Amusing Signs

There are few ways to get more smiles, or more attention, than images of amusing signs. This can range from intentionally witty ones, to signs with poor grammar, to signs that seem normal in one location, but very odd to those from other places, to unintentional placement of signs. Stock up!



Signs-1 Signs-3

C. David Tobie

Just Add Life…

As an architectural photographer, it is easy to focus on images of empty buildings and silent streets. Such shots may well serve many purposes best. But it is also important to shoot images containing people. This adds scale, interest and, well… life. The image at the bottom below was recently used to discuss lighting for narrow streetscapes. The image above it is all of that, plus an overflowing helping of life. A wine tasting taking place in the same street a month later offered this opportunity to contrast the empty and the full. Each serves a different purpose, and each would speak to a different image purchaser. Just add life, plus appropriate keywords, et voila!



C. David Tobie

Image Control in Photojournalism

Photojournalism, or Reportage as it is called in Europe, is the art of choosing what to shoot, and how to shoot it. Since such images cannot be manipulated after the fact, photographers tend to control them in advance instead. The image below shows such a technique. With the goal of making the beach scene look crowded and unpalatable, several techniques have been used. The first was to compress the crowds by waiting for high tide, when the beach is at it’s narrowest. The next was to shoot with a very long telephoto lens, to compress the scene in a second dimension. And the choice of processing in black and white further aids the efforts by depriving the scene of the bright colors of a summer beach. It would have been possible to tell a very different story by shooting an idyllic scene of children playing in the waves, and digging in the sand, simply by using a wider lens, and shooting out to sea, leaving the clutter behind the camera.


C. David Tobie

Found Symbol Photography

One of the more amusing types of photography is found symbols; objects that have, at least from one angle, a resemblance to some other object or symbol. Hearts are the most common example, including heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, and even heart shaped wine spills. The most practical use for such images is as stock photos for graphic and web design.

The example below is amusing because of the contrast between the utilitarian object being photographed (an asphalt road), and the romantic symbol accidentally formed (a heart). The fact that the heart is not quite perfect gives credence to it being an actual tar spot, not an intentionally formed heart.  If the designer desires a more perfect heart, a bit of Photoshop work can provide that. For some design projects just such a contrast between object and symbol would be perfect. Keywording is important for images of this type, so that they can be found by appropriate searches in the stock photo library where they are placed. Keywords for this image could include: #BlackHeart, #HardHearted, #LoveTheHighway, #AsphaltHeart, and #HeartOfStone.

TarHeart-1C. David Tobie

All About That Bass

Music Festivals offer photographers an increased level of access to shoot musicians. However, it is often in less than ideal locations, with cluttered stages and backgrounds. One solution to this is to use a long lens, focus on closeups of one or two musicians at a time, and to use a shallow depth of focus; all of which will assist in reducing the impact of the clutter. Another option is to shoot up, from just in front to the stage, to avoid much of the stage gear.


This bass player, at the American Folk Festival, was grooving to his own beat. Isolating him from the band focused on that beat, and shooting from below offered a unique angle as well as clutter reduction. The Prada sunglasses were a fringe benefit.

C. David Tobie

Documenting Tributes to Deposed Dictators

Deposed dictators, especially those who caused much bloodshed and hardship for their people, are typically erased from the civic space. Their statues are removed, their names eliminated from buildings and road signs, and their brass plaques melted for scrap.

Because of this, it is particularly interesting to document the remnants that escaped destruction. Mussolini is no exception. I have seen a Mussolini quote still displayed, carved in stone in the north of Italy, despite the mass deportation of the local German speaking residents during the Fascist era. And here, in a tiny remote village of Southern Tuscany, I was surprised to see another quote attributed to him still in evidence.

Mussolini Quote-1

The quote itself is quite harmless, there is no heavy propaganda; it could be made into one of those inspirational posters seen in offices. But one wonders if it was whitewashed after the war, and has become visible again with time, or if the missing corner with Mussolini’s name was removed by intent, or by age. However, this fresco makes an interesting photo subject, and while I have never found a suitable use for such an image, I keep it in my library, awaiting the need.

C. David Tobie