When thinking about travel photography, often what raises the level of your images are small adjustments in approach or composition, based around your intent. What are you hoping to achieve when you want to make a photograph? Having this thought is the first step to realising your vision.
A yardstick commonly used is, have I seen this image somewhere before? If so, perhaps it shouldn’t be repeated. In reality it’s difficult to make unique photographs but that shouldn’t deter us from trying to be special, if only for when we ourselves later look at these images, they’ll be more enjoyable.
Here are five photographs that spring from being alert to moments and being aware of getting the best from situations.
Make the most of your encounters
One of the advantages of self driving or taking a private tour is the opportunity to stop when and wherever you want. For the photo of the two girls taken by Morris Liss in 2013, as we drove by their house, Morris saw them at the window. Reversing back and chatting to them for a short while, they agreed to having their photos taken. Two things emerged from this. The photo was the conduit for an encounter and experience, something worth remembering, that photography and the camera specifically offers us a vehicle for exploration. Secondly, getting permission was obviously important as was promising to give them the photograph. The following year I returned giving them a print, for which they were mightily surprised as they didn’t expect the promise to be kept. Taking a small portable printer with you on holiday is a good solution for this.
The separation of camels
I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of sunrise/sunset camel shots of which few really hit the mark. Often, it hinges on whether the camels dominate the scene or if they are part of a wider view of the dunes. If it’s the former, that requires special attention. In most instances, a small number of camels either stationary or in a moving train get bunched up and the pace of each varies as ropes slacken or tighten. The key, is to achieve some form of camel separation, making for a much more compositionally pleasing image. There are two options for this. Shoot a lot in the hope that one will work, or if you have time to finesse an image of them resting, ask the camel man to move his camels. Subject separation is a key component of a solid approach to composition.
Find foreground interest when shooting sunsets
Sunsets are a star attraction for holiday photography and the results can be less than the actual experience. The main let down is simply that the setting sun is not especially unique to a location or indeed different to what we have seen many times before. To get around this, my suggestion is to always look for foreground interest that has a clear outline shape to it. Of course you won’t always be near camels, so rather than a rocky reef or mass of rooftops, it makes sense to zone in on people forming shapes and clearly defined silhouettes. Use a telephoto lens to isolate your subject and leave your camera on auto exposure for the desired effect, bearing in mind that you will have to take into account the sun’s brightness if you are including it in your frame, as seen here. For more warmth in colour tone, you can set your white balance to shade. Also, with people you have the opportunity to tell a story.
Look for the abstract
Offering something that a viewer will spend time considering is perhaps the ultimate target for a photographer’s single image. Developing and including abstraction in your photos is one way to do this. Reflections is just one example of the natural world offering a way in. Think about including only sections of the scene rather than the whole spectacle. Also, it’s not always necessary to include a horizon. By excluding it, the viewer is encouraged to delve a bit deeper to understand the photograph’s scale and perspective.
Two key ingredients of street photography are light and capturing a moment in time. The decisive moment was a phrase coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson as a result of his famous image of a man jumping a puddle. A much debated term which prescribes a brief moment when the elements of a scene are unified to capture its essence. Typically in Bresson’s images, this would be a cyclist appearing from around the corner and being captured exactly in the right place for a startling composition, or a girl running up some stairs with her arms and legs set in dynamic poise.
Our takeaway from the decisive moment, is to think about what the pinnacle moment for the scene in front of us is. What is the composition that best serves this? Second to this, how can lighting reinforce the moment by resting on these key dramatic elements. Having a faster shutter speed is important in this instances. You can view a multitude of fine street photography out there, which uses all of these key approaches.
Darren Lewey is the Founder of Images in the Sun. Images in the Sun is a photography workshop provider offering specialist photography holidays and tours of Morocco.