Travelphotography 1 - Getting Ready to Take Great Scenic and Travel Photos

guide to travel photography

1.Action: Ask the Power Questions.

And they are:

  • What would be your ideal photo memento from your trip?

  • What pictures do you imagine taking?

  • Who will you show them to?

  • How will you present them?

2.Action: Understand equipment quality, especially lenses.

Ingredients:A good book, a photo store catalog, some web time.

  • Compare the relative quality and cost of an SLR camera as opposed to one of the more commercial models. SLRs are the staple of professionals, and usually run in the hundreds of dollars. Digital cameras are slightly more expensive, but they have the advantage of not using film, so you don't worry as much about running out. They can output pictures straight into your computer for you to play with as you like. Digital SLRs are the cream of that crop, and the most expensive as well.

  • The most important thing on all types is the lens. Most cheap commercial cameras use a fixed focus lens. This will give you average clarity on all pictures. You will not be able to achieve the sharpness of an SLR, or even those middle-level cameras that have a variable focus. By the way, auto-focus is not to be confused with fixed focus. Auto focus indeed focuses at the proper distance sharply and does it through a computer chip. Fixed focus does not focus at all. It's one size (mis)fits all.

  • Also, go for zoom lenses - they are critical to good pictures. As you will see, framing your picture is a central element in good picture-taking, and often the location doesn't allow good framing without a zoom to either get close enough or get wide enough. So, in a nutshell, you want a camera with a zoom lens that focuses.

  • Thirdly, let's talk film, if you're using a traditional camera. The numbers on the box are the ISA numbers, and they indicate how "fast" the film is. The faster the film, the less tolerant it is to bright light. So the rule is, if you're shooting bright sunshine, go for a lower ISA, such as 100 or 200. If you're shooting lower light, or some indoor shots, go for the 400. The drawback of the higher films is that they tend to get grainier in lower light. The drawback of the lower films in darker conditions is that the exposure must be longer to get adequate light, which means that unless you're using a steady tripod, you'll get blurry pictures if the camera moves.

  • Oh yes, a tripod. Definitely a good idea if you're aiming for those beautiful sunset and twilight shots, because you'll want a longer exposure without camera movement. You've certainly seen those shots of Broadway at night with the car lights streaked through the Square. That's an exposure of a second or more from a camera with a tripod, so the buildings are sharp while the moving cars create red and yellow lines.

  • Specialty filters are for more subtle pictures. Most popular is the polarizer, which reduces glare in afternoon or morning daylight. You can get really deep blue skies with a polarizer. There are also haze filters, and colored filters for special effects.

 

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3.Action: Get the best equipment.

Ingredients: A good camera store or web site, some money and time.

  • Time to buy it, if you don't have it. Enjoy! Isn't shopping fun?

4.Action: Familiarize yourself with your equipment.

The better the camera, the more features. SLRs have such wonderful versatility for dealing with motion, low light, variable focal points and timers, etcetera, I wouldn't dream of working without one. But there's a learning curve. Invest the time, it's worth it.

Ingredients: Your camera's instruction manual. A role of film.

  • As you read through the manual, work through all the features that interest you.

  • Take pictures using the most important features to you, and see how they come out. Remember to keep track of which picture utilized which feature, such as variable focus points, slowed exposure for blurs, and so forth.

5.Action: Plan your trip.

If you are traveling for just scenic photography, or you're traveling for fun and vacation but want to have photography as a centerpiece, you will want to give this some thought.

Ingredients: Travel brochures, some internet time, family input.

  • Look through the pictures of possible destinations. Notice which ones catch your eye.

  • Examine whether it's the picture or the location that is most intriguing. Often, a truly trained eye can find the beauty even in a slum. Sometimes, the scene is so perfect that the photographer has to do nothing. Use the pictures as a guide to the opportunities in each destination for you.

6.Action: Understand the "active photo" rules.

Read this carefully, for here are the travel photography tips that will make all the difference. This section has the most valuable information on scenic photography and photo composition. It is general and introductory.

 

Ingredients: The following information.

  • Here's a little photography lesson. The first rule of photography is to "be there." You can't take the right picture in the wrong place, so make sure that you get to the best location and best angle to photograph that location from. Don't let the fact that you have a super camera lull you into a false sense of security. You will have to work to find the ideal frame to shoot.

  • Second, you want to increase an element of motion into your still pictures.  You want there to be some natural lines or features that draw your eye into the picture and almost tell a story.

    Travelphotography, scenic photography tips on composition.

    In the first picture here, it's the tracks in the sand. Roads are easy to use for this as well, because they imply motion. A key rule in this regard is what's known as the "rule of thirds." I'll elaborate on this.

  • Let's say a person is photographing the Colosseum in Rome. Normally, what they'd do is get the Colosseum smack dab in the middle of the picture. That's what they're photographing, after all. Shouldn't it be in the center? The answer is NO. That is BORING and STATIC. To use the rule of thirds, you see the frame as having six equal sections, in two rows of three, like this:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The places where these sections intersect are hot zones. You want significant things there, for example, the edge of the Colosseum, or a person looking at the Colosseum. This way, you create motion. It's not just the Colosseum, it's walking up to the Colosseum.

    Travelphotography, scenic photography tips on composition.

    In this picture of Marcy Dam, in the Adirondacks, see how the rule of thirds makes you sweep over the water to the mountains. As with all rules, it's meant to be broken, but make sure your photo implies a story, an action. That will make them truly come alive.

  • Finally, the use of foreground perspective. People who climb a mountain know that the view from the top is breathtaking. But when they look at the pictures, they all seem to be flat. Where did the majesty go? Cameras tend to flatten out scenes, because they only record what's in the frame. If you only shoot what's "out there," your sense of height and distance from it is gone, because the "here" is missing from the photo. So always find some foreground object, such as a tree, or rocks and people (notice where they are - which rule is that, and what effect does it have?), as in this picture of Mount Marcy, to let you know where you are, so you can appreciate the height and drama of the scene.

    Travelphotography, scenic photography tips on composition.

Now you're all ready to go. Onward to:

Travelphotography 2: How To Take Pictures On Location