Travel photography can offer some of the most inspirational, exciting, and candid shots from the places you visit and the people you meet. If you are like me, one of the largest challenges when travelling is what to take with you. How much can you carry around? How do you protect your gear from theft?
I have always been concerned about drawing too much attention to what I carry around, especially when travelling off the beaten path and know that cameras and equipment are worth much more in foreign countries.
Recently at the Travel Bloggers Conference in Toronto (TBEX) I met award winning photographer/writer and guest speaker Lola Akinmade Åkerström, from Stockholm, Sweden. Lola has been published around the world in National Geographic Traveler, BBC, CNN, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, and Fodor's -- among many others.
As Lola was my Toronto photo walk instructor during TBEX, I decided to ask her for her tips on travel photography. Here's some of her top tips:
Light packer = smart photographer, Right?
Absolutely. For one, travelling is so dynamic and travel photography so much so. In reality, you may not have enough time to set up a tripod and portable studio to take a photo. Unless you're on a specific photo shoot or assignment, one DSLR camera body with one telephoto lens (18-200mm for serious amateurs) and one fixed lens (50mm) should be more than enough for everyday shooting.
How about snapping in those tourist spots?
I usually see them as a challenge which I frequently take. Trying to find a new and fresh angle on an instantly recognizable icon or tourist spot can only help a travel photographer get better at their craft by honing their observational skills.
Is there a best time of day to take photos?
Most photographers would instantly say "the golden hour" -- those sweet moments before the sun rises or sets when the landscape is covered with its golden glow. While I love that time of day, I welcome harsh afternoon light as well because it helps me work on playing with shadows and shade to create interesting composition.
What tips would you recommend for taking stunning photographs?
My main tip would be to interact. Observe how light is interacting with your environment. Observe how people are interacting with each other. And interact with the people yourself.
Here are just a few tips to get you started.
What about Composition?
My biggest composition issue I constantly see is poor framing of the subject. The concept of "Rule of Thirds" can be a bit tricky to grasp so I've included an illustration below.
In a nutshell, if you mentally divide your photo into a three-column, three-row grid, your subject or whatever you want to photograph should intersect one of those points. This makes your photo visually balanced.
Many DSLR cameras allow you to visualize the grid in their viewfinders while you take a picture.
Any Final Words?
I'd like to leave you with this snippet I wrote for TBEX's blog about sneaking photos:
Good travel photography isn't about technical perfection. It's about evoking a feeling and sense of place. It's about showing human connection through snapshots of their everyday lives. It's about photos that consciously tell a story while being sensitive and respectful of the stories they share.
Wrapping it all up
To learn more, take a course in photography or join a photography club in your town. Online resources are abundant in photography, and most recently a number of excellent e-books are available. I came across a company out of California -- Inkling, which publishes about a variety of topics from parenting to adventure to travelling. They have a wonderful photography series called "Snapshots to Great Shots."
I browsed through the Landscape Photography book and was impressed with the visuals and instructions on how to take better shots. The photography books are reasonably priced at $9.99 to download onto your iPad or iPhone. If you don't need the entire book then you may download a relevant chapter for $1.99. While on the road these would make great references on the iPad or iPhone.
Just recently, the first ever Instagram Travel E-book, Instagram as your Guide to the World, was published by Skimbaco founder Katja Presnal. Skimbaco is an online magazine that offers lifestyle inspiration ideas form Presnal and her team. Topics range from food, family to travel with a focus on living a lifestyle where less is more.
Even if you have all the reference materials in the world, always practice before you leave for that trip. You don't want to see the a lion on safari and then try to figure out which settings to use -- the moment will be over before you know it! Not to mention, you'll be prepared to take better photos when you arrive.
#1 Travel Photography Blogger Trey Ratcliffe http://www.stuckincustoms.com/
Fodor's Travel Photography: http://www.fodors.com/travel-photography/
Digital Camera World http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/
While you can't go wrong with camping in Ontario's Algonquin Park in mid-to-late June, <a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/25949/highlights-early-season-canoe-trip-algonquin-park-ontario/" target="_blank">heading their early has its benefits</a>, not to mention stunning views.
The sun sets over the city of Brussels, Belgium. Photo Credit: <a href="http://instagram.com/fareed15" target="_blank">Fareed Khan</a>
Beautiful sunsets are just one of the sights travellers can expect in Molokai, but as <a href="http://travelingcanucks.com/2013/05/travel-to-molokai-things-to-do/" target="_blank">the couple behind Traveling Canucks notes</a>, there's a few things that sets this Hawaiian island apart from its neighbours.
A monument to Imre Nagy,<a href="http://theplanetd.com/tour-budapest/" target="_blank"> a leader in Hungary's failed communist revolution of 1956</a>, stands on top of a bridge in the sunny city of Budapest.
Adrenalin junkies looking to get their next fix may want to take a page out of Seattle Dredge's book. Here, she tears up the snowy hills of <a href="http://seattlestravels.com/snowmobiling-in-akureyri/sea_6740/" target="_blank">Akureyri, Iceland on the back of snowmobile</a>.
Traffic in Vietnam has something of a notorious reputation among travellers. After all, how many places in the world would require someone need to take a road test <a href="http://www.legalnomads.com/2013/05/motorbike-taxis-vietnam.html" target="_blank">just so your driver will give you a fair price? </a>
From the umbrellas to the shallow harbours, <a href="http://www.hecktictravels.com/shades-of-blue" target="_blank">there's no shortage of blue hues in Greece</a>, according to Dalene and Peter Heck, the couple behind Hecktic Travels.
What's the best way to explore the Flinders Ranges Mountains of South Australia? If you ask Deb and Dave from The Planet D, the answer is simple: <a href="http://theplanetd.com/flinders-ranges-wilpena-pound/" target="_blank">from the sky. </a>
Two locals in Jordan wait for travellers to ride their camels around in the Wadi Rum, according to Cailin O'Neil who learned <a href="http://www.travelyourself.ca/cailins-blog/the-people-of-jordan/" target="_blank">first hand about the hospitality of Jordanians. </a>
Train spotting in Riomaggiore, Italy. Credit: <a href="http://instagram.com/p/ZVWtSWAF4z/" target="_blank">Rafid Mahmood</a>
A blooming garden of Wisteria at the Tochigi Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan. It's reminiscent of a fairy tale.
Travelling to Hawaii usually brings up thoughts of beaches, surf, and donkeys, in the case of the duo behind Traveling Canucks. The two joined group which descended down nearly 1,700 feet on the back of mules to reach the reach the Kalaupapa Peninsula during <a href="http://travelingcanucks.com/2013/04/riding-mules-down-the-worlds-tallest-sea-cliffs/" target="_blank">their adventure to Molokai Island. </a>
Even Belgium's greenery proved resilient to the winter cold during Krista Rowland's visit to <a href="http://kristarowland.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/belgium-part-22/" target="_blank">Parc de Bruxelles</a> in Brussels.
Giant tree stumps are one of the sites hikers can expect when tackling<a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/25576/day-hikes-victoria-coastal-trail-east-sooke-park/" target="_blank"> East Sooke Park's coastal trail</a> near Victoria, B.C., writes Leigh McAdam.
The team behind Hecktic Travels took this week to explore the Topkapi Palace is Istanbul, Turkey which included tours of the courtyard and<a href="http://www.hecktictravels.com/harem" target="_blank"> inside the Harem and its 400 rooms</a>.
A rooster sits perched in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Roosters can be<a href="http://jessicawritesatravelblog.blogspot.ca/2013/04/yogyakarta-indonesia-and-cockfight-in.html" target="_blank"> found in the city's bird markets</a> where they are forced to battle in illegal cockfights.
There's<a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/25292/nature-wildlife-travels/" target="_blank"> a lot to admire about nature's creatures when travelling</a>, writes Leigh McAdam. Here, a dragonfly rests during a McAdam's visit to Lake Superior.
There's a lot to like about <a href="http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/2013/04/what-you-should-do-in-waterford/" target="_blank">the Copper Coast</a>, a route between the towns of Tramore and Dungarvan in Ireland. One of the highlights includes the Kilfarrasy Beach, writes Candice Walsh.
Tour buses kinda get a bad wrap for being cheesy. But now and then, like when you hurt your ankle and walking around Mexico City just isn't in the cards, <a href="http://savoirfaireabroad.com/i-did-cheesy-turibus-tours-in-mexico-city/" target="_blank">tour buses can be surprisingly enjoyable</a> according to Pamela MacNaughtan.
Shopping in Chichicastenango, Guatemala is far more colourful than most markets in Canada. Credit: <a href="http://www.chickenbustales.com/" target="_hplink">@vivienlougheed</a>
While some Canadians were contending with Old Man Winter's return, others, like Justin, were enjoying the scenic sunsets and temperature in the high twenties. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/crustinjocker" target="_blank">@crustinjocker</a>
If you're visiting the National Museum of Scotland, expect to discover many unique artifacts like this mask that <a href="http://www.endlesslychanginghorizon.com/the-national-museum-of-scotland/" target="_blank">Miranda and Dylan came across during their trip to the city of Edinburgh</a>
The Fountains of Bellagio aren't just a pretty sight in Las Vegas, Nevada; they're also part of choreographed light display. In Lisa Goodmurphy's case, the fountains were performing in sync <a href="http://www.gonewiththefamily.com/gone-with-the-family-adv/2013/04/las-vegas-with-kids.html" target="_blank">with this famous Canadian icon</a> while Goodmurphy and her daughters passed by.
As Dave and Deb from The Planet D write, the Medina serves as an old fortified encampment for one of Morocco's largest cities. Within the encampment lies a maze of streets that are lined with vendors and is considered <a href="http://theplanetd.com/diggin-the-dunes-of-marrakech-morocco/" target="_blank"> a rite of passage for anyone visiting the city.</a>
Travellers looking for an iconic panorama of Paris can't go wrong with a shot from the observation decks of the Eiffel Tower. But for those looking for something different can try their hand at photography from the Arc de Triomphe<a href="http://travelingcanucks.com/2013/04/picture-perfect-panorama-from-arc-d-triomphe" target="_blank"> like Cam & Nicole Wears did during their trip to the City of Light.</a>
Despite spending six weeks in Bolivia, Vivien Loughheed says her trip to South America was still too short. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/vivienlougheed" target="_blank">@vivienloughheed</a>
Looks like some grumpy residents in the United Kingdom are a lot more open about their feelings towards solicitors — at least in the neighbourhood of <a href="http://ttddoo.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Notting Hill.</a>
It's hard to believe that this isn't even the most impressive photo Leigh McAdam took during her trip to <a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/25007/nottobe-missed-maligne-canyon-icewalk-jasper/" target="_blank">the Maligne Canyon at Japser National Park in Alberta, Canada</a>. There, she and seven other adventurers donned some ice cleats and took to climbing the park's ice bridges.
Yes, it's a well but this old stone structure caught our eyes and that meant it just had to go into this week's round-up. The well is said to still be a site of worship according to Candice Walsh and to even have magical healing properties, though <a href="http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/2013/04/photo-essay-county-waterfords-copper-coast-drive/" target="_blank">she seems less convinced on that matter. </a>
The fall of the Berlin Wall may have come decades ago, but as Dalene and Peter Heck found out during their trip to Berlin, <a href="http://www.hecktictravels.com/berlin-wall" target="_blank">there are still unseen barriers separating some Berliners.</a>
Between the graffiti-lined walls of Tonalá lies Guadalajara's massive street markets. But don't let this scenic photo fool you: the crowds can get big and the markets aisle are small, <a href="http://savoirfaireabroad.com/guadalajara-was-good/" target="_blank">which can make travel tough. </a>
Millions of people around the world may be celebrating St. Patrick's Day today but here, Ian Ord takes part in a different kind of celebration while in Thailand: the Songkran Festival. Here's a shot of a modified tuk tuk that he saw a few times <a href="http://wheresidewalksend.com/songkran-chiang-mai/" target="_blank">during the day.</a>
There's no doubt that many Canadians will be celebrating St. Paddy's Day at their local bar or pub, but Candice Walsh is going for the real deal as she travel's to Dublin, Ireland <a href="http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/2013/03/oh-hi-today-im-going-to-ireland-for-five-weeks-to-research-my-ancestry/" target="_blank">to learn more about her ancestry</a>.
London, England has been through a multitude of change over the years. However, if you're looking for signs of Victorian London,<a href="http://breathedreamgo.com/2013/03/travelling-down-memory-lane-to-london-and-england/" target="_blank"> the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens</a> is a good place to start.
Blue skies and beautiful greenery are just some of the things travellers will find once they visit Prince Edward Island in the summer. As for what to do, Leigh McAdam's <a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/24471/pei-7-ideas-summer/" target="_blank">has a few suggestions</a>...
Does taking a photo of the Statue of Liberty when in New York make you a tourist and not a traveller? Maybe, but as Samantha Phelan writes, it just <a href="http://www.moderndaymarco.com/2013/03/04/new-york-i-love-you/">"had to be done."</a> Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/moderndaymarco">Samantha Phelan</a>
As Shirley Lum tweets,"I love #Toronto! Fab city to explore/re-discover!" Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/ATasteofWorld">Shirley Lum</a>
This week, Lisa Evans snapped a shot of clear, blue skies while on Sapelo Island in Georgia, USA. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/WriteLisaEvans">@WriteLisaEvans</a>
It took three hours on a <a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/24073/bus-ride-hell/">bus ride that felt like hell</a>, but Leigh McAdam captured a stunning sunset over the mountains of Guican in Colombia
Here, Allie Barclay and company share some bonding time while the Taj Mahal sits in the background. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/AKBarclay">@AKBarclay</a>
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... Deb and Dave from The Planet D in a microlight. This week,<a href="http://theplanetd.com/microlight-an-adventure-in-the-sky/"> the couple took to the skies in Zambia</a> to find out what flying over the country was like.
It may be hard to spot, but that's definitely a beach in the background that Mario Stojanac snapped from his hotel room in Panama City. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/appetype">Mario Stojanac </a>
It just wouldn't be Valentine's Day without a romantic shot of the beach in Lorne, Australia. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/jessicaology">Jessica Lee </a>
Sometimes the only way to cope with vacation withdrawal is to think warm thoughts and look back at your <a href="http://travelingcanucks.com/2013/02/photos-from-our-trip-to-mexico/">photos of the Gran Bahia Principe Akumal in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico</a> according to the couple behind Traveling Canucks.
For those tired of lounging on the beach, the town of Mui Ne, Vietnam and its beaches make a convincing case for some kite surfing, <a href="http://www.legalnomads.com/2013/02/mui-ne.html">writes Jodi Ettenberg</a>.
Sometimes it's best to let the photo do all the talking. Photo Credit: <a href="https://twitter.com/_chucaroline">Caroline Chu </a>
Follow Parmjit Parmar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ParmieP