Taking great travel photos is about capturing cherished family memories – and making your Facebook friends jealous. Here’s how to do it right.
RESEARCH & PREPARE
Know where you’re going and what you’ll find when you get there. There’s lots of up-to-date information available online so allow a bit of research time before you travel to a new location. Do a Google Image search to see how other photographers are capturing the destination and identify ways you might be able to do it differently, or even better. This will also help you to identify specific photogenic locations at the destination, which you can then include in your travel itinerary. You’ll also learn about changing seasonal conditions that impact on wildlife and weather events, such as Burketown’s Morning Glory clouds or Hobart’s Aurora Australis.
Before departure, make sure your gear is clean, your batteries charged and your chargers packed, and throw in a good cleaning kit, too. Get to grips with new gear before your adventure begins. The field is no place to test a new lens; you don’t want to miss that perfect shot because you are unfamiliar with your kit.
OBSERVE THE MAGIC HOURS
When most travellers are settling in to enjoy happy hour, photographers worth their salt 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, discover different angles and shoot from new positions as the light changes.
When the sun has finally set most people think it’s all over and rush back to the comfort of camp, but wait a little longer and the light will bounce back up into the sky to illuminate the landscape and/or your subject in the 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. These are the best conditions for beautiful landscape photography.
ENGAGE WITH YOUR SUBJECT
Shy photographers might prefer the safety of a big telephoto lens behind which they can survey the landscape and candidly capture the people who move through it. This method might work well in certain situations, but overall the images will lack intimacy.
Instead, put the camera down, approach your subject and strike up a friendly conversation with the people you want to capture. You will find most people are very approachable and happy to have someone interested in what they’re doing. Taking this approach will result in more intimate photos with great stories behind them. Over time, this method will become more comfortable and you might even make new friends.
MASTER YOUR GEAR
Learn everything you possibly can about your gear. Read the printed manual, partake in online tutorials, join internet forums and practice as much as possible in the field so that choosing the right setting for the right moment becomes second nature. Experiment with shutter speeds, ISO and apertures on your camera and learn how to use them to create your desired images.
Try slowing down the shutter speed on an overcast day with a small aperture (eg 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 (eg 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, which means round bursts of light on highlights. Once you master these techniques, the photographic possibilities are limitless and you’ll get great satisfaction from your photography.
BREAK THE RULES
I love breaking the rules, and I really encourage other photographers to flex their creativity when framing 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.
But this traditional form of composition is worth challenging sometimes, as experimenting with the natural lines in the landscape or architecture can create unexpectedly stunning images. You might like to experiment with angles, too, shooting your subject from lofty heights or getting below it. When it’s time to add to your kit consider investing in a drone, or if you love experiencing the magical marine world an underwater housing might be more up your alley.
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