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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Journey To India

OP columnist William Neill’s recent trek on the subcontinent is the story of modern adventure travel

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Great cormorants, Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka. Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS
Making wildlife photographs is challenging anytime, anywhere, but having the right choice of lenses will improve your odds of success. On my India trip, I used the Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM zoom for most of my wildlife images. Since I was working from a boat mostly, this lens was perfect because of its flexibility. For wider views, I could zoom out to include wildlife and more of its environment. When a situation appeared for an animal portrait, I could zoom in very tightly to fill the frame. I also used the Canon EF 300mm ƒ/4L IS USM lens for wildlife.

Camels and drivers crossing sand dunes, Rajasthan. Canon EOS 50D
Although ƒ/2.8 lenses are great tools if you specialize in wildlife photography, they’re heavy, big and expensive. The smaller 300mm has worked fine for me.

The trip concluded with a journey to Rajasthan. I’ve always enjoyed photographing there, especially the desert architecture and colorful people. On this trip, we visited the Jamba region of Rajasthan for a fresh view of the area, away from the more heavily photographed areas of the state. Our base was the Dera Sand Dune Resort on the edge of a sand dune. From this base, we toured local villages by Jeep®, all organized by the resort to maximize our cultural and photographic experience. This location proved to be excellent for capturing portraits of the tribal people living in the harsh desert environment.

With the use of common courtesy and an introduction from our guide, I approached interesting people slowly, often without my camera. I wanted to learn more about their lives first and foremost. It’s important to establish a connection with people, even if brief. As I got to know them a little, I also looked for good lighting and backgrounds. If the situation was comfortable and conditions right, I would pick up my camera to photograph quickly, but casually.

Rajasthani girl. Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS
Too much intensity makes people nervous. Sometimes I directed my subjects, asking them to stand in better light or where a background was better, with less distractions. My favorite lens for people photography is the Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM. With this lens, I can shoot wide for an environmental portrait or zoom in tightly for a face shot without moving my position.

My equipment for this trip included two cameras—my heavy-duty pro model, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, plus the light and fast Canon EOS 50D. I mostly used the EOS 50D due to its weight and convenience. I used four lenses for my photographs—a Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II USM for scenics and street scenes, the EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM for portraits and general use, and for wildlife, as mentioned, my longest focal-length lenses, primarily the EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM, plus the EF 300mm ƒ/4L IS USM, as well as a Canon 2X extender.

When the expedition is all over, and I sit in the comfort of my home, the photographs are a great way to reconnect myself with the multitude of experiences along the way. All the efforts of planning and packing, if done well, tend to fade while the cultural interactions, friends made and, especially, the images are what I enjoy most about traveling. Good luck with your travels!

To learn about William Neill’s private workshops in the Yosemite area and his e-books
Meditations in Monochrome, Impressions of Light and Landscapes of the Spirit or to visit his photoblog and online courses with BetterPhoto.com, visit www.williamneill.com.


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