Bruges Stories and Tips

Bruges - In Photographs

Unique Pattern Photo, Bruges, Belgium

First, Bruges is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason. Also, the entire old city of Bruges has been awarded the honor, not just a few buildings, and there are a multitude of reasons for that. To say that it is picturesque is an understatement. In Bruges you can look in any direction and find a postcard waiting for your camera. It is difficult to find a spot that is not photogenic. I kid you not. Bruges is so photogenic that I seldom know when to quit taking pictures. In two days and one night I took 800 photographs! Early mornings evenings are wonderful with long shadows, while the middle of the day is also good for amateurs and professionals alike.

Many years ago my parents said that you should "always keep the sun over your left shoulder." I heard that said until the mid-fifties when I was about 15 years old. There was solid reasoning in that statement. Most cameras used by amateurs at that time were Kodak Brownies and if you needed a flash it meant flash bulbs. The camera had a fixed lens which meant that it was set at one size lens opening and one set shutter speed. There were no controls; you took the pictures, took the camera to the drug store (so that they would take the film out because you forgot how) for developing, and a week or so later you found out what you had.

In any case, today, unless you have manual controls on your camera and can adjust your exposure for backlit subjects, the rule is still valid because it usually will give you properly exposed images. Even though today's cameras (even the cheap ones) measure the light and, for the most part, sets the camera properly. What the rule is saying is to keep the sun behind you or to each rear side of you. That is as valid today as it was many years ago. Most people don't care about creativity, they want good, clear pictures, and even the least expensive digital cameras will accomplish that. People take travel pictures to remember where they went, and to show others the same thing.

The best way to guarantee that you have some good photos of your trip to anywhere is to take lots of pictures. Use different angles and camera heights. Take a picture from close with a wide-angle lens setting and then walk a good distance away from the same subject and use your telephoto setting to take the same photograph. You will be surprised at the difference.

This trip was made difficult because I had not brought a tripod with me. I had planned on purchasing a cheap one when I got to Poland, but that didn't work out when I found out how much a cheap tripod costs there. In Germany and Belgium they were even more expensive. So I did without and tried to brace the camera as best as I could deleting images as I toddled along. I won't make that mistake again. I'll just leave out extra shirts and pants, toiletries, and a bunch of chargers and electronic devices that I seem to think I need. I may stink and not know where I am, but the pictures of where I don't know I was will be great.

Parenthetically, please be kind to other photographers. Be careful and try to not walk into someone's photograph. You know how you feel when someone walks into yours. And even worse, when someone walks into your photograph and stops. That is absolutely maddening. It's bad enough that they walked into your picture, and it gets worse when they stand there and want to have a conversation about it while you're waiting (patiently, right?). OK, wrong. Here's one that really frosts me. One of the night images illustrates this little peeve of mine. A couple is taking a picture on the far left of my photograph. I didn't have a problem with that because I was somewhat hidden down on my knees in gravel trying to balance my camera on a stone bench. What did cause my Scottish temper to almost get the best of me was that the guy held his camera up for two solid minutes for one damn picture. I wanted to point out to him forcefully something like: "Hey buddy. That building is not going to smile and it is not going to move, so take the picture,already. And I'm kneeling in gravel." This problem is a particular nuisance in really pretty cities like Bruges. End of sermon..

There are certain things that will make your picture story more personal. These are frequently images that have nothing to do with the city or place you visited. No one will look at them and say that they know where the photograph was taken. Things like window boxes with flowers, open windows with a child or pet sitting there, colorful laundry on the line, a pair of jeans drying on a window ledge, decorative light posts and lamps, interesting window displays. Very few people have the same photograph because they would have to have been there when you were there, so there is something new that they haven't seen before. I will frequently take a photograph of my feet standing on a manhole cover that shows the city or town I am visiting.

There is no secret to taking pictures in Bruges. The entire central city is just thousands ot pictures waiting to be taken. So I'll finish with a couple of other pointers. Idiot-proof point and shoot cameras are a blessing. Just remember to charge or carry extra batteries Try to avoid photographs with the sun in front of you if you have no adjustment for it on sunny days. Cloudy days have very soft light, but light coming from the northern sky is the softest. When possible, try to take pictures of people with your back facing North to take advantage of the North light. In bright or hazy sunlight, try to take people pictures in shade. To photograph a building, use your telephoto setting, walk a distance away to take the picture. The walls will not bend inward as much.

If you are in Bruges consider yourself lucky. There are not many places as photogenic.

I have a journal on photography on this website. I hope that you will find it interesting.

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