Street Lamp, Parliament House In Melbourne, Australia

An ornate street lamp near the front entrance to Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia.

I'm as nostalgic as the next man. Perhaps we're so attracted to nostalgia because it represents a time and a way of life that seems so much slower and simpler than the one in which we currently find ourselves. In some ways it's a myth, but a very seductive one.

To make nostalgic photos we need, first of all, old world subject matter: cobbled streets; traditional Irish pubs; old vehicles and farm implements; and the everyday apparatus that would have surrounded folk in bygone days.

Simplicity Is At The Heart Of Composition

The above photo features a classic street lamp outside Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia. It's a simple enough photo made, looking upwards, towards a clear blue sky. I positioned myself so that the lamp was between my camera and the sun. This helped me both avoid a silhouette, as I was able to expose for the subject rather than the brighter background, and add the impression of light to the street lamp during daylight hours.

Actually the end of day feel that often results from photographing backlit subject matter lends itself well to creating the feeling of nostalgia in a photograph. What's more, to further remove the subject matter from our modern world, a black and white rendering is often successful. Adding a warm tone to the image, as evident here, further enhances the result.

The Artist's Job

Photography usually starts with interesting subject matter. Understanding lighting, exposure, composition and image processing will allow you to produce a good photo. But the photo is unlikely to have a life of its own without being underpinned by the intention of the maker. And isn't that the primary job of the artist, to transform the world we see and embed it with a deeper sense of meaning?

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru