I love to travel and I love to bring home gorgeous pictures. Well, who doesn’t? Let me tell you my secrets to great travel shots.
Like most things, travel photography benefits from a bit of preparation.
Weapon of choice
Good travel pictures start with your choice of camera. If you have only two of three cameras, that’s easy: just bring all of them. But if you’re a bit of a collector like me, the choice can be a bit harder. Take a moment to think about what you would like to achieve. Crisp, clear, National Geographic type pictures? Bring something with a glass lens, preferably a SLR or TLR. Soft, moody pictures? Choose between the Holga or Diana. Mx? Choose between LC-A+ or another Lomography camera. Panoramas? Pick the Horizon or the Spinner 360.
Also, what kind of weather do you expect? Lots of rain? Bring a waterproof camera. Bright sunshine or snow? Small plastic lenses will work. Grey-ish weather? Use glass lens, something that doesn’t need a lot of light to produce adequately exposed pictures.
Last but not least, how much weight are you willing (or able) to carry? A two week mountain hike may not be the best trip to take that heavy SLR and your Horizon. But even if you’re taking a luxury city trip you can get a pretty sore shoulder from carrying too many cameras (been there, done that.)
Next is of course, the choice of film. For those National Geographic pictures, take normal color negative film. In drab weather, X-Pro or Redscale may lend a bit of extra color to your shots. Or go the other way and shoot B&W. Sunny beaches or ski pistes will be fine at 100 ISO, for most other destinations I would advise a higher ISO especially if your’e taking a plastic lens camera. I usually take a mix of CN, slide and B&W films and try to make sure each camera had a different type of film loaded.
As the old cliche goes: the best camera is the one you have with you. I would like to modify that into: the best camera is the one you can get to in five seconds. Unless your’e traveling with a bunch of other photography nuts, people tend to get pretty annoyed if they have to wait around every ten minutes while you dig up your camera, adjust the settings, frame your composition, snap and put away your camera. So make sure you have easy access to your camera. A comfortable neck strap is an investment well worth it.
When I’m hiking in good weather, I walk around with one camera on a neck strap, another camera attached to my pack with a carabiner and another one in a pocket of my pack that I can open and close without taking my pack off. In bad weather, I stuff one or two cameras in my coat pocket and attach a waterproof camera to my pack. It’s not the most charming look but I can take pictures within a few seconds. Sometimes that’s all you have.
And then the real stuff: actual shooting. Good travel photography is actually pretty much the same as any other photography. The main thing is to keep your eyes open, and when in doubt, shoot. Try to remember rules like the rule of thirds, lead room and the likes. They are useful tricks that really work. Once you know them, you can always choose to break those rules of course, but I find them immensely useful as guidelines.
Some of my favourite techniques are:
A road, river, curb or some such thing going from one corner into the centre of your picture can draw the eye into the picture. This is my all time favourite technique. It doesn’t have to be a literal road, but keep an eye out for useful lines.
When shooting landscapes, try to have something in the foreground as well, to add depth. I sometimes shoot gorgeous landscapes, that turn out pretty boring on a picture: a line of green land on the bottom, a line of blue sky on top – together a rather flat picture. Having something in front of that immediately adds more depth, creating a more interesting picture.
Don’t forget the details. I usually travel into nature where I tend to take pictures of sweeping wide vistas a lot. It’s tempting to try and take in as much as possible on your pictures, especially when traveling to new and exotic destinations. But don’t forget to shoot some details as well – a funny sign, a pretty bit of sculpturing on the corner of a building. When going through 50 mountain views, it’s nice to see the occasional flower.
A bit of contrast in your subject can often work very nicely. Old versus new, big versus small. You get the drift.
So, these are my tips for great travel photography. Now go out and make me jealous of your gorgeous pics!