Happiness with Expert Travel Photography Tips

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Wow! We love your travel photos! How did you get that shot?!

This is a question I am often asked by beginners and professional photographers alike. I would like to share my experiences while taking the following images. The most important thing is to previsualize what you want by looking at images of the places you will visit before the trip. Do your homework!

Belvedere, Tuscany.

I was touring Tuscany with a group of 6 professional European photographers having a set itinerary for 10 days. We had sample images of the places we were to visit. It rained one evening. I knew from observing nature that we would get misty the next morning in the mountains. I wanted the element of atmosphere in a landscape/Travel image. So I suggested that we alter the itinerary to go to Belvedere instead of what was planned for the next day and that we should leave at 5 am so that we get good light on arrival. It was a fantastic venue. We set up our tripods and carefully composed our shot keeping in mind the current placement of the mist along with the direction of the east, from where the sun would rise. We shot many images; one of which turned out to be a gem. With the right amount of post processing, I was able to get the best out of the image.
Exif: f/22, 1/5, iso 200.

Learning: Change your itinerary to get the best light and elements in your photos. Use layers and atmosphere to get a sense of mystique and depth.

Taglang La, Ladakh.

The mountainous landscape from the peak at Taglang pass in Ladakh was breathtaking. I took a few shots of the landscape around me but was not satisfied. I remembered stories of bikers and their experiences. I wanted such a story element in the photo. However, I wanted it on-the-run and not setup (posed). I composed the background and the road in the manner in which a biker would appear in the left third of the frame and adjusted my aperture for depth and shutter speed to get a sharp image of the biker. Flash was not an option as the ambient light would have overpowered it. I prefocused on the location where I assumed the biker would arrive. I had to wait 10 minutes until the right biker came along. The terrain and prayer flags on the bike give a sense of place. It also lets you feel the thrill of riding at that altitude.
Exif: f/22, 1/500, iso 800.

Learning: Previsualize, focus and prepare with the right camera settings. Wait, anticipation if key!

Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha, Ladakh

Our group operator said that we would be going to a location where a large statue of the Buddha. Given the time of day (morning) it would be backlit, which meant that we would not be able to capture a good image as only the back of the statue would be lit. Considering the size and distance of the subject using flash would not be an option. I previsualized and decided to make a 9 frame HDR images as I would be shooting against the sun and the dynamic range of the light would be very high. So anticipating this I setup my camera whilst still travelling in the car, for an HDR image using the built in exposure bracketing feature of my Nikon D800. To get the image I had set the aperture to get the burst of sun rays. I also wanted to show the element of inspiration since this was a religious symbol. So I composed for the sun to be just above and to the left of the image.
Exif: f/16, iso 200, variable.

Learning: New methods of exposure (HDR), using sense of place and making a useful image.

Moonland, Ladakh

When you are in a group of photographers, getting the best angle is often challenging. But how do you get the best angle? The story is very important. The background and the yak clearly show a unique place in the mountains. This was the wheat threshing area close to Moonland in Ladakh. I tried to get maximum depth keeping all the important elements in the frame to tell the story. As the subjects were constantly moving, I had to take more than 20 shots while changing my position to finally get this one where the placement of the elements and subject were ideal.
Exif: f/16, 1/160,iso 200.

Learning:Don’t stand in one place. Change your position to suite the best composition. Prefocus.

Sangam of Indus & Zanskar, Ladakh

Sometimes getting the right light at a location becomes challenging. When we visited this location the light was poor, kind of backlit; the sky was much brighter than terrain. Using a graduated ND filter would be out of the question due to the jagged outline of the mountains against the sky. Setting the aperture to maximize depth of field, I took a few exposures keeping in mind not to blow out the highlights and ensure there are details in the midtones and shadows. I knew that I would handle the rest in post processing using highlight recovery. I processed this image six years later while teaching a student double processing in Photoshop. This was possible due to RAW exposures. The same image was processed twice, once for the terrain and the other for the sky and then blended in Photoshop.
Exif: f/22, 1/4 iso 200.

Learning: a good knowledge of post processing can help you while taking photos as you already know how to shoot in order to remedy problems later in Photoshop. Take the shot even though the light may not be great!

See my Travel Portfolio for more images! Enjoy!! 😉

This article also appeared in Click Magazine – May 2021 Issue – published by The Photographic Society of India

Brendan Dias

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