So You Think You Know Melbourne? 13 Notable Melbourne Landmarks to Photograph

For its international reputation, Melbourne rates poorly to Sydney for beauty. While it's true, Melbourne may not have a dazzling harbour, a gargantuan bridge, or an absurdly-shaped opera house, it does have a number of hidden - and not-so-hidden - gems worth photographing. We've provided 13 of Melbourne's most photogenic landmarks here for your benefit.

1. Melbourne Cricket Ground

Melbourne simply wouldn't be the city it is without the beloved MCG, or what locals endearingly call ‘the G’. The MCG encapsulates the sporting heart of this sport-mad city.

Located beside the Yarra River, the original grounds were built in 1853 and have since received a number of renovations to cater for the 1956 Olympic Games, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and the growing cricket and AFL crowds.

From a technical viewpoint, the MCG is best used in the foreground of photographs that sweep up the Yarra River to the city skyline beyond. Dusk is the optimum time for photos, when the stadium lights are turned on, emphasizing the power and importance of the stadium in modern Melbourne.

2. Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane is a Melbourne insider’s secret, yet it is the city’s most iconic street art laneway. The cobblestone alley is filled with stencils, paste-ups and murals of thought-provoking subjects.

In Gabriella Coslovich’s 2005 feature on Melbourne’s stencil graffiti, ‘Our colourful underbelly’, the journalist describes the landmark as engaging public art and a draw card for photographers looking for a unique backdrop for portrait photographs.

‘It’s not just wannabe rock stars seeking street cred for their new CD cover who converge on the lane to be photographed against the gritty, glorious backdrop of street and stencil art,’ Coslovich said.

‘Bridesmaids in long satin dresses and stiff up-dos and brides swathed in clouds of tulle, teeter precariously in their stilettos on unforgiving bluestone to secure a touch of urban chic for their wedding albums’.

3. The Arts Centre

Melbourne’s Arts Centre may have to contend with the Sydney Opera House, but though it’s not as famous (or as large) it can hold its own with its conspicuous webbed spire.

The Arts Centre is actually a complex of theatres and music halls, but its singular photographic interest is the spire, with its wrap-around base – inspired by a ballerina’s tutu – and Eiffelesque pinnacle.

The original spire, built in 1981, stood at 115 metres tall. Today, its replacement ascends 162 metres and is decorated with 6,600 metres of optic fibre tubing, 150 metres of neon tubing, and 14,000 incandescent lamps on the base. These decorations make spire the most picturesque at night, when the bulbs are in full-bloom.

4. Shrine of Remembrance

Some call the Shrine of Remembrance building austere. Others call it poignant. Modelled on ancient Greek monuments, the pyramidal building was opened on 11 November 1934 to commemorate the 19,000 Victorian soldiers who were killed in World War I.

Ceremonial Avenue, where trees have been planted honouring lost soldiers, leads to the building. From the steps of shrine, visitors are privileged to a piercing view through the city of Melbourne, straight down Swanston Street. The grey bricks can take on a golden or pinkish hue at sunset and sunrise, making these the best times for photography.

5. Brighton bathing boxes

Although not in Melbourne’s central business district, Brighton’s bathing boxes are as popular a Melbourne icon as the MCG itself. Although there are approximately 1,860 bathing boxes, boat sheds, and similar structures in around Port Phillip Bay and Westernport Bay, Brighton’s bathing boxes are the closest to the city and represent a unique photographic opportunity. Many well-known photographers, including respected Australian photographers Ken Duncan and Phil Gray, have come to Brighton to capture the boxes from variety of distinctive perspectives.

The 82 boxes that exist on Brighton Beach today were built in the early 1900s. They retain the classic Victorian architectural features typical of Melbourne’s bathing boxes, including the timber framing, weatherboards, and corrugated iron roofs.

The boxes are known for their colourful paintwork, symmetry, and alignment. From the right position south of the boxes, you can get photographs of the city skyline in the background. It is worth photographing at different times of the day and year, when lights and colours change according to the position of the sun.

6. The Webb Bridge

Webb Bridge is a newer addition to Melbourne’s city centre. Situated in the Docklands, this award-winning cycling and pedestrian bridge is supposed to represent a Koori eel trap, though locals agree it more closely resembles a large enclosed spider web.

Curving over the water, the bridge provides a great opportunity for reflection photographs, with the bridge’s mirror image in the water below. It is even better at night when the bridge’s lights are even better reflected in the black waters below.

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7. Queen Victoria Market

The Queen Victoria Market is a historic landmark in Melbourne. A sprawling complex of Victorian buildings spread over two blocks, the colloquially nicknamed Queen Vic Market has been around for over a century.

The buildings in themselves are beautiful, but this is the ideal place in Melbourne to get photographs of people and movement. A vibrant, bustling market, you can try to get long-exposure shots of a fluid crowd, or you can focus in on portraits of the market’s lively produce vendors.

8. Coops Shot Tower at Melbourne Central

Coop’s Shot Tower is a must-visit in Melbourne. The 50 metre-high tower was built in 1888 and slated for demolition in 1973 before finally being incorporated into the shopping complex Melbourne Central in 1991. Today, it stands beneath an 84 metre-high conical glass roof.

Today, the Shot Tower and glass cone are a popular place to visit for photographers. They come to capture the strange mix of steel, glass and brick materials, and the hypnotic symmetry of the steel square frames that hold the cone roof in place.

9. Luna Park

The unusual entrance to Melbourne’s Luna Park is one of the most iconic images of the city. To access the park, visitors must walk beneath the gaping mouth of Mr Moon, who is flanked by two brightly painted towers. This bizarre entrance has been photographed hundreds of times since the park was opened over 100 years ago.

10. St Kilda Pier and Pavilion

Sticking to the bohemian suburb of St Kilda, the St Kilda Pier, which culminates in the beautiful cream-coloured historic kiosk, is another favourite for local and visiting photographers. The structure burnt down in 2003 but was rebuilt according to the original 1903 plans.

The pier and pavilion can be photographed from a number of viewpoints. You can choose to focus the pavilion in the centre of the image and use the lines of the pier to lead the viewer’s eye to the structure. Alternatively, you can photograph the pier from the water’s edge, incorporating the natural elements of the bay into the shot.

11. Federation Square

The unusual architecture of Federation Square – locally called Fed Square – was received with controversy when the building was opened in 2002. The off-kilter buildings and bold, geometric facades were unlike anything else built in Melbourne.

However, for that same reason, they also provide a great opportunity for architectural photography. You can zoom in on a section of the sandstone, zinc and glass surface of the buildings or pan out to incorporate a greater part of the urban landscape.

12. Flinders Street Station

Melbourne would be incomplete without its unique central train station. Built in a French Renaissance style and opened in 1910, the building’s tall green dome and yellow bricks would go on to become the image of Melbourne. Locals flock to meet ‘beneath the clocks’ that adorn the arched entrance while tourists linger on the corners to marvel at the architecture.

Given its constant vibrancy, Flinders Street Station makes a good photograph any time of day. The station is best photographed from a height, to depict its size and stature in the city, but close-ups of the entrance detail are also worthy images.

13. Yarra River

It is likely Melbourne would not exist as the thriving city it is today without its life force, the Yarra River. It was on the banks of the river in 1935 that John Batman purchased 600,000 acres of land from the local Aboriginal elders to build what was to become Victoria’s capital city.

Among the most popular images of Melbourne today are photographs taken from downstream, with the Yarra River providing the natural lines to guide the viewer’s eye to the city skyline. Ken Duncan's Yarra River showcases this perspective wonderfully.

Melbourne is a city of surprises. Ensconced within its lanes, buildings and gardens is a treasure trove of hidden beauties. While this list should provide some inspiration to go out and photograph the city, nothing is better than exploring it yourself.

Richard Tarrant - Bio

Richard Tarrant - Founder and CEO of PictureStore Pty Ltd
Richard is founder and CEO of PictureStore and has worked since October 2000 to make wall art accessible to all Australians. Google+

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