The main goal of the travel photographer is to convey a sense of place. This means capturing the mood of the location and doing so in all types of conditions. Be it dealing with crowds of people, poor weather conditions, photographing at night, or harsh light, it's important to come back with the best possible images. Go beyond the I Was Here photo so you can return from your destination with the I Was Here and Look at How Great the Images are photos.
Some Things Remain the Same: In many respects, travel photography is no different than other types. The same basic rules of composition and good light apply. Incorporate the rule of thirds into your people, wildlife, landscape, cityscape, and architectural images. Try to avoid placing key elements in the center of the viewfinder. If you were to apply an imaginary tic tac toe grid over the LCD, place the main subjects at the points at which the lines intersect. By doing so, you'll be using the rule of thirds. With regards to good light, be sure you're out at sunrise and sunset to capture the best light that reveals shape, form and texture in your subjects. Additionally, it's at these times that the color of the light is at its finest.
Pack Wisely: Weight is always a concern when traveling. This holds true for what you have to carry when you're out in the field in addition to the airline's restrictions. To help with both factors, a carbon fiber tripod is a necessity. I also suggest you look into the newer zooms that cover a wide number of focal lengths. The sharpness factor has gotten a lot better especially if they incorporate a few high end glass elements. To capture the essence of a location, it's essential to make some night shots and if possible, include some of the local people. This may necessitate the use of an accessory flash. Some cameras have pop up flashes, but these may not provide the necessary power for a serious night shoot. Additionally, they will drain the in camera battery quickly leaving you stranded. Speaking of batteries, always carry spares and be sure to charge them every day. Bring plenty of memory cards especially if you intend to leave the laptop at home. If this is the case, bring along something onto which you can download and view your photos to be sure your cameras and lenses are in good working order.
Low Light / Night: Low light and night time photography necessitate the use of a tripod. This is where a carbon fiber comes in handy. While a tripod may not be the most liked piece of photo equipment, it should be one of the most revered. When you stop to think about all it can do, its drawbacks are diminished. Besides the obvious need to steady the camera for low light shots, it forces you to think more deeply about your compositions. With the camera on a tripod, the picture making process is slowed down which helps you fine tune the composition. A tripod allows you to be in your own travel photos when you use the self timer. And it can be used as a light stand to hold your flash off camera for better night photo lighting. With your camera on a tripod, you can slow down the shutter to create streaks of light in your photos so you'll go home with more creative photos. Enable long exposure noise reduction to help eliminate noise. Keep the ISO low so the quality of each capture is better. In that the camera is on a tripod, it doesn't matter if the exposure is long.
Beyond the Obvious:
a) Rather than photograph just the key building, statue or other icon, move in close or use your zoom to look for a point of interest that still depicts the key item but makes it a bit different.
b) Find A Frame: Use foreground elements that add a sense of place to a distant key subject in the distance. The same way a frame adds beauty to a work of art, the compositional technique of adding a frame gives interest to your subject.
c) Look for situations where silhouettes add impact to your images. Dip into the shade when the key subject is brightly lit. Find an item in the shade that adds interest to the key subject but expose for the bright main subject to try to silhouette the darker foreground.
d) Tell a story with your subjects as you record them in action. It could be their job, their leisure activity or anything else that shows what they're doing. Make sure to incorporate the principles of good light and composition.
e) Look for details, not just the grand scene. Quite often, a great photo can be found at your feet or just off to the side. Don't forget to look down, to the left, to the right, behind and above.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours.