Can You Name That City in Six Shots?

You might remember the TV show Name That Tune, where contestants tried to identify a song in as few notes as possible.

“I can name that tune in five notes, George,” a contestant would say to the show’s host before attempting the feat.

I think of that show whenever I have very little time to visit a city or other photogenic location, because, in that short time, I have to develop a collection of images that somehow captures my subject.

“I can capture that city in six shots, George.”

Whenever I visit a location, regardless of how much time I will spend there, I do a lot of research to familiarize myself with the place’s history, people, landscape, architecture, and so on.

When my time at the location will be short, I intensify my pre-trip efforts even more. When the time will be short and the location completely new, I also pray for good weather. And when the time will be short, the location new, and the subjects there have been photographed millions of times, I also draft a very specific shooting list and try to stick to it, always maintaining flexibility in case the unexpected happens (and it will).

This latter situation will occur this September when I visit San Francisco for the first time, for only three days. I cannot imagine a more daunting task than portraying this often-photographed city in a handful of images, but I will try to do it in six.

Here is my shooting list, drafted in question form because I want to think like a traveler who is visiting for the first time:

1. What does the city LOOK LIKE? I will be looking for an establishing shot of the city, perhaps at twilight, showing water and maybe including some people in the foreground.

2. What is one cool thing TO DO? Riding a streetcar.

3. What is a cool thing to SEE? Golden Gate Bridge.

4. Where is a cool place to EAT? Fisherman’s Wharf.

5. Where is a cool place (or area of town) to STAY?

6. What’s a cool thing to BUY? Without question, a box of Rice-A-Roni.

7. What’s a _______(fill in the blank)? Here is where you include the picture of the cool thing you did not expect.

I realize that all of the above subjects are considered clichés by many, but these are the types of images that travel publications buy, especially if you go the extra mile to make them unique or different.

This list is broad enough that it can be applied to most locations, but if you have more than a few days, I encourage you to go off-list to broaden your image collection and get to know a place a little better.

When time is at a premium, however, the list should help you avoid being overwhelmed by the photo possibilities a bit city will present, and help you focus on a handful of subjects that, when put together, will capture the subject in six…

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