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Photographing Gates

Updated on March 5, 2014

The Gates at Buckingham Palace

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

"A gate or gateway is a point of entry to a space enclosed by walls, or a moderately sized opening in some sort of fence. Gates may prevent or control the entry or exit of individuals, or they may be merely decorative. Other terms for gate include yett and port. The word derives from the old Norse "gata", meaning road or path, and originally referred to the gap in the wall or fence, rather than the barrier which closed it.

A gate may have a latch to keep it from swinging and a lock for security. Larger gates can be used for a whole building, such as acastle or fortified town, or the actual doors that block entry through the gatehouse. Today, many gate doors are opened by an automated gate operator." Wikipedia

Gates are really simple structures meant to keep things and people as well as to mark a territory and as such even the most simple of design will most likely work and do what it was supposed to do.

However, in many parts of the world you are bound to find very exotic and ornate looking gates. They are usually old or at least simulating designs of the past.

Keep in mind that those who could afford them would go to great lengths to have gates that showcased their wealth and statute since the first thing many people would see would be the gate.

Even if there are no old style gates, many big businesses do still have them for probably the reasons that others in the past had them.

New or old, you can seek out samples and feature a photographic project around them. The hard part will be how to make your pictures of just gates appealing to viewers.

Here is where your creativity comes into play and you must seek out new angles and new perspectives to make somewhat rather common subjects seem uncommon.

One of Ghiberti’s doors for the Baptistery in Florence - called the Gates of Paradise.

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

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There are two important things that matter when photographing gates. The first is to focus closely on the details built into the gate such as decorations, the iron works, hinges and such.

The second is to get a medium type shot that features some small details of the surrounding area.

This gives the viewer a general idea of the gate's use and helps you capture some of the atmosphere like if the shot is taken with the Sun light behind the structure or from a low angle with a cloudy menacing sky in the background such as if you were doing images to convey some sense of feeling.

Keep your perspective when including elements that are not of the gate itself.

Too much or too many or having too far a distance between you and your subject and the details and beauty are lost.

Cemetery Gates

CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source
(CC BY 2.0
(CC BY 2.0 | Source

Before I forget, the project entails photographing interesting, and ornate types of gates, not doors.

Although a gate is a door and a door is a gate, let us focus on the most accepted interpretation of what a gate is.

Gates that look almost exactly as doors can be used for other purposes or projects but will waiver from the main theme if included in your gate pictures.

Although ornate and intricately made gates do offer great photogenic opportunities, sometimes you will find very simple designs and they will work towards the theme just as well.

Some country gates, although simple, and often very small are usually situated at the entrance of nice and vivid colored gardens or dwellings.

Do not miss the opportunity of capturing these images if you are able to do so.

quadriga atop Brandenburg Gate

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

For subjects that are interesting and full of good details but are lacking in color it may preferable to use a black and white medium or even Sepia.

These two formats focus the attention on details by making the shot be devoid of all colors.

Capturing these types of shots in color risk the main subject becoming lost within a much colorful scene.

Black and white and better yet Sepia, makes the overall shot feel like an antique style and can be even used to invoke feelings of nostalgia or to acquire an air of mystery.

With any monochromatic mediums try to include some subtle shadows to add some atmosphere or you if want a stronger statement then include some much harsher ones.

They take the place of color to add perspective and increase the interest factor of the scene.

Kreischer Mansion in Staten Island

CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

Most gates can be found facing public places and since most face towards the public right of way, like a street or road, you will rarely need permission to take their photographs.

However the same cannot be said for old country gates which are usually found at the end of a road that leads to a dwelling.

These roads are more than likely part of the house and thus private poetry. For these you should ask firts if at all possible.

CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez


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