The piercing scream of a 10 year old girl echoed across the serene waters of the bay, provoking gasps of concern from 3 local fisherman and a bewildered look from a nearby Caribou. There are only a few moments in life when a grown man can get away with screaming like a schoolgirl, I feel that this was one such time, and I played my full hand of 10 year old terror as I clumsily fumbled with the camera, saving it mere inches above the water. As I clutched the camera to my chest like an overprotective mother I realized that all three fishermen were laughing at me and even the Caribou looked slightly bemused.. Such are the joys of travel photography.
Taking a bulky camera with you everywhere as you travel can occasionally be about as much fun as being punched in the face. Generally however, i’ve found that it’s worth the hassle as ironically our memories are quite terrible at remembering. We have almost limitless library space in our heads but are cursed with the worlds worst librarian. I think this is the main reason I love travel photography so much; it’s a captured moment in time that will never happen again exactly like it did in that moment and that captured moment is now yours, forever.
Good travel photography should inspire the viewer to explore, it should introduce a new perspective and capture a moment or a feeling forever. While it can be a little tricky, here are some good, general travel photography tips for any of you budding travel photographers out there.
1) Less equipment is more
Who wants to be carrying around a plethora of tripods, screens, lenses, cases and highly flammable cleaners while simultaneously trying to balance on the back of an elephant and avoid tree branches? Keep the equipment to a minimum when you pack, even lenses, I generally travel with only 2 lenses, a wide angle and a generic 40mm with a tiny slim style tripod. It all fits into an easy to manage camera case that goes around my neck for safe keeping. Rule of thumb = Less in more.
2) Backup habits
Like pissing into the wind, everyone seems to have to learn this one the hard way. Murphy’s Law’s a real bitch and yes it can happen to you! Losing a months worth of irreplaceable photos (memories) is worse then a swift kick to the nuts so there’s no excuses, it takes only 5 minutes so make a habit of it and back up your files, then backup the backups!
3) Keep notes on each days events
As I said above, our memories suck, it’s too easy to forget the name of that building, small village or the person who’s the focus of your image. Take a notebook (or use your phone) and write down a few details about your day, things like where you went, landmarks, names etc.. this saves you from trudging through countless images trying to piece together the small details of your journey in post production.
You need a pair of stones to get good images, generally by going where few others will. I’ll be the first to admit it’s scary asking a complete stranger in a foreign country if its ok to take their photo. My advice: start with a smile, be polite, confident and just do it, 90% of the time it’s totally fine. Even if they say no, thank them (always treat them with respect) and move on, there are plenty more opportunities for good images.
5) Safety while shooting
Never do anything stupid for a photo. It can be really tempting to stand up in the back of the truck or get right to the edge of that waterfall but a good image if never worth compromising your safety. Chances are you’re probably not covering a groundbreaking revolution so there’s no legitimate reason to put yourself deliberately in harms way. Always be safe, and especially never compromise anyone else’s safety for a photo. If you really want a close up of the lion, don’t jump into it’s pen, just use a longer lens..
6) Limit the postcard shots
This one’s purely subjective but every man and his dog has a postcard photo of the [Insert famous landmark here]. While these classic tourist shots are important to capture for memory sake why not limit these types of images to only a few choice shots before trying to capture the landmark from a different perspective/angle/light that makes the image totally unique to you? Maybe this is just me, but I like to try and seperate myself from the wild packs of tourists snapping generic holiday photo’s whenever possible. Frame it differently, get really close, shoot from the ground, use filters, angles or lighting to make the image that much less generic.
8) A photo exit strategy
Why are you taking your images? It’s important to do a little planning and to keep an end purpose in mind when taking shots. Maybe you want to build a folio of images and sell them to a magazine or paper? Maybe you wanted to aim for a revenue stream and these particular images will be uploaded to a stock photography site? Do you want to create engaging images for your blog posts? or maybe some artistic styled prints for your lounge room? Each of these outcomes may require a different approach to your photography so it helps to have these outcomes in mind before you start taking any shots.