Nothing tells a story like a really good photograph and being able to take one is de rigueur for every traveller keen to track their adventures on blogs, Facebook and Instagram.
With exciting new destinations to explore and wildly unfamiliar scenes, light and people to capture, travel photography and video challenges your creativity and flexes your skills. Here are some of my top tips for capturing great images on your next adventure away from home.
Research & Prepare
Know where you are going! This great piece of advice was given to me many years ago and it continues to save me a lot of time (and heartache) when I hit the ground, confident that I’ve arrived in the right place, at the right time.
There is so much up-to-date information available online and I always allow a fair bit of screen time before I travel to a new location. I start by looking at other photographers’ images using the images tab in the Google browser to show me how other people are capturing the destination and see what’s missing.
Once I reach the destination, the challenge for me is to capture it differently. Time spent researching will also make you aware of changing seasonal conditions that impact on any wildlife you might encounter, and tell you when and where you can capture specific weather events.
Remember to pack and dress appropriately for the weather or environment (wearing your favourite floor t-shirt while on a wildlife expedition might work against you) dress modestly, even wear local attire if you are travelling to culturally sensitive areas, respect the local customs and laws, it will open up doors for you!
wear local attire if you are travelling to culturally sensitive areas, respect the local customs and laws, it will open up doors for you!
Whatever gear you own, make sure that it is clean, batteries are charged and all your kit is packed well with all your extra’s e.g, cables – and there is a lot of them nowadays!, battery chargers, cleaning kit with sensor swabs – make sure you can fly with your chosen fluid, and any spares.
But remember small and light is best, your travel experience will be much richer if your not hauling a huge bag that feels as though it’s full of bricks!
Get to grips with any new gear before your adventure begins. The field is no place to test a camera and settings you don’t want to miss that perfect shot because you are unfamiliar with your kit.
The Magic Hours
When most travellers are settling in to enjoy Happy Hour, photographers will be out in the field chasing the last light of the day. To make the most of this precious hour, don’t stand in one spot expecting it all to unfold in front of you. You’ve got to move around and discover different angles, and shoot from new positions as the light changes.
When the sun has finally set (this is when most people think it’s all over and rush back to the comfort of camp or the hotel), wait a little longer and the light will bounce back up into the sky to illuminate your landscapes and subject in a most surreal way. The contrast is so subtle that it will bring out the detail in your images and reveal colours that are lost by harsh sunlight.
don’t stand in one spot expecting it all to unfold in front of you
This is when I capture about 90% of my landscape photographs, use a tripod during late hours so you can keep your ISO down low and have the full range of your settings and keeping your images pin sharp.
Engage with your Subject
I used to be a very shy photographer who preferred the safety of a nice big telephoto lens, which allowed me to survey my landscape and candidly capture the people who moved through it from afar. This method still works for me in certain situations but over time I realised that my images were lacking the intimacy of being part of what was happening in the frame; they just weren’t telling the story.
What I needed to do was put the camera down, approach my subjects and strike up conversations with the people I wanted to capture. You will find that most people are very approachable and happy to have someone interested in what they are doing and photograph them.
Taking this approach will result in more intimate photos with great stories behind them, and over time and with practise, this method becomes easier and easier to tackle.
Know your kit
Learn everything you can about your gear it will make you more feel confident and relaxed and then in turn everybody around you will feel at ease and welcoming to your camera.
Start by reading the printed manual if it’s new to you, get online tutorials and practise in the field so that choosing the right setting for the right moment becomes second nature to you. Experiment with shutter speeds, ISO and apertures on your camera, and use them to create your desired images.
Try slowing down shutter speeds on an overcast day with a small aperture (e.g. f22), and lower the ISO to create a dreamy flow of water on a river or waterfall. A tripod is vital for this kind of long exposure photography.
For portraits, a larger aperture (e.g. f2.8) will create a shallow depth of field that will really pull out from the background and create a lovely out of focus background with bokeh effects (round bursts of light on highlights).
There is a lot of info out there, once you master basics, the photographic possibilities are limitless!
Break the Rules
I love to break the rules! and I really encourage other photos and filmers to flex their creativity when framing up their next great image. Most people have heard of the ‘Rule of Thirds’ where your screen is divided with two horizontal and two vertical lines and you position your subject matter around where the lines meet to make an image more pleasing to the eye.
This predictable form of composition is worth challenging, and experimenting with the natural lines in the landscape architecture or people placement can create unexpectedly stunning images. I like to experiment with angles, play of light, shooting my subject from lofty heights or getting right down below it.
When it’s time to add to your kit, consider investing in a drone, new models come out monthly and are getting smaller and smarter for the travelling pilot and if you love experiencing the ever changing marine world, an underwater housing or GoPro with allow you to capture wild encounters under the sea.
My life has been spent looking at life through a lens, always looking for a new photo opportunity….and there’s nothing wrong with that!, just sometimes its good to pull that camera from my face and enjoy new friends and amazing destinations!