Research where you are visiting
It’s always recommended that you research the place you will be visiting. Basic information like the venue orientation (facing east or west, etc) will let you plan ahead to shoot sunrise or sunset pictures. Some knowledge of the local culture or festivals will present you with unique photographic opportunities. The more informed you are, the more story your pictures will tell.
For a more enjoyable photography experience, don’t bring your entire house with you. Ideally one wide angle zoom lenses (e.g 24-105mm) and one telephoto lenses (70-300mm) will suffice. And a macro lenses if you are intending to shoot close-ups. Packing light is especially important if you are planning on a hiking or trekking trip. For the “perfectionist” who just can’t bear to leave any lenses behind, then a backpack will be a comfortable option as it mitigate the weight of camera gear. And remember to pack that carbon fiber tripod with you.
Make use of the golden hours
The magical golden hour – one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset (depends, of course, on where you are on the globe) is a photographer’s best friend. Discipline yourself to wake up early to get that gorgeous photo opportunities, while all the other tourists are still sound asleep. Or shoot a little later while others are tucking into dinner. You will be amply rewarded.
Talk to the locals
Learn to greet the locals in their language to endear yourself to the them and break the ice. Establish eye contact, smile and you will be surprised at how much more you will be reciprocated. Of course, should the photo subject be less than receptive, move along, there are always other opportunities. Be “like water, my friend”.
Think out of the box
Try different shooting technique. Sharp pictures, blurred background and nicely framed composition are great. But once you have shot the “safe” pictures, get out of your comfort zone and inject “discomfort” into your routine. Use slow speed (and 2nd curtain flash sync) and move as you shoot. Sometimes the unexpected results are the most interesting. Digital photography is a great medium for experimentation. Every mistake brings you closer to your next better picture.
Some cameras have geo-tagging function, providing useful info where the pictures were taken. But what about your feel of the locale, the interesting bits of information, people’s name, name and prices of food, etc. Never discount that time and sensory overload of the many new things and places. This will diminish your ability to memorize details. A little booklet with pen (or pencil) is still ideal for this endeavour. I tried keying bits of info into my smartphone notepad in the past but I find it cumbersome having to open up and navigate the files. So now I feel that “mechanical and manual” are still the best. It’s a personal choice although it’s a good habit to always keep those meaningful notes in whatever situation that might arise.
Go with the flow
It’s always my personal philosophy that in order to convey beauty in a picture, you need to feel and see that beauty first. Similarly, to express the mood and feel of the moment, you need to go with the flow, savour what is going on and be part of it. Only then can that picture gains its true flavour.
Feel the place
Visual simulation is just one of many aspect of photography. Be adventurous, check out the local food (something most of us have not problem doing it), experience local music, the whiff of market and even its less glamorous side. This will help you plug into the psyche and taste of the environment better. And with it, you feel that pulse and heart beat.
Take your time
If you have some luxury of time, make a conscious choice to commute by slower traditional boats rather than modern speed boat, such as going by train or bus rather than airplane. It allows you to experience a wider view of the country, interact closer with the locals and even saves you more than a pretty penny. Making you a more “bona fide’ traveller in the process.
Observe the work of other photographers whom you admired, and draw inspiration from them. My personal idol is Steve McCurry and Cory Richards, the latter whom I had the privilege to meet and spoke with when he was in Singapore sometime back. Depending on what level of skill set and level you aspire to be, being humble and acknowledging the works of others are positive traits in the learning journey. Never underestimate the power of inspiration, visit art galleries, attend relevant photography seminars, join similar interest support groups and keep up to date on the trends around you. Oh, and one final tip – Keep Travelling !
Author : Jensen Chua, CanonEOSWorld, Council Member. iStock/Getty Images contributing artist. Pictures used are copyrighted and all rights reserved.