Almost Weekly Photo

Can You Earn More Awards Than Last Year?

Gold Award by Pedro Jacque Krebs, winner, Revealing Nature category,…

Lapland With David Evans

Many photographers have the aurora or Northern Lights on their…

Atelier Evening - Tuesday 30 July 2019

Peter’s been travelling quite a bit this year, but he’s…

Prayer flags on the road to Monger, Eastern Bhutan
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm lens, 30 seconds @ f8, ISO 50, 10x ND filter

What makes an interesting travel photograph? The correct answer depends on who is viewing the photograph! I imagine that these prayer flags in Bhutan are relatively uninteresting to a Bhutanese or Nepalese local because prayer flags are everywhere in these countries. And interestingly, prayer flags are in a constant state of change, beginning life like the flags above, with bright, clean colours, but gradually fading, tearing and falling apart with the weather and sunshine. You could drive past this location today and just see a set of tall sticks, but tomorrow there could be a new set of flags in place.

So, what makes an interesting travel photograph depends on your viewer, but if we're bringing photographs home to show our friends and family, it's reasonable to assume that they will find interesting the same things we do. What do we photograph? A subject that is different. This could be as simple as different faces, different clothing, different houses, different landscapes. Our role as travel photographers is to experience where we are and to communicate what we find interesting. No point trying to second-guess what others will find interesting as that is an exercise fraught with disappointment! The only person you can be confident of making happy is yourself - and besides, people will want to know what you found interesting.

The next challenge is to photograph it in an interesting way. For me, this means finding and isolating these points of difference. I have thousands of street photographs and general landscapes from all around the world, and while they are obviously travel photographs, they are so messy and complicated that they are meaningless. There are soooo many general travel snaps out there! The photos that stand out to me have just one aspect of travel carefully framed and presented. So, work out what interests you, then work out how you can capture that interest and make it dominate your photograph.

In the example of the prayer flags above, I've used a few techniques. Firstly, I've come in close to my subject and excluded the surroundings (the road, other buildings and trees), so it's very clear what this is a photograph of. Second, I've chosen a low camera angle so I can isolate the prayer flags against the sky. If the prayer flags were backed by other trees and a busy landscape, they wouldn't stand out. The plain background is a key ingredient which allows the subject to dominate. And finally, I've used a 10X ND filter which gave me a 30 second exposure. This creates a sense of irreality with the clouds and flags moving during the exposure.

I hope you like it!

You can see a YouTube video taken on the Bhutan photo tour David Oliver and I did last year - here's the link:

And David and I have places available for our November/December 2019 trip to Bhutan - which for the first time will include Eastern Bhutan where the photo above was taken. Why don't you come along?

Bow Lake under fresh snow, Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
Phase One XF 100MP with 240mm, f9 @ 1/30 second, ISO 50

Being a Sydney-sider, snow is a novelty for me. I've skied most of my life (two skis, not a board) and there's nothing I like better than to visit locations in winter when there's a chance of snow. And from a photography perspective, I think snow photos look their best when the snow is freshly fallen.

Many people think snow is snow, but it's not the case. Fallen snow changes over time. Generally it gets heavier and droops - it doesn't look so fluffy. The slightest of winds will shake the snow from the trees. And as the days pass, snow gets dirtier and dirtier with wind-borne dust, dirt and foliage. To get really classic snow shots, you need to be there while it's snowing, or just after the snow has fallen and the light is coming good.

So, how do you know when it's going to snow? Well, you don't, but there's a better chance in winter than in summer, unless you're going to the Arctic or Antarctic, of course! Tony Hewitt and I take our SW USA and Middlehurst NZ photo tours in winter because there's a chance it will snow, but of course, there are no guarantees. And sometimes it can snow when you don't expect it, such as when we did the Canada photo tour in September 2017. Of course, along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, it can snow any time of the year. We were hoping for the autumn colours to really turn it on, but we were just a couple of weeks too early (or the colours were a couple of weeks late!), so early snow was a great alternative.

The photo above was taken at Bow Lake in the early morning. It was snowing quite heavily, but light and dry and not affecting the cameras too badly. Keep a spare battery in a warm pocket and change it over if you find your camera acting sluggishly - it's usually because the cold drains the batteries more quickly, but all the modern cameras I've used have no trouble operating in below zero temperatures, certainly not for a few hours here and there. Click here for details.

Following the photo tour, I put together a Momento Pro photo book with a selection of images, all lightly processed in Capture One. I've loaded a FlipBook version onto the website (scroll down or click Read More) if you'd like to take a look - and maybe you'll also be encouraged to join Tony and me later this year in Canada as we do another photo tour down the Icefields Parkway - this time a little later and hoping for the autumn colours. Even better, autumn colours and snow!

If you're reading this in the newsletter or on Facebook, click here to view the flipbook on the website.

Church at Hellnar, West Coast, Iceland
Phase One A-Series (IQ180) with 23mm lens, 30 seconds @ f5.6, ISO 35

Writing these blogs is a matter of balancing an interesting photo, an interesting story for everyone, and a gentle prompt for the lucky few who might consider joining me on a photo tour, purchasing a subscription or perhaps buying my new book, The New Tradition. On this occasion, the subject is Iceland and this is one of the many photographs from 2015 that I had yet to process.

We stayed in a hotel at Hellnar for a couple of nights - the hotel is just down behind the church, out of sight - and so I had a couple of opportunities to photograph this wonderful little church. I'm not a religious person, but I do love a church in the landscape. My wife Kathie and I spent countless days in New South Wales photographing old Australian churches (well, I photographed and she sketched - being married to a graphic designer has its advantages as we're both happy to potter around). So even now, several decades later, I still find myself drawn to the sign of man being dwarfed by the landscape of nature.

In photographing a subject like this, my approach is to walk around, looking at how the light falls on the subject (under this cloud, there wasn't much direction at all) and, equally importantly, what is in the background. I think when I'm judging photography competitions, the most common mistake is photographers not thinking carefully enough about how their subject is placed in the scene: what's behind it and what's around it. I'm always looking at both the subject within the frame and everything else around it, asking myself how I can simplify the composition. 

With a super wide-angle lens like my favourite 23mm (16mm in full-frame parlance), I find that I need to get in relatively close to the subject so I can exclude unnecessary surrounding elements. And getting down a little lower than head-height meant I could remove most of the buildings in the background (I did need to do a little cleaning up, removing a roof line on the right and a couple of photographers with the van on the left). All of the post-production was done in Capture One (as per my new year's resolution), except for the cleaning up work which was much quicker and easier to do in Photoshop.

So the takeaway? Spend a little time with your subject, investigating what it has to offer. With a subject like a church, you should probably walk around it at least once! 

I'm not sure if we're visiting this particular church on the Better Moments photo tour this October 2019, but don't worry Iceland has lots and lots of little churches and chapels spotted all over its wonderful landscape! Come along and I'll show you - click here for details!

S5 Box


S5 Register