This is the second of three parts on travel photography. Check out Part I, which covered gear & packing issues. Given the time of year, this subject may be “right in your wheelhouse” , as they say. So here are tips for when you hit the ground running (or jetlagged?). Exciting stuff that first day on a long trip! But how to go about getting your best shots? Read on…
- Be ready: While traveling, always be on the lookout for interesting photos. This sounds obvious I realize, but many people seem to think their camera comes out only when they reach their destination. As it is often said, it’s about the journey, and so should your photos be. Many people get this of course, and I don’t want to preach. Just keep your camera handy and ready to shoot from the time you leave home; that is my advice.
- Start Slow: If you fly a long ways, this is more important. You will be jetlagged and/or adjusting to a completely different environment. This is not a good time to be lugging all your photo gear around trying to imitate a crack photojournalist or Nat. Geo. stud. In fact, this is a good excuse for pocketing your little point and shoot (which I recommend taking if you’re a DSLR person) and just wandering around shooting only when you see something you like. Colorful murals, sculptures, you know, the easy stuff! Beware: that first day or so is by far the most likely time for you to be ripped off, or at least persuaded to buy something way too expensive. You’re tired, naive and trusting. It can be a good thing, just be careful.
- Light is still important: Get out early and be out late. I see so many travel photos taken in horribly harsh light, even by people who usually shoot in great light near home. The rules for good light, good photography, they don’t change because you are on the opposite side of the world. Just because you are in front of a gorgeous and iconic sight like the Grand Canyon doesn’t mean your photo will turn out great if it is taken in bad light. That said, when confronted with an amazing subject or event, shoot away, to heck with the light!
- Wander: There is nothing more exciting about travel than to head out with not much of a plan and an open attitude. Seems obvious; that’s why you travel, right? If I’m driving, I head down random side-roads. In other countries, I will get off the bus if I like what I’m seeing and catch a later one. Wandering the streets of a new town, especially in the early morning hours, gives you a different take on the place from those tourists who are sleeping in or doing the pool scene at the hotel.
- Experiment: You are traveling and in a strange place. This is the time to take chances with your photography. Try panning in colorful cities. Look for unusual and gritty subjects. Just take care to not exploit the locals, no matter their economic circumstance. Another way to look at this is experimenting with your point of view. Try new things! It will get you into places from which you can take photos from a perspective that will definitely liven up your collection. You might also meet interesting people you might never have run into had you not stretched your boundaries.
- Attend Local Events: Related to the above point, be on the lookout for special festivals and events. When the locals party, you can be sure there will be great pictures to be had. If you have a little lead time, you can even chat up people you meet and offer to take pictures of them during the event. You can even trade copies of the pictures for model releases. I did this in Nicaragua for the family I was staying with, and oh boy what a party it was (see image below)! I even ended up having my photography pay for my lodging and food too.
- Variety is the spice with travel, so mix it up! Get up close for detail shots, find expansive viewpoints, seek out very colorful abstracts (street murals are a gimme) and find good subjects for black and white. Don’t eschew the over-photographed classics, just try to get a different take on them. The goal is to not have any two or three pictures look very much alike. Take a lot of pictures, yes, but make sure they aren’t all the same.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned next Friday Foto Talk for the final segment, Part III. If you’re interested in any of these images, just click on them to get pricing options for the high-resolution versions. They are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission, sorry. Questions? Just contact me. Thanks for reading!