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How to Photograph Ruins

Updated on June 14, 2014

Ruins are considered to be what is left of a former structure and there are many countries all over the world that feature some extraordinary samples.

From castles to churches, abbeys to houses. A ruin does not necessarily have to be a place where people lived, they could also be places where something history took place like a ruin of a bridge, the Roman aqueducts, and so on.

There are famous ruins all over the world, from ancient sites in China, the Indus Valley,Judea and Zimbabwe in Africa. Ancient Greek and Roman sites in the Mediterranean basin and Inca and Maya sites in the American continent.

Ruins are of great importance to historians, archaeologists and anthropologists, whether they were once individual fortifications, places of worship, houses and utility buildings, or entire villages, towns and cities.

Worthy to note is that many ruins have become UNESCO World Heritage sites in recent years, that identify and preserve them as areas of outstanding value to humanity.

For this photo project try to stay away from tourist ruins like the Great Pyramids, The Parthenon The Roman Coliseum and some Mayan temples. Instead try to focus on lesser known sites such as small ruins of medieval churches and other out of the way sites.

This will more than likely involve traveling to various parts of the world where these ruins are to be found. If you happen to live in countries that have an abundance of ruins like England, France, Spain and other European countries this will then be an easier project to undertake.

Your goal is to capture the romance and nostalgic feeling that is often associated with these former structures and not so much on their tourist appeal since most major tourist ruins have been photographed to death.

Photograph your subjects from various angles, perspectives and by day and by night. Using flash will be required at night and a diffuser will probably be handy during the day. It is always better to photograph when you have a diffused ambient light condition such as when the sky is overcast.

If you take a photograph of a rock structure upon which there are some reliefs during the midday sun and when the sun is about to fade or even at dawn you will see much more detail and the reliefs will be easier to admire during dawn,dusk or when overcast.

Midday sun light creates a "washed out" effect and most details will be hard to distinguish not to mention a noticeable lack of visible texture. This is why photographing while the light is diffused makes sense to most photographers.

Also, don't just focus of capturing images of the subject's exteriors include aspects of the interiors whenever possible and safe to do. Take long shots, wide angles, close ups and include elements of the surrounding scenery to put into perspectives the location where your subject is located.

A lot of photographers like to include the human element in their ruins photography, I do not since if I wanted to take photos of people I would do it under another theme. I just want to concentrate on the ruins themselves and allow my viewers to immerse themselves in the images before their eyes. This will often lead them to imagine the history of the place without the interference of modern details.

A good staring point to ask yourself is "what photograph can I take that will let others feel as I felt ". Seek more than ordinary pictures. Instead capture photographs that invoke a feeling instead of photographs that just look pretty.

GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 | Source

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CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Janmaklak: Thanks. I do use HDR for most of my building, landscapes and ruins. However for the sake of simplicity I did not mention it on this particular hub

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      Hi Luis: One of the things I try when photographing buildings (someday ruins?) is HDR photography. I seem to get more detail in the sky and I don't process these shots for over the top results just to lighten shadows and reduce burned out highlights. Rules of composition not withstanding. Well done !