ended up postponing this progress report until after we made our second trip for Christmas in Germany, and I’m really glad I did. I’m proud to say I have made definite progress both in keeping my architecture shots from becoming distorted, in incorporating tourists purposefully into my shots, and being mindful of visual merging. If you’re scratching your head, this is the 4th and final post in a series about learning and improving travel photography from a CreativeLive Class Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Willmore. If you missed them, here’s where you can get caught up:

Back? Ready? Ok!

Is That Building Falling? Or Is It Me?
I tried to break my bad habit of tilting my camera up at a building when shooting architecture. Being short, this was a tough one. I tried to instead get more than one side of the building so short buildings didn’t appear to be falling backwards. I had really good luck with this technique when visiting the World Unesco Heritage Pile Dwelling Site in Uhldingen-Mühlhofen.

World Unesco Heritage Pile Dwelling Site in Uhldingen-Mühlhofen

When I had to shoot up at the building, like with this shot of the Dom in Konstanz, I embraced it and tried to make the viewer feel like an ant looking up at this towering facade, which is how I felt at the time.

Dom in Konstanz | Using Lens Distortion To My Advantage to Showcase the Towering Heights of the Building

Using Tourists To My Advantage
Out of my four favorite tips that Willmore suggested for dealing with tourists, I was easily able to implement #1, using the tourist to your advantage through their presence physically adding color or their placement in the composition. While at the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt am Main after Christmas, I was shooting the outside architecture of the museum. It was an overcast, blah-December-day, and a woman started walking towards the entrance, dressed in black with a red shawl. I wanted to hug her. It was just the pop of color I needed and of course her presence also provided nice scale comparison to the building itself. To read about my other 3 favorite tips dealing with tourists in your shots, review part 3 again.

Using Tourists To My Advantage When Composing a Shot: Pop of Color & Size Comparison

Visual Merging Fountain in Bodensee
After learning about ‘Visual Merging’, which is where objects in the foreground visually combines in your composition with your background, I made a concerted effort to look for merging when shooting sculptures. While in Lindau on Lake Bodensee, we hunted for a fountain that had come highly recommended by a museum volunteer. Upon finding it, I tried shooting various angles of it, always looking to see if anything was merging into the background. This is the first, initial photo I took.

Fountain in Lindau, Germany

I wanted the focus to be on the top statue, and here the foliage behind it are visually merging in a distracting, busy way. I wandered around to the opposite side, where I could get more separation between the figure and the foliage.

Looking for an angle where the fountain figure head does not visually merge into the foliage behind her | Lindau, Germany

Ninja-Phantom Lightroom Presets
Wow. Just wow. In part 2, I mentioned that when you purchase the class, you get a gigantic set of Ben’s tried-and-tested presets, and even includes a 2-page PDF with screenshots of how to install them. Having them has sped up my editing, as well as taught me additional tricks in Lightroom. Do you need your blue sky about 25% brighter? He’s got a preset for that, in percentage increments of 25. Willmore is so specific with his sorting of presets, if I have an issue with an image, I can easily navigate to the right folder and find a few presets that thanks to their naming, I know I can try to solve my problem. By doing so, the assigned settings are applied and you can literally see what tool sliders he adjusted, learning more about how Lightroom’s tools can be used in the process.

App? APP!!
Since I began this series, CreativeLive now offers an app in iTunes, compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod, and AppleTv. The convenience factor of Creative Live has increased 10 fold. It's free to download, and you have access to all of the channels live streaming. After purchasing classes, you can access the episodes directly on the app as well, and it remembers where you left off.



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Frankfurt Photo Shoot with Photographer Irene Fiedler

For our 10 year anniversary since we've been together, the one thing I wanted most was photos, really good photos. Probably not what the jewelry industry wants to hear! We hadn’t had photos taken since we were married, and that was 7 years ago. Now, the past year we’ve spent countless hours building this blog together, and I wanted to have updated, beautiful photos of us together that we could use for our blog.

At first, Sebastian thought we could have family members take them, but I didn’t want these to turn out like most of our vacation photos. I’m very rarely in those photos because I’m taking them, and when I am, all the photos look the same. The photos visually verify that I was somewhere with Sebastian, but the capture did neither us nor the location any justice. I reminded Sebastian of the nice Heidelberg photo we have of us where the castle was just outside the composition. Instead, we had a fluffy, diva shrub in the background.

Posing on the Eiserner Steg bridge in front of the 'Mainhattan' skyline of Frankfurt am Main | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Lifestyle Photographer in Frankfurt am Main
The hunt for a photographer was on! Without any referrals, it was just Google and I trying to find the perfect photographer. Besides the obvious roadblock of language, I initially had a difficult time finding photographers that shoot what’s called in the United States as ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘candid’ style photography, which revolves around natural lighting and very little posing. Sometimes, what you’re looking for is on (gasp!) the 2nd page of Google search results. That’s where I found Irene Fiedler and fell in love with her body of work. I was encouraged when I saw that she had some English on her website as well. I could tell from the engagement photos and wedding shoots Irene had done that we would be a great fit, and we shared a similar visual aesthetic.

Strolling along the Main riverfront with the Eiserner Steg bridge and 'Mainhattan' skyline of Frankfurt am Main in the background | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Photo Shoot Locations
From Sebastian’s parents house it's a half an hour on the local train and ta da, we’re in Frankfurt! Frankfurt am Main is a beautiful city with enough fantastic museums and closeness to family it would easily be my top pick if we ever needed to move to Germany. It was the first city we ever featured in our German City Series, and I know we have so much more to share than what we could fit in a month. All of this adds up to why I wanted to have the shoot in Frankfurt. From there, picking locations was relatively easy. I love the skyline of Frankfurt and wanted it as a background. That led us to the Eiserner Steg bridge and the riverfront.

Posing with the 'Mainhattan' skyline of Frankfurt am Main blurred in the background | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Posing with the 'Mainhattan' skyline of Frankfurt am Main blurred in the background | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

I also love the half-timbered beauties of the Römer.

Exploring the Römer in Frankfurt am Main | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Exploring the Römer in Frankfurt am Main, Justice Fountain in the background | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Exploring the Römer in Frankfurt am Main | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Cafe Mozart was the first German cafe I was ever at, and stands out in my memories for it's bright red interior. Kaffee und Kuchen at Cafe Mozart in Frankfurt am Main | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

Finally, the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof feels like a magic carpet ripe to Europe to me. Everytime we go somewhere, we pass through this building.

Ready to leave on an adventure at the Frankfurt am Main Train Station or Hauptbahnhof | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

If you need a lifestyle photographer in Frankfurt, Irene Fiedler is amazing! Her work is just dreamy and lovely and I'm so, so glad I found her. She over delivers and is a delight to work with.

Blend of historic and modern in Frankfurt am Main | Photo by Irene Fiedler for Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

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Frankfurt am Main Photo Shoot with Photographer Irene Fiedler for the Germany travel blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Travel Photography: Curating the Content in Your Images, Including the Tourists!

What I'm Learning Now via CreativeLive: Travel Photography the Complete Guide with Ben Willmore

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no additional cost to you.


This post is the third in a series of four. If you missed the first one, double-back here to get caught up. It's explains why I’m passionate about CreativeLive, and why I’m currently taking Ben Willmore’s Travel Photography: The Complete Guide class. The second in the series discusses Ben Willmore's sorting and processing style that will make going through your vacation photos a breeze. If you need to catch up on processing large amounts of photos, click to the second part here. I’m going to pick-up where I left off...

Dealing With Tourists
This subject grabbed my attention right away, and admittedly it was one of the first sessions I watched. Willmore presents some really great tips, all illustrated with examples from his own work. But, it gets even better, because included with the class purchase is a mobile-optimized, 35-page PDF guide, in a ‘done for you’ note-taking style with the photographic examples. It didn't take up that much space on my phone, and I've flipped through the pages like flash cards several times to refresh my memory. Old habits die hard!

Here are my four favorite tips that Willmore suggested for dealing with tourists:
1. Use the tourist to your advantage through their presence physically adding color or their placement in the composition.
2. Crouch down or move, solve your tourist-problem by getting physically flexible.
3. Compositing in Photoshop might be simpler for very popular spots, just keep your camera still and concentrate on where people move in order to be sure you have the entire scene necessary to successfully composite.
4. Patience. It’s hard when there are endless photo opportunities all around you, or if you have family members bored out their mind waiting for you to finish up. Sometimes, its worth it to be patient and wait out the crowd. If you do NOT have the time, see 1-3, knowing well that with #3, compositing in Photoshop, you’re going to be spending extra time editing. Is outlasting a crowd for five-ten minutes worth the time it would take to create the composite in Photoshop? You have to pick your battles.

Challenges in Shooting Architecture
One tricky topic Willmore brings up that I never noticed before, and now I can’t stop seeing, is distorted, small buildings. The fact that buildings are skewed/distorted with perspective I always assumed was out of my control. Not so! Apparently, its more the fact that personally as a short person I’ve been more likely to hold my camera at an angle to the straight angles of the buildings, where the distortion comes in. If I held the camera perpendicular to the buildings, the building lines would also be straight. This definitely poses a challenge for me as most of the buildings I enjoy shooting are much taller than I am, and the alleyways in Germany are so narrow its hard to back up far enough to keep the camera and the building perpendicular. Willmore offers a few solutions, one of which I’ve been working on implementing is trying to incorporate more than 1 side of the building. That way it doesn’t appear as though all of my buildings are falling backwards.

Willmore also explained the concept of ‘Visual Merging’, which is where objects in the foreground visually combines in your composition with your background. For me, this is another example of being mindful of the negative space objects create, but I hadn’t considered it in relation to travel photography. This trip, I’ve been consciously looking to see if foreground statues are separating enough from their backgrounds, and if they’re merging together I’ve tried Willmore’s suggestion of either shifting my position or switching my depth of field in order to solve the issue.

Local Subjects
My eyes sort of glazed over when Willmore discussed working with local subjects. For where I travel, predominantly Germany, local subjects are hard to come by, and even harder to become visually interesting as subject matter. Germans look and dress the same way, for the most part, as I do, and as I see in Florida every day. Even if you do see someone in traditional Bavarian clothing, chances are they’re not from Germany, but a visitor like myself. To be honest, I have a hard enough time getting my own family members to behave in front of the camera, going to a stranger to create a portrait isn’t in my realm of interest. It was interesting to hear how he (Ben Willmore) has an ongoing series with his wife doing yoga poses in various countries. Having a go-to concept for an ongoing series could be a solution for camera-shy family members. While his tips were helpful, for me they weren't as easily applicable.

Coming Up Next
Part 4 will explore whether or not this class improved my travel photography and come out after my return from Germany in October! As I embark on this mini-series, please feel comfortable in providing feedback through the comments section below, or through email. I’d love to hear from you. Definitely let me know if you’re interested in this type of content.


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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!


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Show more posts about traveling in Germany

Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler