Vantage Point – Creating an Image

The last thing I would want to do is put anyone off from creating their own images but before we begin, perhaps i should just say (in case anyone is in any doubt) it isn’t always as straightforward a process as you might think.  The variety of cameras in use along with the innate distortions that are included in their lenses will often present you with a challenge that goes beyond simply lining up a shot at the same spot as the originating photograph …

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I tend to treat each new image for Vantage Point as a project in its own right.  The following is a basic list of the steps I often take along with some hints and tips along the way:

1. Identification of an old image (often from an old postcard)

2. Time spent on the web attempting to establish that it may be viable to position yourself in the same spot as the original photographer (you would be surprised how often old photographs are taken from the middle of a (nowadays) busy road or from some other inaccessible position.  And so a little homework now can save you a lot of time later on.   As an example of what can happen I recently visited the Bank of England having established that a particularly nice historical shot had been taken from the steps of the building across the road from it (and that building, and those steps still exist!).  I was up early and reached the location around 7am in the morning, only to find that access to the steps was locked and they were inaccessible.  I vowed to return later in the day and made enquiries within the building only to be told that the steps are ‘only used on state occasions’ and that I would need to write to get permission. That is not untypical of the situation I have often found myself in – other times I have jumped through some hoops only to find that the position I had been targeting was simply not correct. (On this occasion I had some other old shots of the same area so it wasn’t a completely wasted journey)

3. Pre visit Geo-coding of potential locations (I often use this site)

4. Planning the visit – often times if I am travelling any distance I try and line up as many shots as I can, a little planning on a sensible route to cover all the locations can save a lot of time!  While not a requirement if you can take the current photograph at the same time of day as the original (look for a clock in your source image) then that can make the end result more pleasing as shadows and lighting conditions help to match up the two images.  It goes without saying that the time of year can also have an impact on how well the two images match.

5. Take some steps or otherwise ensure that you are able to take photographs from above the average head height.  Have a look at your originating shot – often times you will find that it has been taken from above a normal street position.  This is because postcard photographers were always very keen to limit the negative effects that perspective can have on a shot. (Hint: if there are people in your old shot do you feel like you are looking down on them or are your eyes at the same level as theirs?).  I am quite tall and have been known to hold the camera above my own head in an attempt to position the camera in the same spot as the original photographer (who may well have been on top of their own custom photographers vehicle)

(This post is a ‘work in progress’)

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