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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Art Of Travel Photography

To make evocative travel images that tell the story of a place and its people, look beyond photo clichés

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Bonaventure Island Gannets, Québec
Bonaventure Island Gannets
Large bird colonies are raucous, aromatic and chaotic, and with a little patience they can yield stunning images. Each summer many thousands of northern gannets come to Bonaventure Island in Québec to mate and nest. After a brief boat ride from the mainland and a 30-minute walk across the island, I arrived at a roped-off viewing area. Beyond the rope, hundreds of pairs of gannets crowded together on their nesting grounds.

After photographing the colony with a wide-angle lens, I moved in with a telephoto lens to photograph individual birds. It took me awhile to find a pair that wasn't stained with guano or dirt, but eventually I spotted these two at the edge of the colony engaged in their intimate bonding ritual. Wanting to isolate them from other birds, I lay down on my stomach, steadied my telephoto lens and began watching the pair. The birds were changing poses constantly, which required fast shooting, and since they weren't moving toward or away from me, I switched to manual focus to avoid the autofocus lag time and ensure the eyes were in sharp focus.

As I studied them, I noticed certain behaviors followed in sequence, and I was able to anticipate different poses. This shot is one of those moments, representing the strong bonding that takes place between a species that mates for life. The guano stains on my elbows and knees were a worthwhile price to pay for the privilege of witnessing this intimate moment.
Canon EOS 7D, Canon 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM, 1⁄1000 sec. at ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Monument Valley Sand Dune, Utah
Monument Valley Sand Dune
Monument Valley, Utah, is famous for its colorful buttes, spires and towers, but it's becoming harder to find a unique angle on this iconic landscape. For a more personal experience of the park, I hired a Native American guide to take me away from the usual tour routes. As we hiked along a dry creek bed, this rippled dune with pinnacles in the distance intrigued me, but an overcast sky made for dull lighting so we kept walking.

Two minutes later, the clouds broke and I sprinted back to the scene just as sunlight hit the dune. Crouching down, I moved close with a wide-angle lens to emphasize the ripples in the sand that lead the eye to the distant pinnacles. I had time to shoot only three frames before the cloud shadow returned, and two were blurred due to camera shake as I caught my breath from running, but this one was a keeper. The animal tracks climbing up the dune add an element of mystery to the photo.
Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM, 1⁄60 sec. at ƒ/14, ISO 100

Alaska Kayaking, Inside Passage
Alaska Kayaking, Inside Passage
After a soggy week of wet weather and dull light along Alaska's Inside Passage, the skies cleared one morning and we launched two kayaks from our small expedition ship for a trip into a protected bay. The surrounding mountains reflected perfectly in the still water, and as we approached the shoreline, the lines of sky and land began converging on the mirror-like surface.

Having positioned myself in the stern so I could photograph my kayaking partner as a foreground element, I positioned us so I could capture both kayaks and the landscape with a wide-angle lens. With everyone paddling slowly, I was able to freeze the paddle motion with a fast shutter speed, yet still keep a decent depth of field. With the sun at our backs, the tricky part was keeping my shadow off the kayak. Soon after I took this shot, a breeze rippled the water and the reflection vanished.

Equally spectacular but unseen in this photo are the hundreds of golf ball-sized, white jellyfish swimming gracefully just beneath the surface.
Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM, 1⁄125 sec. at ƒ/9, ISO 100

Eric Lindberg is a freelance photographer and writer based in Denver, Colo. He's the 2011 Society of American Travel Writers Photographer of the Year. You can see more of Lindberg's photography at www.ericlindberg.com.


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