10 Tips Every Travel photographer Must Know


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.



 Travel Light

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.




Take notes

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.



Be inspired

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.

Shooting Star Trails photography

Photographing shooting star trails during your vacation in picturesque places can be a rewarding experience, helping you squeeze the most value out of images from your holiday trip.  In densely built cities with heavy light pollution, this genre of photography can be very challenging (although not impossible, as you read on).

So when the opportunity arises to shoot star trails, you need to know the techniques. An important tip to note is that your camera batteries must be adequately charged, you have sufficient memory cards and you brought along your standby spare batteries (especially if you own a ‘high-drain’ camera).

Star Trails 0016a_Snapseed

Easy steps to shooting star trails

1. Download Google Sky Map app or other similar astronomy apps on your phone or tablet. This application is free to use and very handy in orientation in accordance of the celestial bodies especially when you look up at the vast expanses of night skies…

2. Find a really dark place away from bright lights (street lights, building lights, etc). I recommend that you look for somewhere ideally near the seaside or mountain resorts. Even better, you could find a subject of interest (example a lighthouse or solitary tree, etc) for your shooting later, if there is any in sight.

3. For best result, you have to look for pitch dark places with cloudless night where there isn’t any moonlit in sight (you could standby a torch with red/green filter to avoid ‘blinding’ your eyes, although you may need to adjust to the environment in such low light level). If you happen to see thick cloud covering the sky, there is no point shooting as your chance of success will be limited.

4. Set up a firm tripod, change your camera settings to manual mode & manual focus (ideal lens for this shoot is between 24mm and 35mm) . If your tripod central column has a hook for carrying ballast, you should weigh it down (e.g with a camera bag) for extra stability.

5. Make sure you switch off your camera image stabilization or vibration reduction function.  Otherwise your camera will end up continuously tracking, resulting in fuzzy shots.

6. Turn off long exposure noise reduction to maintain details of your shot

7. Enable mirror lock-up to improve sharpness of your pictures (if this feature is available in your camera).

8. Attach cable release to your camera, so you can snap shots away from your camera (or activate camera intervalometer, if available) .

9. Configure your ISO between 800-3200. Set lens aperture at maximum or 1 stop from max (for e.g, if your lens is an F2.8, shoot at F3.5)

  • Set AWB to tungsten (Reason for this is to minimize warming of the night skies as cooler hue looks more natural to the human eyes than a warm brownish night skies).
  • Set shutter speed at 30s.
  • Aim your camera at the North Star (Polaris), you can locate this by tracing the “cup” edge of the Big Dipper. Refer to above image as a reference. When you see a stable bright star, there’s your point of reference. To make sure your shot is properly focus, set the focus ring at the infinity marking, look through your viewfinder and perform fine-tuning until it’s absolutely sharp (you can try to verify this with some test shots) before proceeding.

10. Shoot…. Set drive mode to continuous and lock the cable release. Work on a few test shots to confirm your exposure is correct before shooting. Anything between 70-120 frames at 30s each will be ideal.

Once when you have returned home and in good time, process your shots via StarStax software after doing batch editing with your preferred editing software. You might like check out Tony Northrup video for how-to guidance.

StarStaX_Star Trails 0001-Star Trails 0079_gap_filling
Star Trails at Xueshan (Snow Mountain) , Wuling Farm. Taichung, Taiwan. This picture is a composite of 79 frames shot at 30sec each.


Star trail.jpg_Snapseed
Yuni resort , Hiokkaido. Canon 70D, EF11-24mm , 30s, F5.6, ISO800. Composite of 15 frames at 30sec each.

Have fun shooting star trails.  Put it on your “must-do” list and aim for the skies on your next vacation.

Author : Jensen Chua, CanonEOSWorld, Council Member. iStock/Getty Images contributing artist. Pictures used are copyrighted and all rights reserved.

5 reasons to pack a tripod for your vacation

A tripod is one of the most useful accessories you can pack in your luggage. What an irony as most of us dislike the thought of bringing our tripod for vacations. I can understand that we think of tripods as cumbersome and takes up too much space.

But I hope to illustrate in this article five scenarios where tripods are absolutely necessary in your quest to shoot the ideal picture and hopefully, for readers to rediscover and start using the humble tripod again.

Continue reading “5 reasons to pack a tripod for your vacation”

8 tips for better travel photography

Very often, we marvel at beautifully taken travel pictures and wonder how did the photographer took those shots. Was it photoshopped ? Was the situation “arranged” ? “So lucky !”

..While many of us on guided group tour may find it challenging to achieve “art gallery” style vacation pictures, rest assured given some basic discipline to observe, getting great pictures during holidays need not be elusive.

Tip #1: Bring your camera everywhere.

Canon G12, 1/60, F2.8, ISO2500.

..and be ready. As the saying goes…”the best camera is the one with you”. Your camera, however high-end, will be redundant if left in your hotel safe box. You can leave your passport in the safe, but not your camera. You should know your personal comfort zone and buy the camera that fulfils the features you need.

Personally, my choice is the DSLR for the best versatility and picture quality. As I have been using DSLR for years, I am already tuned to the weight of carrying around 6-7 kgs of gears and would feel “inadequate” if I just carry a pocket camera around.

Tip #2: Know your camera well    

…at least the basic and most frequently used functions. Some camera manufacturers like Canon, gives free camera orientation training workshop when you purchased their products. Such fruitful sharing session with in-house instructors lets you acquaint with your camera functions faster and realise the potential of your camera.

Too busy to attend those workshops? You could check out camera review websites like DPreviews for a better understanding.For readers who are not sure the co-relation between ISO, shutter speed and aperture.. you might to check this useful simulator site.

Tip #3: Be Observant

Canon G12, 1/1250 , F2.8, ISO800.

Be observant of the surrounding… see the foreground, background, lighting which changes with the time of day. I always believe to convey beauty, you need to feel and see the beauty first. Composing the picture should also take note of the “rules of thirds”.

Avoid positioning your subject in the centre… like this picture I shot in Halong Bay. The placement of the boat to the right implies the direction and journey ahead…. positioning the boat to the centre or left would have undermined the feel and message of the shot.

Tip #4: Make your pictures “move”

Canon 70D, 1/25, F13, ISO100.

One of the ways to convey realism is to allow motion blur –  speeding motorists, the “frantic” marching of office workers as they walked into subway, moving trains, etc are ideal subjects. Selecting a shutter speed bias mode (TV) or Manual mode (M) is the ideal way to achieve this. Brace yourself against a wall to avoid camera shake, support your arms on railings, keep the camera closed to your body and shoot at 1/25 sec or slower to get a sense of motion.

The trick to this technique – called Panning, is to pivot on your hip as you lock on and follow the subject as you press the shutter release. Some camera models have build in neutral density (ND) filter to reduce shutter speeds in bright daylight.

Faster subjects like speeding F1 sports car require faster shutter speed between 1/100 -1/250 for better subject sharpness. Combine this with lowest ISO possible for the best result. For longer exposures, a tripod with panning head would be recommended.

Tip #5: Have Patience

Canon G12, 1/1250, F2.8, ISO160.
Canon G12, 1/1250, F2.8, ISO160.

Patience can result between getting a nondescript or great picture – you’ll need observe the changing environment e.g – for that boat to come into your line of sight or for the ideal person to stroll past a certain spot, etc. Pre-focus on the spot that you envisioned in your mind…. get ready … be ready….you have that one chance.

In this picture of a boat I shot on the Neva river, in St.Petersburg, Russia. I had observed the river activities. I liked the feeling of strength evoked by the bridge named Peter the Great. But it was a Saturday morning and very little activity on the river.

I spotted a boat in the distance, prepared myself, cam ready, waiting….then the boat came…. snap! I had just one chance…

Tip #6: Go low…

Canon G12, 1/500, F2.8, ISO320.
Canon G12, 1/500, F2.8, ISO320.

Get a different angle. A great angle would be for you to go low. You can see the usual scene gaining a sense of depth and freshness. But do not do it where ladies are wearing short skirts though, as you may get into unnecessary trouble.

In this picture of a temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, the reflection of the temple on the puddle formed from just ended drizzle gave me the opportunity to shoot reflection…I hold my camera just inches from the puddle, taking care to shoot the temple at slightly brighter exposure to compensate for the bright skies.

In the post edit, I desaturated the colour to make it black & white for a more dramatic feel. You can easily use your picture manager for this desaturation but my favourite free picture edit software Picasa, can be downloaded with loads of functions.

Tip #7: “Humanize” your pictures

Canon G12, 1/500, F3.2, ISO1600
Canon G12, 1/500, F3.2, ISO1600

If possible,  feature local people. Folks doing their daily business, walking their pets, playing with their children,…or just being themselves. Select a choice spot, observe and be ready.  Situations are dynamic and ever changing…something will surely emerge and unfold for you to capture in that fleeting moment.

This human element invariably spices up your images. In this picture of a restaurant staff in Seoul, I had to position near her pretending I am reading the menu, till she comfortable with my presence. When she too busy to bother with me, I simply snap the picture with settings all preset, for that natural look.

Tip #8: Get Closer

Canon G12, 1/320, F4, ISO320.
Canon G12, 1/320, F4, ISO320.

Robert Capa, a famous photographer once famously said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Taken literally, the closer you get to your subject, the more detail and interest you can capture. That’s when your optical zoom in your camera comes into play. Notice I mentioned “optical” zoom. Optical zoom refer to the zooming via the optics of the camera while “digital” zoom is essentially in-camera processed image.

In nutshell, optic zoom gives much better picture quality than digital zoom. In this picture of a Russian  lady police cadet in Moscow, Russia, taken their Victory Parade (National Day to us)… I had to zoom in to frame her up close for a better angle as she was some 10m away and I could not go move closer without someone usurping over my prime spot.

Last Words…

So, there you have it… 8 tips that I wished would help in some ways to help readers to achieve better travel pixel memories. And of course, here 1 last tip…enjoy your trip. It shows in your pictures…. Bon voyage !

Author : Jensen Chua, CanonEOSWorld, Council Member. iStock/Getty Images contributing artist. Pictures used are copyrighted and all rights reserved.