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Tiger's Nest Monastery, BhutanTraditional architecture is often seen at its best when portrayed in its entirety and in its environment. Including a little of the surroundings in an image often works well. However, much depends upon the nature of the location.

A country mansion situated in beautifully landscaped gardens may well benefit from being seen in its surroundings, but an old church squeezed between modern glass-covered office blocks is a different matter. If the intention of the picture is to show the architectural features of the church at their best, then isolating the building from its modern neighbours may be the best approach. In the other hand, if the intention is to illustrate the position in which the church now finds itself, obviously some elements of the surrounding buildings should be incorporated.

For the image of the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, it was essential to reveal the extraordinary and precipitous location of the building. A shot taken with a longer lens would have show merely an interesting traditional Bhutanese building, but would have concealed its most unusual characteristic. Even so, the image does not inform the viewer that the monastery is located at 9,000 feet above sea level at the head of a long and steep winding track that challenges even strong walkers and photographers.

Lighting is always important of course, as it the time of day. In general, try to show the structure from an angle that reveals a three-dimensional view. Images captured from directly in front of a building may be appropriate in some cases, but do not reveal any depth. Many of the millions of people who crowd around the gates of London's Buckingham Palace leave without realizing that the building is basically square. All they have seen is the flat, two-dimensional front facade.


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