10 top tips for taking amazing travel photographs
Get up early
Getting up early ensures that you have time to get to your chosen location and set up your equipment before the action starts. At Picos de Europa (pictured above) we had the tail end of a storm causing some dramatic clouds and fiery colour. The actual appearance of the sun in this case is not important; the effect that it has on the clouds is where the drama is. It’s a good idea to pinpoint the perfect time to shoot by using a smartphone app such as Sun Seeker to determine sunrise and sunset times for your exact location.
Get higher for an aerial cityscape
Low winter light and a moody black sky light up the famous coloured houses of Reykjavik. Taken from the bell tower of Reykjavik’s cathedral, Hallgrímskirkja, this is a great “set the scene” shot for a travel series. It was taken with an old point-and-shoot, and slightly underexposed to increase the drama of the sky and make the colourful houses stand out.
Try an unusual angle
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most-photographed waterfalls in south Iceland. The slippery wet path to the back of it gives an unusual perspective. Pop a 10mm fish-eye lens on to your camera and the result is remarkable. The setting sun lights up the wall behind this stunning cascade only a few times in the year. October, when this shot was taken, is a good time to try.
Include a person in your landscape
This moody, dark winter light gives a sense of drama to the ice by bringing out its fine texture and colour. The photographer in the background appears to sink into the waves, giving an illusion of being almost as one with his subject. This effect is achieved with the camera on a tripod, and a three-second exposure with a six-stop ND filter.
Use a local guide
In wild, remote areas, try go out with a local. In West Greenland, our Inuit musher and his sled team afforded us some great shots of the dogs in action plus some spectacular landscapes in places we could never have reached by ourselves. The “antique light” preset in Adobe’s Lightroom software was used in post-processing to give a timeless feel to this image, which was actually shot in the early afternoon on our way to the Inuit settlement of Oqaatsut.
Consider using black and white
Until recent times, the Konyak tribesmen of Nagaland, in north-east India, were notoriously fierce headhunters. In these images, their strong, uncompromising faces are lit by bounced light from the outside. They gain strength in monochrome through high contrast, boosted clarity and selective B&W colour mix in Lightroom. These portraits were taken with a f/1.8 85mm fixed lens at ISO 2500.
Mystify your subject
Ladakh, north-west India, is a mystical Buddhist land with outstanding landscapesdotted with monasteries, stupas and prayer flags. I believe the strength of this image, taken in dull light during a sandstorm, is its sense of mystery. The three stupas in soft focus are a classic shape and do not need to be sharp for recognition, even though they are actually the real focus of this image, with the prayer flags simply a frame. The decision to develop this in black and white allowed for simplicity without the distraction of brightly coloured prayer flags.
Shoot in the ‘afterglow’
This makeshift footbridge in Assam is the only way for local people to cross a section of the Brahmaputra river. As the sun dropped behind the horizon, a wonderful afterglow lasted for around 20 minutes, lighting the water and silhouetting the running children. Locations such as this need to be well-researched to pinpoint the time of day when the light will be at its optimum for photography.
Consider back lighting
The direction of light is so important in photography. Backlighting can be tricky to handle exposure-wise, but can make for some stunningly different images if you get it right. Soft back lighting from the setting sun gave this Assamese tea picker an ethereal glow amid the blurred backdrop of trees. This effect was achieved by zooming into the subject at 300mm with an aperture of 5.6.
Send some prints
These children are on the remote river island of Majuli, in Assam, backlit by the evening sun. The boy on the right is holding a photo from a previous visit. It is always touching to witness the joy that returning a set of images brings to the local people. Please remember to honour your word and send some images. This way you will spread trust among your subjects and the next photographer visiting will be welcomed.
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