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Time short in Savannah, GA? Five tips on the best photo spots.
By Jim Byous
What!!?? You only have one weekend to visit Savannah? You gotta have pictures… but you want something different. Finding the right spot for pictures can be difficult when you are visiting a place for a short time. In Savannah, like anywhere else, there are many angles and views. Unfortunately, most travelers’ photos tend to look like everyone else’s. Here are five tips on how to make shots interesting with a few places to find them during your weekend photo hunt.
Having been here for the past twenty-five years helps. I’ve searched hard and often for vantage points that are different. Still, the five best photo locations in Savannah are hard to describe. Not because they aren’t there, but because there are so many. The city is most picturesque. And, not because I live here, but because it’s a freekin’ beautiful place… even in the heat of August.
Tybee Island is a short drive from Savannah’s Historic District and offers excellent opportunities for photographers. Here on the Strand, Hurricane Irene created a fantastic backdrop as she rolled up the Atlantic Coast. Colors can vary widely from morning to noon to evening, just be patient and enhance a bit in Photoshop.
Here we go:
First Tip, Get Close.
First. Get close. River Street and the Factor’s Walk area are great places to find different, less-often photographed shots, even though hundreds of thousands of tourists pass them each year. These two thoroughfares run parallel to the Savannah River and serve as a tourist haven. There is an abundance of history and dozens of shops for souvenir trolling that will occupy others who are traveling with you. Scout along the retaining walls that appear to keep the town from sliding into the water. They have great features to capture.
Ballast stone were used to build walls along what is now called Factors Walk. Before the Civil War, it was called River Street. Postbellum the wharves were connected to make an access road on the water and the old “River Street” became Factors Walk, named after the cotton and shipping factors’ offices walkovers that span the gap.
Most were built in the mid-1800s with segments going back to the century before. Stone from around the world can be seen; limestone with chert nodules from Devon England, basalt from Italy, coral from the Caribbean. They have unique textures and shapes that are pleasing to look at while telling their own version of history. Here too are cobblestone pavers that make interesting images.
An African-shaped stone serves in the cobblestone ramp behind City Hall.
The stones came in ships as ballast, rocks in the bottom the ships to balance the load and keep the ship upright. The stones were off-loaded on the docks and the city resold them for building materials. Walls, cobblestone streets and buildings were constructed over the years using them. Later in the 1800s ship captains realized they could substitute pig iron that could be sold to Savannah’s iron foundries and the negative-cash-flow stones were replaced with a money-making commodity.
Second. Find a parking garage and take the elevator, the stairs, or drive to the top floor. Not too many buildings are open for the user to image seekers, but parking garages usually offer a good, “birds-eye” perspective of nearby streets. Three of the following images were made on top of the State Street Parking Garage at Drayton and State Streets.
However, there are several multi-story walkways and garages in Savannah, so getting good vantage points for overall shots of different squares will mean lots of steps… or if you are like me, the elevator.
World Famous Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop taken from the east end of the State Street Garage. Taken from Oglethorpe Square parking garage, east end.
The Cluskey Vaults on Bull Street Ramp taken from the upper walkway above Factors Walk at dusk.
The Talmadge Bridge and Marshall House flag from the north-center section of the State Street facility.
Some attendants are grumpy about folks standing around, so shoot quick and go for the next site… or parking garage. There are many walls to look off of, giving interesting perspectives to the streets and people walking below.
Go Down and Look Up
Third. Go down and then look up. Sometimes finding a good and unusual view is simply bending your knees. By doing so you can combine near objects with those more distant. Or, you can give a perspective that most folks do not think of catching.
Dottie the Trolley is River Street’s free transport queen. Her schedule varies since construction, maintenance and construction often interfere with availability. Here, a bent-knee, lower-angle shot brings the upper stories of the historic warehouses into the composition with the trolley and cobblestones.
Sometimes it means looking up from a different location. Factors Walk offers many such views of the “skyline” buildings along the river. Its mid-way location between the lower, River Street and the upper, Bay Street buildings can give a great perspective for shooting.
Here, City Hall’s gold plated dome is viewed from Factors Walk-behind Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub. The gold is said to be from Dahlonega, Georgia. The stairway that the young lady is climbing is on the site of the original port crane built by James Oglethorpe in 1733.
The often photographed, Lafayette Veranda at the Owens Thomas House takes on a new perspective when shot from a low angle.
Looking up on a narrow street sometimes offers a great shot of detail on historic buildings as is seen on this picture of the frieze of the Federal Court House on Wright Square.
Go Where and When Other Don’t
Fourth. Go where and when others don’t. Most visitors follow a set pattern; visit River Street, take a carriage or trolley ride, and walk a few squares. Some venture out to Tybee Island and the beach. Highway 80 takes them from the Historic District to the island through Romerly Marsh where most do not see the photographic possibilities.
Romerly Marsh at Lazaretto Creek at mid-day. The partial overcast sky creates great lighting for capturing the grass, water, and sky. This was taken around 10 a.m. from the boat ramp off of Highway 80.
Savannah is surrounded by marshland that is accessible on the main thoroughfares. Stop and take a look, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. The beach at Tybee is similar. If you can schedule to go through or visit at sunrise or sunset
A pelican waits for the sun as it rises off of Tybee’s North Beach. Sunrise photo sessions are often overlooked by visitors who, in a hurry to see the next attraction, miss the morning’s light show. Photo by Becky Byous
you’ll have the best opportunities. Most sunbathers arrive later in the morning and leave just before sunset to avoid traffic. Little do they know that most everyone else think the same way which leads to… traffic.
Kudzu on the Ogeechee Canal, located on the west edge of the Historic District. These types of areas often show signs of litter and trash. That’s what Photoshop was invented to take care of. Just do it.
Look for the unusual
Fifth. Look for the unusual. As you walk around town look for things most people don’t record on their camera. Sometimes you may almost trip over them, sometimes they are so ordinary that a closer look is all you need to get a great photo.
Drain grating at Savannah’s Trustees’ Garden is molded in a gear motif to celebrate the Kehoe Iron Foundry’s place in history. Most passersby do not notice the unique design.
Flamingo on Bull Street adds an interesting perspective of Savannahian humor most visitors miss. Photo by Morgie McCormick.
A traffic mirror over a walkway between the Visitors Center and the Battlefield Park/Railroad Museum sites adds a different perspective that most will miss. This location is believed by some historians to be the site where many Patriots were buried in a mass grave after the 1779 battle, The Siege of Savannah. The monuments to the fallen can be seen in the mirror as well as to the right of the frame.
This view through a window at Clary’s Cafe was a grab shot as an older lady was attempting to ketchup to the rest of her group. (No charge for the bad pun.) Clary’s is noted for its appearance in the Clint Eastwood directed the movie, Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil.
That’s the five ideas and many more areas to find them, but remember, ALWAYS get the main overviews of the sites. You’ll want them to illustrate and add context to the differing views you find on your visit.
And be sure to catch the overall shots of important places. The Owens-Thomas House is a near, must-see. It’s one of many house museums in the historic city.
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