A guide to architectural photography in the backcountry
New Zealand’s hut network is second to none. Whether an old musterer’s shed or purpose-built
backcountry palace, our huts play an important role in our tramping stories. The following tips will help you capture better photos of remote refuges.
It’s all about the symmetry
Built structures in nature add geometric shapes to an otherwise chaotic environment. Putting the structure into the horizontal centre of your frame adds to the impact of these shapes. Make sure the hut is perfectly level and centre.
Context, context, context
Put the hut in context with its environment. Your choice of focal length can help to emphasise its connection to nature. Distant mountains will appear larger when using a telephoto lens, while a wide-angle lens will allow you to better capture a hut in a dense forest.
Hit the ground
Shooting low to the ground will give the viewer a better impression of the environment. In addition, grass, rocks or autumn leaves in the foreground will add a strong, emotional viewpoint by adding texture to the frame.
When you picture a typical Otago backcountry hut, something like Meg Hut comes to mind. I really loved how the soft browns of the grass are repeated in the rusty spots in the corrugated iron structure. The gentle blue hue of the sky further emphasises the warmth of the landscape.
I decided to shoot this hut as a classical head-on shot (architectural photographers call this a single-point perspective) and made sure the building was perfectly centred. Since I had to point my camera slightly upwards, I had to fix converging vertical lines in post-production so the building does not look like it’s about to fall over backwards.
The terrain did not allow me to shoot through the grass, but slightly darkening the bottom of the image achieved a similar effect of guiding the viewer into the frame.
Camera: Fujifilm X-T2
Lens: Fujifilm XF16-55
Settings: 28mm, ISO200, f8, 1/500s