Regardless of the destination to where you travel, each has its own distinct characteristics. Whether your journey takes you to an iconic location to make scenics, a wildlife mecca like the Serengeti in Tanzania or a place richly immersed in culture to make portraits of the locals, translating the location’s attributes should be high on your list. Go in with a mindset to do this and you’ll come back with better travel photos.
Take In The Scene
Be it a grand western scenic or the rain forest of the Amazon, feel what the area radiates. Walk around with your camera at your side and simply absorb all you see with just your eyes. Use your other senses to take in the sounds and smells of where you go. Each incoming impulse will help you better understand what you face photographically. Start off by making no pictures. With every new step you take, look forward, backward, left and right and immerse yourself in what’s going on. The world around you encompasses 360 degrees. If all you take in is your forward view of 120 degrees, you’re potentially missing 240 degrees worth of images. In addition, look up and down at your feet. It’s in these closer worlds that iconic gems may exist. Don’t overlook them.
Working With Light
When you make scenics, watch the way light strikes every subject. Look for side light to reveal texture, shape and form. Get up early and stay out late as sunrise and sunset are the best times to photograph landscapes and seascapes. Include clouds if they reveal drama. Include a strong foreground to add depth to the scene. Be sure to obtain as much depth of field as possible. Stop your lens down to ƒ/22 and use the hyperfocal distance. This will maximize the lens’s potential to get foreground to infinity in focus.
When you make travel photos of people, be observant of their interaction with you and note how they respond when eye contact is made. Smiles make for a cordial welcoming, so don’t be shy. Look for subjects in colorful attire and don’t overlook making a wide shot to include the person’s environment to establish a sense of place. Shade or bright overcast light works great as the light is even and colors become more saturated. With this in mind, you can make photos for the entire day. If you have to photograph people in the sun during midday hours, use flash as a source of fill or even as a main light to obtain dramatic results. If you do work in the sun, make it a priority to create images at sunrise and sunset. Definitely include the environment during these time frames.
In regard to wildlife, watch an animal’s eyes and ears for signs it may perform, run from you, interact or ignore you. Look to see if other animals are around, especially the young. Photos of young animals playing are high on wildlife photographers’ lists. Again, get out at sunrise and sunset. As morning hours go on, I concentrate on smaller subjects and use flash as my main light or as a source of fill. For subjects that are farther away, I use a MagMod flash extender to throw light on distant subjects. Early and late front light works great on wildlife subjects, but sidelight and backlight can provide dramatic results. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.