Travelling and photography go hand in hand. It is not often these days that I don’t go anywhere without a camera (or my phone). The perks of modern technology eh! Whereas rewind to 1998 when I went on a school trip to London, with a hand written journal and two disposable cameras with 27 shots in each. Not knowing what I had captured until I could have the prints developed.
Fast forward to 2004 (or so) when I got my first digital camera. It was revolutionary. I could delete photos and retake them if they were crap.
It still didn’t make me a great travel photographer though.
Take the photo above for example. Its not the best is it? I mean, it is the Trevi fountain, but I have cut off half the top of it. Its just not framed very well.
Framed? Say what!
Yup, words like framing, aperture, high res, and long exposure, are all words that are now part of my vocabulary since meeting my photographer husband Chris.
When I first met Chris and learned he was a photographer, I thought it was a pretty good perk to our relationship (amongst other things obvs).
I’ll have super amazing pictures, and be able to learn to be a super duper photographer too.
Little did I know, that learning to be a good travel photographer would take time, and even 3 years later, I am still learning (and still ask him what settings I should have on the camera).
Here are a few things I have learnt about travelling with a photographer:
It is not always possible to travel with hand luggage only
Before meeting Chris, I travelled to over 30 countries on my own. When I backpacked around South East Asia for 4 months, I was used to chucking stuff in my rucksack and moving on. I had one camera (a panasonic lumix, which was fairly decent at the time), an iPod touch, my passport and some clothes. I was used to packing lightly for weekend trips, as lets face it checked luggage charges are a bit sucky.
In the past 3 years since being with Chris, we have travelled together to a further 18 countries to date.
Some of these trips have been long weekends, to places like Amsterdam, or Gdansk. Others have been a little longer like Croatia, or our epic honeymoon trip to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
In this time I have learnt that packing isn’t as easy as chucking a few things in a suitcase. In fact, Chris is much more organised than I am, and thinks about what we may need at least 2 weeks before our trip. More often than not, we will always check in at least one case, which will be for our clothes only. My hand luggage will be some clothes, and his hand luggage will be all of the tech.
Sometimes this includes a gimball (for smooth video panning), up to 3 camera bodies and about 4 lenses, several batteries, a tripod and a go pro.
Its a bit nuts right?
Though in saying that, with all of that kit – we have been able to get an array of shots and amazing video footage, so its kinda worth it right.
The other thing with all of this kit is, that I have actually got used to having it as I travel. I used to be scared of carrying around Chris’ kit (as it is uber expensive), but so far there have been no fatalities (except a lost lens cap in the river in Basel!)
The sun is not always your friend
Most people think that the sun is your best friend on holiday. Well, it is when you want to lie by the pool and top up your tan.
When trying to photograph something, it isn’t so easy. Especially if there are two contrasts in the light.
When in Marrakech last year, I tried for ages to take a picture in the Jardin Majorelle – it was a nightmare. There was an archway with beautiful shrubbery which was quite dark, then outside of that was bright sunshine. It was never going to work.
The only time that the sun can be your friend in photos is when you get awesome shadows.
What I have learnt in regards to the sun and photography is that light is actually super important when it comes to taking a good picture, and you will need to adjust your settings accordingly.
One thing I have enjoyed is getting to grips with manual settings on a camera, rather than just selecting auto and letting the camera do it for me.
3.30am is an acceptable time to get up
When travelling with a photographer, it will all become about the chasing the light.
Getting up at 3.30am is no longer just for those super early flights. Getting up at that time is to capture the sunrise.
It is not just sunrise though, it is getting there for blue hour (the hour or so before you see the sun (i.e. first light).
Then there is sunset and the important golden hour.
With this, you need to be certain you will be in the good position for it – usually up high is where it is at, and there are mega brownie points if we can be in a location with the sun setting or rising with a iconic building in the foreground
Then there is the long exposure shot. This involves using a slow shutter speed in order to let in more light, in low light conditions. It often will capture the stationary elements of an image whilst blurring any form of motion, such as water or vehicle lights.
It is all about the angles
Before Chris, I used to take photos directly head on. This can work to some extent with some pictures, but others not so much.
Getting creative with angles is always fun, and something I try to experiment with from time to time.
There is something in photography called the rule of thirds, which is a great guideline for composing a good photograph.
Often Chris will remind me that I need to frame the photograph and consider where the eye will be drawn to when looking at it.
I have learnt that I need to consider what the focal point is, and how to get this across in an image.
The rule of thirds is about mentally dividing your picture into a grid. Although some cameras now come with this as a feature. You need to consider what elements of the photo are the most important, and position them at or near the lines and intersections of the grid.
Take the picture above as an example. You want the viewer to be drawn to the snow capped mountains. You don’t want too much sky in the shot, or too much road. Angling this shot with the road winding round toward the mountains leads the eyes to look there, making it a half decent shot (or so Chris says anyway).
You don’t always have one shot
My mentality prior to travelling with Chris was to take a shot, quickly check it looked ok on the camera and move on.
Like snap, move on, next image.
As an example, here are two photos I have taken from my travels of monkeys in Asia. One from 2014 and one from 2018.
A bit of an improvement (I reckon).
What I am finding is that taking more images of the same thing is often better than just one. That way, you have better odds of getting a good shot.
The main thing I have learnt when travelling with a photographer is that planning is essential, there will be early mornings, and things will take a lot longer to do, but when you end up getting epic pictures, it is all worth it.