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Taj MahalSome places in the world are so well known that they need no introduction. Indeed most countries have a list of sights that simply cannot be missed. These so-called classic sites have been photographed so frequently, and the images have been circulated so widely, that they have achieved iconic status. Examples are the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the Opera House in Sydney and the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

These and many other equally well know locations have been photographed at every possible time of the day and night, in all sorts of weather and light, and by photographers of every level of ability. The images we see in high-quality publications are mostly the work of dedicated and very experienced photographers prepared to go to a great deal of trouble and expense to get the best shots. It is therefore likely to be a significant challenge to achieve comparable results.

When we visit famous places our expectations may be raised to such an extent that we are disappointed. Rainbows are not eternally visible over Victoria Falls, and the Eiffel Tower is not always seen gloriously illuminated against a dark blue evening sky. As travel photographers we have to make the most of the prevailing circumstances. This is an important consideration with which we must come to terms. It is also a golden rule to get images when presented with an opportunity. Don’t wait until tomorrow in the hope that the weather will improve. Tomorrow may bring thick fog or a team of builders erecting scaffolding! If better opportunities do come along, just take the pictures again.

The challenge of photographing classic sites is therefore multi-faceted. Visit the classic viewpoints at the best time of the day, find appropriate weather and light, and try to get shots that at least compares with those you have in your mind. Be prepared to go back on numerous occasions but understand why it may not be possible to match the best images ever taken. Try also to find camera angles and viewpoints that are different in some way from the classic shots, but realize that many of the photographers who preceded you had the same idea. Who knows? Maybe it is still possible to create something entirely new!

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