Many travel photographers are more attracted to man-made wonders than to natural wonders. This is mostly because man-made wonders have a story, a history. If you think for a moment, there is no need to travel far away to photograph man-made wonders. They are everywhere around us. From historical sites to bridges that make our life easier, to architectural miracles, and to things that changed civilizations, our world is full of wonders. Even so, there are many aspects to consider, like social value, aesthetics, cultural importance, and many more. There isn’t a well-established list of man-made wonders, but there are some things you can learn in order to discover them and to photograph them.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) started in the 1960s a list of landmarks and places that have cultural, historical or other form of significance for mankind. These places are protected by international laws and they can be a starting point in the search of man-made wonders. The list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is very long and covers the entire world. Its notoriety makes it easy to find in touristic guides. Everybody heard of Egypt’s Pyramids, of the Great Chinese Wall, and of Rome’s Colosseum.
Still, not all the wonders we enjoy have to be old in order to have a historical significance. You are allowed to be impressed by new pieces of architecture, by modern extravagant design, and by any other significant large scale item. For example, the industrial city of Ivrea (Italy) is an UNESCO World Heritage Site even if it is representative for the technological development of the XXth century. It was the testing ground of Olivetti, manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators, and office computers.
Framing Man Made Wonders
To impress your audience with such a great subject you need to know its complexity and scale. Use wide lenses and try to frame as much as possible from your subject. Man made wonders are usually ample constructions. Don’t cut them at the edge of the frame. It’s better to put some distance between you and the subject in order to encompass it. Try different angles and perspectives. Tall subjects look better photographed from below (you’ll enhance their greatness). Archaeological sites look better photographed from above (you’ll encompass a larger surface). Every place and building has its own perfect angle. It may be at the sunset, when the golden sunshine glazes it. Or it may be in the winder, when snow changes the scenery. It’s all up to you and your creativity, but it’s better to explore all the possibilities.
Respect the geometry of your subject. This means you have to be careful how you hold the camera. Use a tripod if you can, especially for night shots. A tripod is useful both for alignment and for reducing the camera shake effect. Because you’ll be taking pictures outside, weather is also an important factor. But not all your pictures have to be taken in sunny days. Sometimes a storm, fog, or pretty clouds are better features for your images.
Man made wonders are exquisite subjects. But they are well-worn subjects and many photographers use them. Some of these places have restricted access and this makes even more difficult the quest of finding new perspectives. Still, a subject shouldn’t overwhelm the photographer’s voice. Stay away of clichés and be inspired. Don’t forget that every place has a story. You need to convey its message and its relevance in the cultural space. You need to understand it and blend your own personality with the complexity of the man made wonder in front of you.