Travel Photography Tips

Posted on April 21, 2013

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Today I had the opportunity to get tips on taking better travel photos from professional photographers Bob Krist and Ralph Lee Hopkins. The National Geographic Traveler Photography Seminar, although not hands on, it was packed with useful tips for amateurs to professionals wanting to gain new perspectives for their craft. Within the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego, Bob and Ralph showcased their work and shared information on techniques. These are some tips I gleaned from today’s all day show and tell:

  • Be sure to bring on your trip extra batteries, chargers, camera raincoats, backup hard drives, a card reader and “carry on” the airplane your camera equipment.
  • Great travel photography is really story telling.
  • To tell a story well, include a variety of shots – close up (flowers, people), wide-angle (sunsets, horizons), and incorporate the spirit of the location with culture and history.
  • Approach any photography mission like a cinematographer would – include close ups of action and reaction, wide angle establishing shots, and a point of view.
  • Use whatever camera equipment you know and are comfortable with.
  • Lighting is the difference between a good shot and a magazine worthy shot. Set flash on so its ready to blend nature and flash light and use off camera lighting to minimize unwanted shadows.
  • Most important – “Live in the Moment”, be ready with camera in hand and anticipate shots. Use continuous shutter – burst mode.
  • For Lighting: use contrast, natural light, side light and shoot early or at twilight.
  • For Composition: chose the right lens, frame your subject, put the subject off-center, and include a strong foreground.
  • Organize and share your photos – make slide shows and photo books.
  • Ralph Lee Hopkins book on Nature Photography includes many of the tips, including type of camera and settings used to capture his amazing photos (if bought at the seminar he will autograph it for you).

It’s impossible for me to highlight all the information these talented photographers shared with the crowd of 150, but they kept our interest, got us laughing, sold a few books, and inspired us to go out and “Adopt our Own Project” – to create a photography mission of our own. Partner with non profits, create awareness about a third world country, species, or cause, or create a photo story involving your own family reunion.

I can say that my father who has taken over 30,000 photos in 60 years, and has had equipment that rivals the professionals, learned a few new things, and was reminded of some techniques he has tried in the past and is inspired to try again.

The seminar got me thinking about my photography up to now, which includes using a point and shoot under $100 camera and usually just my iPhone 4S. This photo of Multnomah Falls in Oregon, was taken with my iPhone 4S and is published in this weeks San Diego Reader Gather No Moss travel stories section.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Now I wonder if I need an expensive camera with interchangeable lenses? I signed up for this seminar because I wanted to move beyond my automatic camera to manual settings and edit like the professionals do. I likely won’t become a professional photographer, so my next step will be to try out my point and shoot camera – a Canon Powershot SX110 IS – using the manual settings and Photoshop Elements, and see how that goes.

I plan to post photos of the same subject, in the same lighting, using my iPhone AND my Canon and have a vote which you like best (I won’t say which is which.)  So stay tuned and happy story telling.

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