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What’s Different About Travel Photography


Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 50mm Distagon FLE T series lens with Kodak Professional Portra 160VC film

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 50mm Distagon FLE T series lens with Kodak Professional Portra 160VC film

The view of a famous city, the feeling of exhilaration when beholding one of nature’s icons, the vastness of a desert landscape, the power of the animal world, the excitement of an ultra modern neon lit city, the assault on the senses when visiting a local market, the peace provided by a rainforest and the serenity one experiences when visiting a sacred site await the adventurous traveller. But what part does photography play in your travels? And how important is the making of great images to the success of your trip?

Photographs offer a way of effectively sharing our experiences with family and friends. Whether by the traditional photo album or via blog, website or email photography provides us with the opportunity to both re-live and share the color and excitement of our adventures. In time, what we photograph may be the only part of our trips that can be remembered clearly.

While many recognise the importance of recording these treasured moments, few are prepared for the experience of actually making the images. Here are a few tips that might be of help, particularly for those who place considerable value in their photography.

Instead of taking pictures of family and friends in familiar surroundings, you’ll likely be photographing strangers, in unfamiliar surroundings, and probably photographing more landscapes, architectural interiors and close-ups than you would otherwise.

The most amazing moments happen right before your eyes. This places you under pressure to make a great image of what may well be a once in a lifetime experience.

You’ll have much more chance of being able to make a great image, under such challenging circumstances, if you practice making the same sort of picture before you begin your trip. This is no different for a photographer than it would be for an elite athlete, musician or actor. Practice makes perfect, and to be able to make a great image you need to be able to anticipate the moment before it happens, have the familiarity with your equipment that will allow you to set and use it quickly and, know where best to stand to make the most out of your lens and achieve the best composition and lighting.

While this might seem like a tall order, you can prepare for most situations by finding similar events in your own part of the world. Let’s say you live in a small country town in Middle America. Every year there’s a parade that celebrates (for example) Independence Day. Though there might only be 200 people at the parade, you’ll likely face many of the same challenges making great pictures there that you will a month later photographing a major religious procession in India. The problems are often the same, just on a larger scale. To make good images you’ll need to research the event: it’s date, time, location and route; and determine the best vantage point for composition and light.

It’s essential that, unless you’re looking for a silhouette, that the sun be behind you so that the subject’s face and clothing are lit. This will also give you the opportunity to practice asking permission to make portraits, of both those involved in the parade and the spectators, as well as photographing moving subjects. You’ll only ever make great photographs if you use the camera in a way that empowers you. You might be very shy by nature but, with the camera in your hand, you can develop super hero confidence and abilities. The camera can be an obstacle or a passport into a new and exciting world. It all depends on your viewpoint.


Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron Lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron Lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

You might be about to travel to Italy to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. Before undertaking your trip why not spend a few hours photographing a local church in your area. Of course it’s always advisable to ask permission, particularly if you’re going to be setting up a tripod in a doorway or planning to walk up onto the altar area. It would also be wise to send an email to your tour guide asking if tripods are allowed inside the Basilica. If not, practice making the same images, without a tripod, to determine the slowest Shutter Speed at which you can successfully hold your camera without experiencing camera shake. When your finally get to shoot inside St. Peter’s and you reach the Shutter Speed at which camera shake is likely to occur, set your lens to a wider aperture and/or higher ISO setting. This will provide you with a faster Shutter Speed ensuring a sharp result.

The next thing to do is study your images with a critical eye and understand the limitations of your equipment (e.g. the magnification of your lens) and under what conditions you’d be unable to make a satisfactory image. If you love photographing people you should take your camera along to as many parties, picnics and barbeques as possible before your travels begin. Practice making candid and more formalized portraits of people you know. Learn from disappointment the type of lighting conditions that produce poor results. Remember those conditions and allow that memory to remind you of the negative feelings you experienced when you failed to make good pictures.

While this might seem a strange thing to do, it is an essential strategy toward producing great results when it counts. Its not about embracing or dwelling on disappointment, it’s about using the power of negative emotions to cause us to learn from our mistakes and take action to ensure we don’t repeat them. Not wanting to experience the same negative feelings you will do what you need to do to produce a better result the next time you’re photographing under the same lighting conditions.


Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

On a bright, sunny day the solution may be as simple as asking the subject to move into the soft, flattering light offered by even shade. When they do you’ll notice that bright, shinny areas on their skin are reduced and that they stop squinting, which reduces visible lines on their face and allows you to see the color of their eyes. To get the right exposure ensure that there are no really bright areas, such as a sky or sunlit grass, in your composition.

One of the critical differences between a professional and amateur photographer is the pro’s determination to photograph under the best lighting possible. Sometimes that involves complicated lighting arrangements. Often it means looking around and determining what area (ground, table, wall, etc) is lit in a pleasing manner and having the confidence to move your subject into that light. Again, practice makes perfect.

With a better understanding of how to use your camera and what conditions produce the best possible results you’ll be well on the way to making great pictures on holiday and through the rest of your photographic adventures. Your increased skills and knowledge will allow you to photograph with more positive energy and confidence than you otherwise would have. You’ll begin to notice the color, direction and quality of light in your daily life and come to an understanding that photography is about other things than cameras, Shutter Speeds, Apertures and ISO.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


2 Responses

  1. What an insightful post. Practice makes perfect. I remember when I got my first digital SLR. I arranged shipment shortly before a long trip, thinking all I needed was that shiny new camera to take great pictures. I don’t think I have to explain the outcome.
    The photographs are stunning.

  2. Thanks for your response and positive compliments. Please let me know if there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address. If I can, I’d be happy to.

    All the best,


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