Want to see the familiar in a new way? Turn around.
“What?” you ask, “how can I see something if I’m looking the other way?”
And that’s the whole point.
I’m sticking with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France for this example as well. When you climb to the top of the Arc via that wonderful spiral staircase, you get a 360 degree view of Paris.
You could see any part of Paris you wanted. But where do most people look or take pictures? One of two places.
Either they try to get a shot with the Eiffel Tower in it or, even more popular, they try to get a shot of the Avenue des Champs Elysees. The above photo is a panorama that captures both with the famous street right smack dab in the middle. To view the details of that image, click on the photo above and then again on the smaller photo that will appear.
But why look where everyone else looks? Turn around. And when you do, you might see something you didn’t expect. In my case, turning around meant going to the other side of the Arc from the Champs Elysees. And this is what I saw:
The street, the Avenue de la Grande Armee, leads toward the Place de la Porte Maillot, sort of the downtown business center of the city where you see all those buildings. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen, or at least paid attention to them before. But I think they are more interesting than the Champ Elysees, at least photographically. Granted, adding the texture to the photo as I did also helps enhance this image. But I still find the subject as or more visually rewarding than the more traditional look down the Champs Elysees.
I remember once in central Taiwan ascending a famous mountain in the dark of pre-dawn morning so that I and several hundred other visitors could witness the sun rise over the clouds beneath the summit. I don’t have the photo handy (it was taken on slide film and is buried somewhere in a file), but while several hundred people gawked at the sun and took photos of its rise over the horizon, I turned the other way. I ended up with a great shot of myriad sunglass-clad faces all mesmerized and focused on the same thing. It was a much better image than the sunrise.
Sometimes what you seek isn’t in front of you but behind you in a place you’ll never find unless you do one simple thing.