Currently based in London, EOS World community ambassador Kevin Ma writes about an emerging genre, which focuses on appreciating architecture and design that characterise a city – the architravel photography.

The concept of “architravel” has been trending in recent years as travellers experience cities from a cultural and social perspective.

Unlike commercial architectural photography, there are no strict rules or aesthetic guidelines when it comes to architravel photography. The genre could be loosely interpreted as a subset of travel photography itself, so only creative composition and unique perspective are all you need to capture beautiful architecture around you.

My current equipment include the classic EOS 5D Mark II and EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, with another EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM for occasional close up shots. While these prove to be great travel companions, if given the opportunity, I would wish to upgrade to the latest EOS 5D Mark IV and EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM.

Finding Vantage Points

From the macro perspective, perhaps the most effective way of capturing the exterior of a building is to locate a vantage point that offers a panoramic perspective. One good way is to get high, literally. Up a hill, over a clock tower, or any other tall buildings within the vicinity.

City Centre, Bath
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 500| 1/125s

Shooting from a vantage point could produce photographs that show a sense of place of the surroundings and how the subject building fits in or stands out. It can also correct the keystoning effect that comes with tilting a camera up while photographing tall buildings.

Radcliff Camera & All Souls College, Oxford University
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/125s

Make People the Secondary Subjects

As form follows function, it is the function of a building that attracts its end users. People and buildings form an integral relationship and hence one key trick is to always include people in the photographs to add a dynamic and social dimension to the image. Moreover, it can also be used to illustrate a sense of scale of the building or highlight the function of the building. 

Rotterdam Central Station
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/60s

Church of Saint Nicholas, Amsterdam
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/80s 

Amsterdam Street
EOS 5D Mark II | F/10 | ISO 400 | 1/200s

Seeing Beyond Your Viewfinder

Many buildings of English Gothic and Romanesque architecture boast amazing detail, scale and splendour that is breathtaking. The viewfinder, however, circumscribes our vision and prevents photographers from experiencing its full details, especially for interior shots.

Brandenburg Gate, 67 Berlin
EOS 5D Mark II | F/13 | ISO 400 | 1/4s

To make full use of our camera, it is sometimes better to compose the photograph based on what we can see entirely rather than just the confined vision from the viewfinder. Try guiding the camera instead of letting it guide you. You’ll be surprised by your shots.

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford University
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1.6s 

St Pancras Hotel, London
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 0.6s

Cubic House, Rotterdam
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/40s 

Capturing the Sense of Place

Lastly, as the name suggests, architravel photographs should strike a balance between the two interactive themes of architecture and travel. Sometimes the building itself could reflect the travel theme. For instance, when photographing famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Sometimes it is up to the surrounding elements to tell the story.

Keukenhof, Lisse
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/320s

Try minimalist techniques like shooting from a distance, adding in blank space while minimising the architecture but still retaining it as an important element of the photograph. This could create a sense of place for the photograph and complete the composition.

Conclusion  

With the rapid development of geospatial technology and the growing popularity of architecture blogs and news websites, it is extremely easy to plan for an architectural-themed travel itinerary.

Architectural blogs such as ArchDaily offer comprehensive information on both established and new buildings in various cities. Such information could easily be used with apps such as Google Map and an architravel trip could be ready in no time.

Try planning one next time and who knows? You may just fall in love with this new way of travelling!