View from the Belfort in Bruges

The UNESCO World Heritage classified old town of Bruges is one of my favorite cities. While it photographs very well in black and white, a view of the town from the Belfry at the top of the Bell Tower may be best in color.

Next time you’re in Belgium and looking for things to do in Bruges I recommend you climb the 83 meter high Bell Tower, known as the Belfort, for a great overview of the old town of Bruges.

It was late afternoon when I made a quick dash up the steps for this overview of the famous medieval city.

From my point of view this would be one of the worst photos I’ve ever posted on this site. Yet, despite that fact, I feel it’s a successful photo.

The light is okay without being inspiring and the subject matter is interesting, without being amazing. I suspect you’d agree with that assessment.

So, Why Make The Photo?

For the same reason most other folks would.

  • I was there

  • I climbed all those steps

  • I wanted to photograph the view to remember my visit to the belfry

I kid you not, I was on all fours climbing up some of those 366 steps up to the Bell Tower. They get progressively steeper, yet more shallow as you climb higher.

It was a struggle, but well worth it and if you’re looking for what to do in Bruges this is a fun activity that’s likely to blow some cobwebs out of the pipes for anyone who’s just arrived on a Bruges city break.

It’s Not Art, But It’s Okay

I guess I’d call it an enthusiast level snapshot. While there is inherent beauty within the buildings, the photo itself is not overly beautiful.

While I can achieve a better result through experimentation on the desktop I wanted to make the point that we all make photos, on occasions, that are little more than visual records of the places we’ve been and what we’ve seen.

But as long as they’re technically proficient and compositionally interesting it’s okay.

I think I’ve achieved that which is why I’d refer to both the color and black and white version of the original photo as successful.

The UNESCO World Heritage classified old town of Bruges is one of my favorite cities. This black and white view was made from the Belfry at the top of the Bell Tower.

Just for fun I’ve added a black and white rendering of the very same photo for your perusal.

I’m a bit surprised as I thought the textures and shapes within the buildings would have produced a better result in black and white.

I think now that the color image has produced a somewhat happier result, while the black and white rendering is somewhat reminiscent of the sameness of tenement housing.

There are other things I can do to the black and white version to produce an even better result, but I thought it was important, for the sake of comparison, to stick with a fairly straightforward black and white rendering.

So which is more successful?

It’s dependent on the photographer’s intentions, the context in which each version of the image is displayed and, probably more importantly, on the relative success of each photo to elicit an emotive response from the viewing audience.

So Why Would I Call This A Successful Photo?

I was photographing through a window covered by wire. The idea being, no doubt, a disincentive for throwing foreign bodies (including the odd tourist) down to the city square below.

To be able to make a sharp photo through wire or bars it’s necessary to position your camera as close to the bars as possible. The fact that they are so close to the camera will render them significantly out of focus.

If you’re lucky you can effectively photograph through the wire/bars and produce a result that, pretty much, disappears the wire/bars.

This is a technique that can work well for you when photographing through bars at a zoo. Though you would do so at your own risk.

You understand I’m not suggesting that you either poke your camera’s lens through the bars nor am I suggesting you climb over any physical barriers designed to separate you from the animal in question.

I’m simply saying that when the bars are positioned close together you can, on occasions, photograph though them by moving your lens as close to them as possible.

The thinner the bars the better your results are likely to be.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru