I often look at my own photography with a critical eye and assume that it’s not good enough to be viewed unless otherwise stated by another person. Having grown up during the transitional decades of digital technology, I have seen the evolution of photography from film to the affordable and accessible DSLR world, and with that accessibility come many individuals who call themselves a “photographer.” While you are technically qualified to use that term “photographer” if you’ve ever been paid to take a photo, many people seem to lack basic photography techniques and general knowledge such as framing, metering, depth of field, exposure etc. Although I do not consider myself a professional photographer, I have learned many things over the years of traveling with a camera slung over my shoulder. Here are a few ideas to help anyone wanting some better travel photos.
Apart from the technical aspects of photography, I’ve found that I most enjoy viewing the moment as it happened and as it appeared to the human eye. Many people will enhance the saturation and contrast etc. but I’ve come to appreciate a photo that has minimal editing. When I started getting into editing with my first DSLR, a nikon D50, I wanted the cool filters and loads of contrast and saturation or desaturation. As I look back on those photos with disgust for the editing, I wish I had simply left them alone. I tried too hard to create an image rather than capture a moment. Much of that is personal preference of course, but it seems to me that travel photography is best enjoyed when you capture the landscape and the culture exactly as it appeared, lighting coloring and everything else. Even on a rainy day a photo can be captivating.
“Capturing the Moment” – As a general rule I like to stick with “what you see is what you get.” The best sensor I’ve had so far is my current Nikon D300s 12mp cropped frame giving me little or no chance for cropping. Many people now have a larger sensor with higher resolution and can thus crop to the desired portion of an image. I’ve learned to work with what I’ve got and as a result, have changed my shooting habits so that the editing process is simple and I’m not just shooting and hoping later that I have a slim chance of getting a phenomenal image. It’s a good idea to first increase your skill of composition in which case, you’re already ahead of the average “photographer.”
Capturing the culture is also easier than you might think. I personally enjoy seeing the landscape and the architecture rather than the detail of a single door or texture of a fabric so I instinctively use a wide angle and look for a good vantage point to capture the landscape or skyline etc. When capturing the culture with this mindset, admittedly, I miss a lot of things in the details, but I can give a good sense of the place and the people by capturing a wide image. Below are a few examples of that in the streets of various cities which include Cairo, Seoul, Mexico City, Jerusalem, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. Some of them were taken simply by turning around and shooting down the street, but you can see a lot of culture within that simple shot taken “on-the-go.” I also try to look for colors that stand out or represent the entire scene of that specific area such as Pike Place market in Seattle. But overall, people generally want to see a lot happening in a photo where they can actually take a minute or two to see all of the different things happening and appreciate the culture and imagine being in that specific location.
As a musician, rarely do I ever get the chance to scout a location and sit and wait for the perfect shot during the golden hours of the day so these are the ways that I’ve learned to work around that and hopefully they help some of you in your photographic endeavors while traveling. Simply capture it how you want to remember it using what you have to work with and you will enjoy your photos years down the road.