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Gagarin monumentModern monuments can make unusual subjects. Some are of daring and imaginative design and, like this one in Moscow, do not even look as though they should remain upright. This particular monument celebrates the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. The column represents the curving trail of exhaust that followed the launch of the rocket, and the rocket itself can be seen at the apex of the structure. The design is very simple but entirely appropriate for the event it marks.

The surrounding area is not as attractive as the monument itself, so the obvious way to capture its spirit seemed to be take the shot from close to the base and looking upwards as one might as the rocket was launched. The result is simple, clean and dynamic.

It is always worth bearing in mind that public monuments, often situated in prominent locations, have been photographed on countless occasions. If possible, try to find an unusual approach or angle whilst still telling the story that the monument represents, or look for good or unusual light. Floodlit or low-light images are challenging but can produce unusual results. In strong daylight there may be deep shadows on parts of the monument, so be prepared to use fill-flash to reduce contrast where necessary.

Context is another important aspect of imagery of this type. Try to convey not only the story behind the monument but also some element of its surroundings and scale. This will probably involve the use of a wide-angle lens. Viewers of the image who have never seen the particular monument will then understand a little of how it feels to be there.

A final approach is to zoom in on detail withing the monument to capture particular details. The monument shown above did not lend itself to this approach but those featuring intricate artwork, detail and colour are often more rewarding. Pick out an interesting section of work that can be isolated in some way and get in close enough to fill the frame.

Be prepared to spend some time waiting for the best light and the right moment to take the shots. Monuments attract lots of visitors who take their own photographs and even sit down to eat a packed lunch. Remain patient and the time will come when everything falls in to place.

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