Watch the video: How to Shoot Creative Castle Shots
In the UK we are truly blessed with historic buildings and monuments, and our collection of magnificent castles is no exception. Where I live, in Wales, there are a whopping 427 castles, so you’ll never be far from one for your photographs.
Castles can range from large monumental residences to small follies, stone towers and ruins overgrown almost beyond recognition. However, what small castles sometimes lack in architectural finesse, they make up for in plenty of character – and with each castle, we guarantee it will provide the potential for your photographic outings.
Try not to find photographing these large structures too daunting, as with this project I hope to give you a head start on your approach to capturing a piece of history and taking some of the best castle photos.
1. Symmetrical shots
Castles were often located near water, or even surrounded by a moat. Use this to your advantage and include water in your scene so you can play with the reflections and symmetry it creates. Try different camera heights to see what works best. Going down low at water level creates the illusion that your castle appears to be floating on its own, reflecting like a mirror. You’ll need a calm or windless day to do this, so you get the perfect reflections.
Early morning provides the best conditions. With lower light levels, a long exposure can have the added benefit of removing any ripples as well. Enable grid view on your camera to help you capture a perfectly symmetrical shot.
2. Lens selection
Choosing the right lens will be the main factor that controls your field of view and what you include or exclude in your images. Castles are generally large structures, so I always tend to start with a wide-angle zoom lens, or perhaps a standard 24-70mm zoom lens.
You can spot certain aspects of the castle that you’d rather isolate on its own, and this is when I’ll substitute a longer optical lens, such as a 70-200mm telephoto lens, to capture intricate details like windows, carvings or stone carvings. Taking an abstract approach can also produce compelling images. I also carry a 16-35mm ultra wide angle lens. This enables you to get close to walls or gates and really distort the perspective.
3. The right light
I love photographing castles using side lighting. This is where the sun is to your left or right, casting light on the scene. Apps like PhotoPills can help you find the best time to visit your location to get the light you need on any given day. Side lighting also helps control exposures, as you’ll find that skies and landscapes generally require the same exposure.
Additionally, side lighting helps bring out the depth and texture in the stonework and any castle features. On sunny days, use a circular polarizing filter to enhance blue skies and clouds, and control any surface glare. Also try an ND filter, as I did here for a 30-second long exposure to blur moving clouds and soften water.
4. Visiting at night
Visiting castles and ruins at night will give a whole new touch to your landscape photos. Try some night photography techniques like light painting or shooting star trails to make your photos pop. To get clear views of the starry sky, I mount the camera on a tripod, and find a nice composition using a torch to help me compose.
Shoot in manual mode and start with a shutter speed of 30 seconds, then set the aperture as wide as possible (such as f/2.8) and dial in an ISO of 1600. Take a test shot and then adjust the sensitivity depending on whether you want it or not. Your photo is too dark, or too bright. If the stars are nice and bright but the castle looks dark, this is where a little light painting can come in handy; Simply shine your torch evenly at the castle during the exposure to help it stand out from the dark scene.
Take a look at the best cameras for landscape photography, plus the best lenses for landscape photography, to give your castles the power of Grayskull.