Tag Archives: travel photography

Week 18 Module: Make Postcards with Your Travel Photos!

Bhutan Gangtey mountains color camp dwarf bamboo yak herders tent copyright Aloha Lavina

Note: I’ve been away both traveling and taking doctoral courses, so we skipped two weeks of tutorials. Here is hopefully the new start of something that is possible and will continue.

 

This is the postcard I wanted to send you from Bhutan when I was there.

Postcard from Bhutan Thimpu copyright Aloha Lavina Buddha on mountainside sunrise

Actually, it’s a photo I took in Thimpu, just as the sun was rising, of the giant Buddha glistening in the early light on the mountainside overlooking the capital city.

Haven’t you ever wished you could share your travel experiences with someone through a postcard? There is magic in receiving one of these little old-fashioned gestures in the snailmail. The magic comes from the fact that someone is “wishing you were here,” and that they were thinking of you when they enjoyed their travels.Bhutan Gangtey mountains color camp dwarf bamboo yak herders tent copyright Aloha Lavina

But sometimes, you can’t find postcards that you would like to send. Or maybe you have no time to shop for postcards because you are 3000 feet above sea level, camping with yak herders in the hills of Gangtey in central Bhutan.

The solution is to bring the photos home, work with them a bit, and produce your own postcard.

Here’s how.

This week, take some photos of the place you are and turn it one to a postcard. Then, send it to someone.

And enjoy the magic of their surprise.

Photo Essay: A Lens in Little India, Singapore

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Vincent Ng

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Photo Essay: Lunch Break at Uni Texas, Austin

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Cyndi Louden

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

 

Photo Essay: Seeing Cebu

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Einstein Lavina

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Photo Essay: Missoula on My Mind

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Cynthia Swidler

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Missoula hums with energy along its river-front. Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Chasing away the middle school blues and gray days, this seventh grade student enjoys the outdoors by swinging above the mountains to the sky.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

The Bohemian Waxwings flock and feed on Mountain Ash berries, becoming crazily intoxicated and bringing a great spot of color on an otherwise gray, late winter day.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

A brief and glorious moment of sun thawed the morning's snow from my car's sun-roof.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

A brief and glorious moment of sun thawed the morning's snow from my car's sun-roof.

 

Photo Essay: Getting the Car to Go

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Schalk Ras

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Photo Essay: Exploring Koh Sark Island in Thailand

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

by Ker Geok Lan

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Week 7 Module A Sense of Place

environmental portrait girl with offering at a school in Ubud Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

We all want to raise our average of successful shots.

The awe and wonder we feel at beauty often makes us trigger happy with the camera. We shoot and shoot and shoot. Especially with dSLRs and the ability to fill a memory card without having to worry about the cost of developing the images later, we can happily shoot thousands of photos in a day without caring. We know that later when we edit and go through our ‘film,’ we can just pick the few best shots and call it a day.

Wait, really?

As a shooter making composition decisions, though, you might come to a point where you want every shot to count. After all, you are on a journey to improvement in your hobby, and what better indicator of success than the frequency you produce a good shot?

So how do we raise the percentage of good shots out of the many we shoot on any given day?

Many teachers say, “Shoot a lot.” It’s true that practice is out of the question one of the most important things you can do to increase your proficiency at making pictures.

But while shooting a lot, how you practice often makes the difference in the rate of improvement and the ability to call on skill at will, to make a good shot.

That’s why for the next week, we are going to learn how to capture a “sense of place,” essentially what travel photographers do.

Do you have to travel to do this two-week module? No. You can capture the sense of place right where you are, your hometown (or city). You can even be a camera toting tourist right in your own home! Imagine that.

How this module works is up to you, but I do suggest you focus on big ideas first, to get a sense of your shooting goals. Then, zoom in to specific shots you need to achieve. You have more than 7 days to shoot this assignment, so you can use the if-then planning strategy to schedule your goals in advance, and then go out and get those images.

What is travel photography?

Nigel Barker in this video below tells us about the topics in travel photography. Photographing portraits, action, and places are three general ways you can get a sense of place.

The goal in getting a sense of place is to collect in your images the small stories that make up a larger story, the story of your experience itself. What are the smaller stories? Let’s zoom into these topics and take a look.

Portraits

Travel portraits are some of the most telling images of a place. People make a place how it is in the ways they have adapted and created their lifestyle. Lifestyle and culture shots often work best when we see people in action in those shots.

Peter McBride, a photographer at National Geographic tells us in this video that when taking portraits, it’s important to be polite. Imagine if you were just going about your daily life and someone with a wide angle lens stuck their lens in your face to take a close-up shot. That would be annoying, right? It’s important for a travel photographer to be courteous and not treat their subjects as zoo exhibits, ignoring the protocol of personal space.

For closeup shots, it might work to use a telephoto lens. Keeping a polite distance from the subject and shooting with a zoom lens actually has its own benefit. You get a shallow depth of field, effectively blurring the background and making your subject pop in the portrait.

You can change up your portraits using a few techniques.

People in motion

Using the technique of panning we learned in Module 5, you can add interest and story to a portrait by capturing people in action.

man in Bali panning technique copyright Aloha Lavina.

Panning technique in travel photography.

This man at an early morning market in Bali was an amazing subject. For this shot, I used a 24-70mm lens at around 55mm, shooting at shutter speed priority mode and dialing in a shutter speed of 1/30s. ISO was low to keep the shutter slow and help the panning technique.

Abstracting people

Sometimes, body language can be a great subject. These faceless portraits, one of my lifelong projects, can tell us about the people even if the face is absent in the shot.

onion peelers workers Bali abstract portrait faceless portrait project copyright Aloha Lavina

Abstraction can highlight a reality in a place.

In this shot of workers peeling onions, I focused on the workers’ feet semi-buried in onions and onion peel, to get a sense of their reality.

Interactions

Being patient pays off a lot in travel photography. So does bringing your camera with you everywhere. Nigel Barker mentions in his video that often, amazing shots happen  when you least expect them. It’s good to patiently wait for those shots and capture those moments that tell the story of a relationship, or of emotions.

Emotions are the currency of human interactions, so if you spot more than one subject, wait a while and you might get rewarded with a shot telling their story through emotion.

father and son Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Capturing interactions requires patience and quick reflexes.

Environmental portraits

Environmental portraits are portraits that give context to the subject. Including a bit of the surroundings helps to establish the place where the portrait belongs.

environmental portrait girl with offering at a school in Ubud Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Including the environment gives the image context.

Composition is key in these environmental portraits. In this shot of a schoolgirl about to make an offering of flowers at her school, the background gives us some detail of where she is. It’s a room with two doorways, and this gives the shot depth. It also shows that there is more than this one girl at the scene. The silhouettes in the far doorway gives the shot both story and balance.

Change the way you see

If you establish a rapport with the people at a place, you can change your lens to shoot wide and change your point of view.

When I intend to take travel photos, I spent a lot of time without taking a single shot and instead focus on making a connection with the locals. If there is someone selling a snack or coffee, for instance, I usually use the very human activities of eating and drinking as a way to break the ice. Often times, people do not mind photographers as long as you don’t get in the way of their daily lives, and they perceive you as friendly. A smile can go a long way.

When you have established trust, you can tell that you are allowed closer to your subjects. (If they frown or shake their heads, thank politely and just go away.)

As you become more accepted as part of the scene by the people you’re photographing, you can do a couple of things to help you to change the way you see the travel portrait.

Stacking planes

When we photograph, we generally have three planes in front of our lens—the foreground, closest to us, the plane where the subject is, in the middle, and the background, farthest from us. Thinking this way allows you to manipulate the composition so that you can use the planes to show depth and to create a natural framing within the frame.

Kusumba stevedore loading boat for Lombok Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Stacking planes and frame within the frame.

Sometimes, depth of field can help you create more than one plane in the image. In the picture of rice field workers, focusing on the grains falling from the basket at a shallow aperture allowed me to create the illusion of depth in the two-dimensional image by blurring the background.

rice field workers DOF vertical Balinese ricefield copyright Aloha Lavina

Using shallow depth of field to create an illusion of depth in the image.

Place

Getting a sense of a place’s beauty can be done with a few simple tips.

Shoot good light

Knowing the quality of light at different times of day can help you decide when to shoot. Shooting at the golden hour of sunset or the first light of sunrise can give your photos of place added impact.

Waking up at 4 am to travel to this side of Bali was a little risky because the scene at the lake was often obscured by clouds. Sure enough that morning, the clouds were in full force, and the sunrise was hidden. But as the sun rose a little higher, it began to bleed its color into the cloud cover, and I was able to make shots of just the light.

sunrise under heavy cloud over lake Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Sometimes, the image is just about light and shadow.

On a different day, I was walking from a village to the vehicle when I spotted this wonderful sky and beautiful light on ferns beside the road. The light itself was reason enough to make some images.

sunset and beautiful light on ferns Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

The beautiful light falling on the ferns caught my eye.

Sometimes, just making photos of good light can make any subject at any place worth the effort of making exposures.

Detail

Shooting details can help you tell the story of a place. Paying attention to details that tell part of the story can hone your observation skills—a useful skill in travel photography. It can also present you with a lot of opportunities to practice your composition skills, skill of making an exposure using exposure compensation, and spotting light on subjects.

detail of offering flower hibiscus and incense smoke Balinese offering Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Details can help you tell a story of place.

Finally, here is some inspiration from National Geographic to help you visualize what you need to do for the next couple of weeks. (My stuff shouldn’t be your benchmarks for your work; these NatGeo photos should. They are my own benchmarks and source of aspiration/inspiration.)

Tips for Taking Simply Beautiful Photographs
Simply Beautiful Photos : Capturing Moment

The assignment for these modules is to create a sense of place. To address our first goal which is to increase our rate of success, you have to produce 7-10 images that give a sense of one place. The images can include any of the topics discussed in this module:

  • Portrait: close-up, action, interaction, emotion, abstraction, environmental
  • Place: sunrise, sunset, any good light, wide shot, details

Post your shots and title them this way so that we can identify them for the Editor’s Picks discussion: “yourname_place_typeofshot.” For example, “Aloha_Bali_detail” would be the title I would use for the last image shown above of the flower.

And there you have it, our most ambitious modules so far! As your slavedriver guide, I hope the extra challenge of producing more than one shot improves your batting average these next couple of weeks. I also hope that using your skills in composition, knowledge of light, and ability to create subjective compositions, the Imagine That Photography Tribe will produce a series of stories that will share the beauty and awesomeness of places where we live.

Join us, the Imagine That Photography Tribe, as we embark on a year of photography projects designed to improve and practice photography skills! Simply Like us on Facebook, and you will be able to see weekly posts, contributions from Tribe members, and talk photography! Participate and be included in weekly roundup articles published right here on Imagine That! Also get the chance to see your work in seasonal e-publications released by Imagine That.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Composition and the Use of Color
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

 

 

Let the Rain Help Your Photography

Floating mosque, Penang. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

After months of monsoon rains in Asia, we have grown tired of the water.

But there’s always a positive side to everything, and rain has a positive effect on photography.

In Penang for a break from the stress of flooding in Thailand, I was in the Ko Si Lak temple when it started to pour. You could see the rain in sheets from the high vantage point, drenching Georgetown below the hill.

Later near Tanjung Bunga, storm clouds threatened ominously in the horizon while I watched a couple of fishermen replace a defective rotorblade on their boat.

Stormy weather can help add drama to photographs.

Rain clouds over Georgetown, Penang. Copyright Aloha Lavina.The itinerant photographer can use the signs of an impending storm to capture this drama in their photography.Storm approaches near Tanung Bunga, Penang. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Here are some things I’ve learned about shooting in the rain:

1.  Protect the camera and lens the affordable way.
While cameras and lenses are supposed to be weather proof to some extent, it’s best not to risk destroying them in your quest for great rainy day shots. Protecting your camera and lens using a plastic bag, tied at the opening with a rubber band, is a simple way of waterproofing your gear.

2. Get a waterproof bag for the rest of your stuff.
Kata and Lowepro which I have used, have these nifty raincovers that fold out over the bag. I pull them over the bag at the first sign of a drizzle, to protect the lenses and other equipment in the bag.

3. Watch out for lightning.
Great shots are good to go after, but not if you put yourself in danger. If you’re photographing in open space, say a field with little shelter, you might want to leave that place at the first sign of lightning.

4. Wipe down your gear as soon as you get back to your home or hotel.
To avoid getting moisture in your equipment, wipe down your camera and lenses with a cloth as soon as you reach the hotel or your home.

5. Keep a rain parka, or a large trash bag in your camera bag.
A rain parka is not expensive and can be tucked away in your camera bag. Similarly, if you’re winging it in a foreign country where it rains a lot, you can get large garbage bags and tuck a couple into your camera bag. If you desperately need to keep dry, you can cut a hole in the sealed end for your head, a couple holes for your arms, and you’ve got a ready rain poncho.

Floating mosque, Penang. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Floating mosque, Penang. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

If you stick around while it’s raining and wait it out, you will enjoy an aftereffect of rain on the place where you are taking pictures. Water over a surface actually increases the saturation of its colors. This is beautiful to behold and even more beautiful to capture.

So don’t leave at the first sign of rain. If you hang around, you’ll have plenty more shots to make.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

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10 Practical Ways to Improve Visual Problem Solving

storm approaching batanes copyright Aloha Lavina

When you are on assignment, often even with extensive research, there are variables you cannot prepare for. Challenges you find on assignment include:

  • Light conditions
  • Having to search for vantage points that work
  • People are always moving around
  • Weather

Also even if you studiously pore over maps of the place you will be photographing, you still have the challenge of composing based on what the layout of the area really looks like when you encounter it with the light, weather, people, etc when you get there. You still have to search for vantage points that work for the story you are shooting.

To be a successful travel photographer, you have to become a successful visual problem solver. A visual problem solver takes the existing conditions of where she is shooting, and finds ways to arrange those conditions into a harmonious image.

Like many artistic skills, visual problem solving is actually made up of a complex subset of skills. Here are 10 practical ways to practice your visual problem solving.

 Ways to practice visual problem solving

1. One lens or focal length.

Making images with one focal length is a limitation, but it is a limitation that allows you to free up your creative problem solving skill of composing with a constraint. Constraints like simply using a 50mm for an entire story is something that can help ‘force’ you to compose in creative ways. You have to zoom with your feet with one focal length. You have to move around. What this does is simply get you into the habits that allow for creative visual interpretations of what’s in front of you. If you have a zoom lens on, like your kit lens, don’t worry. Simply tape the lens to the desired focal length you want to work with for the week, and don’t change it!

2. Tell a story using a theme.

Themes can do wonders for your creativity because it is another constraint that you can impose on your image making that will challenge you to discover ways of solving a visual problem. Interpreting the theme you choose can hone your observation skills, composition skills, and all the other discrete skills demanded of a creative shooter. For example, you could shoot the theme ‘blue’ today! There are many ways to interpret this theme. It could be the color blue, the many hues of blue, or it could be the metaphorical blue, interpreted by images that show abandonment, sorrow, etc.

3. Crop in camera.

If you tell yourself that every frame must contain only what’s necessary to tell the story, you are giving yourself an opportunity to become a great visual problem solver.

fallen birch in pond copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

These days with humungous digital RAW files, it’s easy to just snap away and crop your compositions later. But what this does is make for a lazy visual problem solver. If you ever want to be a photographer on assignment, you want to get the compositions right in camera; often your editor will expect the files as they are when it’s time to submit a story. Practicing this composition in-camera skill will enhance your visual problem solving skill and improve your photos dramatically. You might even find that you don’t need to spend hours in post-processing because your straight-from-camera pictures are already breathtaking as they are. Imagine that: less time on the computer, more time to shoot!

4. Look at things in fresh ways.

Take a page from poetry. Wallace Stevens has a great poem called “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” where he explores how to see in 13 very short stanzas. Looking at things in fresh ways means to move not just your feet, but your mind’s eye—what can you see if you look at a subject in a different way? Given a theme, what would be a list of ways you could look at it? Changing up your point of view not just physically but also mentally can change the way you interpret the subject.

5. Using design principles.

Line, form, color, balance—these are always great themes to shoot. Spending some time composing using graphic design themes can inject freshness into your imagery. These are also elements you can find in every setting, so you will never run out of things to photograph.

6. Photograph the light.

There is no more beautiful way to interpret a place than by recording the way the light falls on it. A tree is a tree is a tree, but a tree in great light is a beautiful photo.

morning mist at Tioga Pass copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

 7. Vary your exposure.

Changing your exposure subjectively is a great way to interpret scenes and give them mood and atmosphere. You can try high-key images, or images that are overexposed to give them a bright, cheerful mood. Or you can underexpose to change the mood and give it a bit of mystery. You can spend a lot of time photographing one scene, and vary the exposures with which you capture it. Then you would have a lot of images to choose from, to tell the story. Making subjective exposures gives you a way to bring emotion into your images.

8. Vary technique.

There are some themes commonly used in travel photography that would work to help you vary the techniques you use to capture a place. Panning, light painting, and slow shutter work are some of the techniques you can use to creatively interpret your vision while on assignment. Practicing these techniques wherever you go can give you a variety of images that might give you more insight into a place.

9. Use color in various ways.

Color is everywhere, so this is a great way to explore a new place. But making color work for your image is a skill that can help you move beyond just making eye candy, into making expressive images.

Seeing how colors complement each other, or how it affects the mood of an image, is a great skill and can help you in visual problem solving. For instance, a spot of blue in an otherwise all-yellow-and-green landscape might make a better photo.

storm approaching batanes copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

You can also influence color in your images by changing up your white balance settings. (You can change white balance in RAW, so if you shoot in RAW the white balance setting is quite irrelevant. But if you need a visual feedback system for the ‘feeling’ color produces in an image, try shooting in a different white balance just to be able to see the effect on your image on the LCD screen.)

10. Use contrast to add interest to an image.

I’ve discussed some techniques for using contrast in images over at LightStalking. Spotting contrast is another way to add interest to your images. Practicing seeing contrast—in content, color, values, size, lines, texture—hones your observation skills and gives you a whole new way of seeing.

With some patience and perseverance, you can train yourself to be an effective visual problem solver. Practice will make these skills part of your natural workflow, so start on them today!

Which of these 10 have you tried? What have you done to produce an image you loved?

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
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Three Things to Love about the Canon 60D

low angle desert bloom copyright Aloha Lavina

That the 5DMkII’s mirror came loose is a blessing.

The 60D this week proved to me that it is a great tool for travel photography. I had traveled with the 60D before, to Bhutan in the wintertime, and I noticed that it suffered a bit from condensation that happened when it was very cold outside—the viewfinder fogged up, and the photos came out with their very own involuntary blurring, which made focusing a challenge. The camera also feels very light in the hands. For someone used to the hefty Nikon D3 combined with the weight of a 24-70mm f/2.8 Nano lens, I didn’t feel that the 60D was a solid machine in my hands.

But for the past two weeks in California, I’ve been using the 60D every day, and it has proven to be a great camera. Three things I have come to love about the 60D are its weight (yes!), the vari-angle LCD screen, and its compatibility with Canon’s EF lenses.

Since this assignment requires me to bring three lenses, I’ve come to appreciate the lighter weight of the 60D. Roaming the countryside from sunup to sundown, the camera sits well in my favorite Crumpler 6 Billion Dollar Home with the 50mm f/1.2, the 16-35mm f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8. Also always in my bag are an Epson P-7000, extra camera batteries, a notebook, passport, iPod, a polarizing filter in its case, a screw-on ND filter in its case. Usually, the bag would bulge because with the rest of the inventory, I had to pack in the D3, and the bulk of its grip would hit into my hip constantly; the weight of course made my shoulder ache. With the 60D, the bag felt slim, kept its shape, and didn’t have the bulging it usually experienced. I’ve been walking with this sling bag every day for at least 12 hours, I rarely put it down even when making long exposure sunset shots, and my shoulders are fine. The weight of the 60D is definitely a plus for an itinerant photographer.

slow shutter in June Lakes California copyright Aloha Lavina

June Lake area, California. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The vari-angle LCD screen is something I dismissed the first time I used the 60D, but it has become the best part of the camera for me. You can flip the LCD screen so that the LCD is tucked into the camera back to protect it when traveling. When you need to use it to compose, it swivels out and flips 180 degrees. It really makes those low, low angles possible to compose in without putting out your back! I enjoyed this feature a lot since I didn’t have to lie down on the cold ground in Yosemite to make low angle shots.

low angle desert bloom copyright Aloha Lavina

Low angle shots will always be fun with the 60D. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

I also found the screen useful for an efficient composition workflow. I composed with the screen and looked at it while adjusting the tripod head, angle, and making decisions about orientation in the image. A great feature is the horizon helper—the horizon bar on the screen shows up green when it’s straight, so you don’t have to guess, especially if you’ve got horizon tilt bias, which I seem to have. After the adjustments, I just switch the camera back to the ‘info’ mode which displays all my settings on one screen, focus through the viewfinder, and then trigger the camera with the remote.

Bodie, California copyright Aloha Lavina

Low angle shot in Bodie, California. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The third advantage of using a 60D is its compatibility with the lenses I use with the 5DMkII. The EF lenses I brought on this trip were bought because of their exemplary quality. These lenses are superb products, and if used well, focus accurately and produce sharp images with vibrant color. They are versatile and fast, useful for small-aperture landscapes as well as low-light portraiture. I don’t own a lot of Canon lenses, and these lenses do a wide range of work. So for the lenses to fit the 60D is definitely a plus for the camera.

Honestly, I think the 60D is going to be a mainstay in my bag. And it won’t just be a backup camera. It will be a valued tool that will not only help me make images, but help me travel well.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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You Need to Get that Backup Camera
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Shoot Themes When You Travel

Keep Your Camera in Motion
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So You Want to be a Travel Photographer…What’s in it for you?

article on Canon Photo You by Aloha Lavina

This post was written for Ying Huang in Scotland, who emailed me about the essence of travel photography. Thanks Ying for inspiring this post and the last one!

Although travel photography is long, lonely, hard work, there are a lot of benefits.

You Get Great Experiences and Learn a Lot

I traveled a lot as a kid, missing a lot of school. But for this, I have to thank my parents, who were global nomads while they raised me, for the experiences I’ve had first hand could not have happened to me in a school room. I’ve come face to face with a beached whale, played magnetic Scrabble in a boat pitched violently by a storm, learned how to sleep on a bus, a boat, a Toyota Land Cruiser…the list of cool stuff I learned from traveling is long. The point is, without being able to travel, the learning I gained from wandering around the globe would not have happened.

Travel is a masterful teacher. It’s helped me to be persistent when things don’t work out. To respect cultures different from my own. It’s helped me to see people without first focusing on differences because as a traveler I’ve had to look for similarities first, to find a friend. This openness has helped me as a travel photographer.

Sometimes you get a story that stretches your worldview. A recent memorable one is when I went to Bhutan to shoot and write a story for Canon PhotoYou Magazine (Check out the Summer 2011 issue!). In Bhutan I met anatomically detailed giant penises painted on walls as charms to ward off evil spirits. Then I learned that the paintings were related to a local hero, so I sought those stories about him…and found he was a prophet and saint whose most repeated stories challenged the hypocrisy of local religion and all involved sleeping around…even with his own mother. Oops, did I really want that much information? I had to process these stories as part of my experience in Bhutan, and it was a challenge to separate myth from fact and get to a story that would work, especially as my editor cautioned me against being ‘too mystical’. In the end, I realized the story was the mix of fact and myth, because that was Bhutan.

article on Canon Photo You by Aloha Lavina

Learning about a country firsthand is a great benefit to a travel photog.

Travel will make a photographer uncomfortable at times. But remember that this discomfort is a sign of learning, so be open to it, and it will reward you with insight.

You Meet Lots of Cool People

I am fortunate to count so many people all over the world as ‘friends,’ not in a Facebook sense, but in the sense that once, we shared a day or a moment as human beings. I’ve enjoyed noodles with the entire roster of residents in an old folks home in Burma’s heartland. Another time, in another village, I spent a night watching a soccer game with the whole village on the only television in that place. In Da Lat, Vietnam, I met a man who was the first person in his village to graduate high school. From his last email, I learned recently that he’s started a cooperative for the tribes in Da Lat to regulate the production and sale of their crafts—something that will help them both find appreciative markets and preserve their traditional arts. In Cambodia, I met a shoe shine boy whose dream was to be able to afford going to school…I can’t list all the inspiring people I’ve met while traveling in this blog post, but in every place, there have been people who have again and again restored my faith in humans.

Burmese dancer copyright Aloha Lavina.

I've met lots of cool people as a travel photog. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

You Learn to Live Simply and Resourcefully

As a traveling photographer, you learn how to make do. It makes you appreciate the small things, like the banana a local matriarch gives you for breakfast while you wait for the sun to rise and the fishermen to come in on a lonely stretch of volcanic beach in Indonesia.

You also know that you have to travel light, so you become more resourceful. While in Burma during Thingyan, the water festival, I was on a long sampan in a waterway, flanked by locals on the banks ready to douse the boat tip to stern with a fire hose. But my camera bag was dry, wrapped in a large plastic garbage bag—something I now carry with me everywhere, along with some rubber bands—a low cost, light waterproofing solution to wet locations. In Borneo last April, the plastic bag became a raincoat, keeping dry both my camera and my clothes while I scouted for orangutans along the Panabangan River.

Being a travel photographer means being able to bring home images that will give someone insight into places they may not ever visit. It gives you a chance to teach an audience, to tell stories with your images that many people will enjoy. It also means taking home some intangibles, like insights and friendships, and new learning that make you better appreciate your world.

Few people make a fortune with travel photography, but the experiences you gain as a travel photographer are priceless.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
So You Want to be a Travel Photographer…Can You Handle It?
Shoot Themes When You Travel

Keep Your Camera in Motion
Don’t Put Your Camera Away after Sunset
A Changing Story

 

So You Want to be a Travel Photographer! Can you handle it?

groom in traditional dress for a Balinese wedding copyright Aloha Lavina

This post was written for Ying Huang in Scotland, who emailed me about the essence of travel photography. Thanks Ying for inspiring this post and the next one! Today’s post will be on the challenges of travel photography, and the next post will be on the benefits.

The decision to hire yourself out as a travel photographer has its challenges. Most people might think that travel photography is a thoroughly glamorous job–you jet around the world, you get to hang out creatively so you can capture a story, then you post the story to an editor and then off you go, ready for a new place, a new experience.

Honestly, it’s not that glamorous, and it’s long, lonely, hard work. But if you are organized, persistent and flexible, and you like yourself, you could make it as a travel photographer.

The Value of Organization

Packing your equipment for travel, you have to have done your homework, already.

Most travel stories contain a lot of detail to capture a place, and if you are going to a place you’ve never been, you have to do research beforehand to find out what you can photograph, set the itinerary so you have lots of opportunities to capture the highlights that make the story unique, and pack your camera bag accordingly.

groom in traditional dress for a Balinese wedding copyright Aloha Lavina

Is travel photography always glamorous? Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Little details like bringing a power adaptor, finding out the voltage of the country, laws on equipment you can bring in and out of the country are just three of the many little things that you have to know before you go. If you don’t do your homework before you travel, you might meet seemingly minor catastrophes that could kill your story—you could have equipment confiscated, have limited opportunities for shots that work because you brought the “wrong” lens–or worse, have to scramble to charge your batteries because you’re not prepared with proper adaptors. Thorough preparation is one of the challenges of being a travel photographer.

Another part of being an organized travel photographer is knowing how to juggle your assignments. If you’re lucky, you will be hired regularly by a magazine or publisher, and have a steady stream of assignments. But most travel photographers have to be freelance, posting stories, pitching stories, and waiting to get paid after the story is published. Waiting for income to pay bills just doesn’t work with the way bills work in our world, so you have to take on multiple assignments to get a steady income if you’re a freelancer. To do this successfully, you have to create a system that helps you keep track of stories you’ve pitched (tried to sell) to editors, stories that you’ve sold, and stories you’ve actually been paid for. I actually enrolled in a course on being a travel photographer over at MatadorU, an online school for travel photographers and writers, so I could get a firm grasp on how to juggle assignments with the guidance of an editor. Having a system for keeping track is essential, especially if you’re trying to be prolific enough to pay bills with your photography.

The Value of Persistence

With the popularity of digital photography, it’s very easy for publications to buy or get for free photos from non-professional photographers, and a lot of hobbyists who have other means of income make their photos available through stock companies like Getty, where a publication might pay less to get their photos compared to having to commission a photographer to fly somewhere and live in rented accommodations to get specific shots of a place. So rejection of pitches is something a travel photographer has to deal with, and the persistent travel photographer will pitch a story to death to get it bought and published. Aside from organization, persistence is a quality that you need to survive as a travel photographer.

Patience and persistence is rewarded. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Patience and persistence is rewarded in travel photography. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Persistence also helps you with the challenge of shooting the story itself. The only thing you can control in a travel assignment is yourself and whether your equipment is prepared. You can’t control the weather, the light, the environment. It might rain, the sunset could be horrible the day you climbed the hill to the lighthouse. The market could be empty when you go there to shoot portraits of people at work. Accepting that these are circumstances beyond your control, and having a backup plan to come back, go somewhere else, and keep shooting a story will help you to turn what might be a bad shooting day to one you can save.

The Value of Flexibility

Flexibility will get you through an assignment. Things won’t work out your way, but you have to get those images. If you’ve done thorough research, you will know where to go instead of the empty marketplace. If you did your homework, you will be able to shoot and post the story.

It’s essential for a travel photographer to shoot in many different shooting conditions and situations. Being able to shoot in a variety of situations helps you to get a story that’s different from what could also be accomplished by those six or sixteen other people your editor could have hired. As a travel photographer, you have to work hard to be technically proficient that you can be creative. Creativity comes after you know the fundamentals of how certain shots work–so if you have a large repertoire of what you can do with your camera, you have an advantage over someone else your editor could hire.

The Value of Liking Yourself

Travel photography means long hours by yourself. I’ve produced photos while traveling with other people, even on tour when I’ve spent hours on a bus and a measly 15 minutes at every tourist site, and my best work has been when I specifically travel to a place, alone, just to make images. There are a few crucial reasons for this.

Your schedule is your own. When you travel alone, you are able to get up as early as it requires to photograph in good light. You don’t have to wait for others to wake up, finish breakfast, and go. You’re able to zip through from one place to another depending on the shooting opportunities. And you can stay as long as you want in a place as long as you have enough memory card space. The advantages of traveling alone for photography are many; but it’s lonely. There’s no one to talk to at the end of the day, to process your experiences, except your travel journal. You really have to like spending time by yourself if you are a travel photographer.

If you like yourself, are flexible and persistent, and organized, you can meet the challenges of being a travel photographer. What other qualities do you think a travel photographer should have to succeed?

UP NEXT: the benefits of being a travel photographer, right here on Imagine That!

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Shoot Themes When You Travel
Keep Your Camera in Motion
Don’t Put Your Camera Away after Sunset
A Changing Story

 

 

Three Simple Tips for Sharper Handheld Photography

early morning light in Batanes copyright Aloha Lavina.

I was on a mountaintop last week, trying to take these shots without a tripod. The strong winds in the Batanes archipelago, in the Northernmost tip of the Philippine Islands, just knock tripods down, so I didn’t have much of a choice.

In situations where you have to take shots handheld, there are a few techniques you can practice to make your shots as sharp as possible.

1. Watch how you breathe.

Breathing can cause slight camera shake. But you can apply a rhythm in the way you breathe while you’re shooting that helps you keep your cam steady. It’s always best to finish exhaling before pressing the shutter. Practicing this breathing technique can seem distracting at first, but mastering it will help you get those handheld shots sharper.

batanes storm coming copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Watch how you hold your camera.

Combined with your new breathing technique, you can stabilize your camera using your body. Digital Photography School has an excellent illustrated roundup about various positions you can adopt to hold your camera steady with your whole body, instead of just your hands. The bottom line is, use your body to steady the camera, and the closer you hold the camera to the core of your body, the more stable it becomes for you to take that sharp shot.

early morning light in Batanes copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Watch how your eyes move.

This is a tip I learned from golf. Even after you have picked a focal point and locked on it, you need to keep your eyes on that focal point while you are taking the shot. Moving your eyes to a new focal point on the viewfinder means your hands will move.  Keeping your eyes locked on target will make sure your shot is sharp.

What are your techniques for handheld photography?

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures
All You Need is a Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo

 

Surviving a Typhoon, a Birthday present from Alltop, and 12 Bite-sized Lessons

portrait Burmese man wooden temple copyright Aloha Lavina

Imagine being in a small 30-seater plane 25,000 feet in the sky in the middle of a typhoon that kills 2 people and leaves 15 missing. That’s where I was yesterday, literally gripping the edge of seat number 8A, counting the raindrops on the window that streaked diagonally like tadpoles on steroids.

I was happy to be in the air, after having to stay an extra day in the Batanes archipelago, where I had gone on assignment. Batanes is a cluster of small islands in the northernmost tip of the Philippines, about 190 miles from Taiwan and 890 miles from Manila, the capital. The main island of Batan has the northernmost weather station in the country; it records and tracks all the typhoons that enter Philippine airspace, covering some 7,100 islands. So to speak, all the bad news about the weather comes from there. It’s no wonder everyone has the misconception that Batanes has more typhoons than the whole country experiences; in fact, while it stormed in Manila last week, Batanes had relatively clear skies.

Batanes sunset copyright Aloha Lavina.

Batanes sunset. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Ironically, Imagine That celebrated our first birthday in a place that had no internet access, so I didn’t know that something cool happened this past week for Imagine That. I was off the grid for a whole week and didn’t know that Alltop is now featuring us in its Photography page. That’s a great birthday present! Thanks Alltop!

For a year now, this blog has been trying to find its voice; it started with the tagline “light epiphanies from Asia,” aiming to combine stories about photography with stories about travel, two things I am most passionate about. A few months ago I really found that voice when I wrote a short article talking about being a photographer and not a lens changer. That article changed this blog and made it what it is today. With its new tagline “photos and light epiphanies,” Imagine That hopes to share not just technical tips but also some insight into what it’s like to be obsessed with photography.

It’s great to be obsessed with something that gives you so much beauty and joy. But it is true that photography has a lot of facets to it, and sometimes it can be daunting to go through the countless complex guides that are available to you. So here are some bite-sized lessons you might use to improve your photography.

How to use content to create a powerful photo is something most photographers ponder a lot. Composition is a place to begin. There are quite a few ways to build photos with powerful content. You can also check out this article on making eyecandy, which talks about how to use color to improve composition.

portrait Burmese man wooden temple copyright Aloha Lavina

Portrait photography remains a beautiful obsession. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

If like me, you are drawn to making photos of people, making expressive portraits has to be one of your goals. If portraits are what keep you shooting, you might want to learn about how to conceptualize a shoot or using props to enhance a portrait. We’re so obsessed that we take advice from most things, including these 10 cliches that a photographer could believe, and advice about portrait photography from the incomparable Tyra Banks.

Then there is travel photography. Travel photography is fascinating in the way it is always unpredictable and fresh. Within this expansive genre are subgenres that you can do as mini-projects. You could learn how to capture motion. You could organize your travel photography into themes. You can even break down a theme into little topics. These topics hold in them little skills that can take your photography into creative avenues, such as shooting after the sun goes down.

Danang bridge at night Vietnam copyright Aloha Lavina

Don't put your camera away at night. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Whatever type of photography you grow to love, you will find that photography inspiration is never too far away. For example, you might learn that you are better off improving your skills than trying to buy it by acquiring lots of shiny new gear. Sometimes, you can even find photography wisdom in something as strange as the thought process of a golfer.

I hope that new readers will appreciate these insights from a year on Imagine That, and they can help you appreciate the wonder of discovery that I’ve enjoyed in my photography. I hope that you, too, will continue to enjoy those little epiphanies of light that you find in your viewfinder.

Happy shooting, from Imagine That.