Friday Foto Talk: Travel Photography, Part III   9 comments

An empty beach invites exploration on Costa Rica's remote Osa Peninsula.

An empty beach invites exploration on Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula.

This is the third and final installment in this series on travel photography tips.  I hope you’ve enjoyed and gotten something out of them.  Check out Part I and Part II if you haven’t already.  If you are interested in any of the pictures just click on them and you will see options for purchase of the high-resolution versions.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

      • What to Photograph:  You should have done some research on what to seek out and photograph while on your trip.  But if you didn’t do much, so what?  Just hit up a gift shop when you arrive and check out the postcards.  They will tell you what is often photographed in that place.  You might not want to take most of those pictures, but it is only a good thing to know what they are.  Don’t be shy, ask questions about the subjects in the pictures.  Hit up the proprietor or buy the card(s) and approach locals on the street with questions about what’s pictured.  This can yield much more than how to get to the particular spot.  Think of postcards as springboards for further exploration.

A boy in a village in northern India gazes with a peculiar intensity.

      • Roaming & People Pics:  I mentioned wandering above, but I want to stress that there is one good reason that a plan is not really necessary.  That reason is people.  There are almost certainly going to be people anywhere you go, and they are endlessly fascinating subjects for your pictures.  While I am normally quite reserved around home, I open up on the road.  Especially in different countries, I’m willing to sort of make a fool of myself.  I approach people readily, perhaps make a joke, and ask to take some photographs.  Most say yes.  Sometimes I even take their picture first then go up and explain why I just took their picture.  My reason is usually flattering.  As you might know, flattery will get you everywhere.

Two young Sherpa friends haul equipment on the trail to Namche Bazaar in Nepal.

      • Children:  I hate seeing tourists with cameras converge on kids and you see the kids aren’t into it.  It’s one thing if a group of laughing children approach you and ham it up.  But you should always ask about and look for their parents.  Ask the parents if it’s okay first.  Just don’t be one of those doofuses in the Himalayan village cornering a couple young friends just being themselves and feeling slightly threatened by all the pasty tourists pressing in with their cameras.

Upon waking very early on only my 3rd morning in Africa, I stepped outside to see this stately female Thornicroft's giraffe in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park.

      • Elderly:  There is a sort of axiom out there about travel photography that kids and old people are what you should focus on.  This might be true as far as the impact of the images, but I don’t generally go along with it.  I think there are all sorts of interesting people out there: young, old and in between.  But kids and the elderly are probably most likely to have the time to give you.  Just don’t treat the elderly like some people treat kids – as if they have no real say in the situation.  Treat everybody the same, with respect for them and their time.

A woman in the Himalaya of Nepal is proud of her vegetable garden, and her grandson.

      • Communication:  A nice smile and willingness to chat is always good.  Sometimes language is a barrier.  But you can just share what pictures you’ve taken with them (via the LCD) and have a laugh.  It’s important to make some kind of connection, and make clear from the beginning that you’re into taking pictures.  Don’t be shy about that.

In Etosha, Namibia, my patience paid off.  After 2+ months in Africa, I had not seen a cheetah.  Then I happened on a mother and these two cuties.

      • Sharing:  It goes without saying, if you promise to send pictures of people that you’ve taken, you need to follow through.  Doing it while on the road is the best option.  But I carry a Polaroid Pogo printer, a pocket-sized printer that uses no ink and connects directly to my DSLR via a mini-USB cable.  It produces wallet-sized prints.  I give out prints for people who cooperate and with whom I’ve spent time.  I don’t go crazy (you can only carry so much paper), but it has greased many a wheel believe me.  I just found out, however, that they have almost quadrupled the price on these.  The new ones have bluetooth, but I paid $45 and they are now about $160!  I can’t really recommend this thing (which produces, after all, rather poor quality prints) at that new price.  But if you can find an older one, go for it.

The spectacular peak of Taboche looms above the trekking route to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

      • Money:  Should you pay for pictures or not?  If a person is dressed up like his ancestors and is accompanied by a bored animal, you can bet you need to.  But in most cases it’s optional; always has been.  I don’t generally do it.  But since in the case of other countries (where you are more likely to be asked to pay) the people I want to photograph are on the street and thus may likely be selling something, I will simply buy something from them.  Then I’m not some tourist with a camera but a customer.  Or if they ask for money I might offer them a small print (from the Pogo – see above), explaining that it’s not my “thing” to pay for photos.  Like all rules, this rule of mine has exceptions, but I try pretty hard to stick to it.

An attractive couple of locals from the Nicaraguan island of Omotepe take a break from riding their horses in a local parade.

      • Relax:  I think everyone should read Tao de Ching before they travel.  Trust me I’ve tried too hard when traveling, usually only for the first couple days though.  Just take it as it comes.  If it rains, get an umbrella and shoot interesting city stuff.  If it’s hot get out early and late, taking advantage of “pool light” in the mid-day.  Shoot what interests you in the place you’re in and don’t stress about things.  You want to have a good time on your trip, so you should be willing to miss some shots and keep your “let the good times roll” vibe in place.  For one thing, you’ll get better people shots with a fun carefree attitude.  Have fun!

A lone jet skier motors across Lake Powell, Arizona at dusk.

Okay, I’m tired of this subject for now.  There is more, probably much more, to say on this subject.  If you have something to add, or any questions, let it fly!  I’ll probably be posting on this subject in the future, and many of my posts are travel-related anyway.  Thanks for reading!

A relaxing walk on the beach is a great way to take life easy when on the road.  Get a picture while you're at it.

9 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Travel Photography, Part III

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  1. What beautiful pictures.

    Best wishes

  2. Great tips. This has been a wonderful, informative series.

  3. That giraffe photo is quite striking. The combination of light and perspective really worked well.

  4. Amazing, Mjf! Thank you so much for taking time to post tips for your readers!



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