How to Photograph your Travels - Tips and Tricks

October 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I recently took a trip to New Zealand to catch up with family and see some of the sights. Of course I packed all my camera gear...yes all of it. You never know what you might need!! Then started daydreaming of the amazing shots I would be able to get. 

Of course to get these amazing portfolio worthy shots one must be up at the crack of dawn ready to capture sunrise and on location at sunset to capture the beautiful "golden hour" as it is known. These shots are well composed, thought through and take time to achieve. So fast forward to actually being on holiday...The rental car is packed to the brim and everyone has different places they want to be and things they want to do. I soon realised that it was highly unlikely that the shots I was after would be possible. I mean really who actually wants to get out of bed that early whilst on holiday, and then there's the travel deadlines that need to be meet which in my case made it almost impossible. Of course this scenario would have been completely different had it been a holiday taken purely for photography, then it would have been researched down to every sunrise, sunset time and what locations I would need to be...maybe another time.

So with all that I realised that I would just have to make the best of the situation and think outside the square to still get some shots I would be happy with and that would be a bit different. The weather...well we were really lucky, rain, rain a bit more rain then a bit of sunshine and what do you know it gave the most beautiful light. All clouds and shadows with beautiful sunlight filtering through. I also found it a nice challenge to try to compose a shot in the middle of the day with less than ideal light conditions so I decided to share a couple of shots and explain why they didn't seem ideal to me at the time and how I overcome this.

Near Whangarei New Zealand - Travel Photo TipsNear Whangarei New Zealand - Travel Photo Tips

This photo was taken near my Aunt and Uncle's house at Whangarei Heads. They took us on a tour of the area and to show us some sights, and how lucky are they to live in such a beautiful place!  As you can guess it was taken late morning. I loved the shape of the hills and the different contours of the land but how could I convey this in a way that would be pleasing to the eye? Sunset, oh that would be perfect all golden light...after a day of on and off rain and a lot of cloud would there even be a sunset to speak of? We also had dinner plans in place so sunset really wasn't an option. With this in mind I took a moment to survey the landscape and thought about what I could use and how to best portray it, this is when I saw the track leading up to the peak and realised it was the perfect leading line and since it's not straight, not even close to it, it allows the eye to wander over the scene and view it in it's entirety. Well at least I really hope that is what I have conveyed to the viewer!!! So I had overcome my first holiday photo dilemma and made the best of somewhat average conditions and when I viewed the image on the laptop later that night I was pleasantly surprised to have an image I was happy with. 

Rainbow Falls - New Zealand - Travel Photo TipsRainbow Falls - New Zealand - Travel Photo Tips

A couple of days later and we are in Kerikeri, in the beautiful Far North Region. I have been looking forward to photographing waterfalls...beautiful green photos with silky smooth water. You know the type of images they use to advertise calming activities maybe a yoga retreat! 

We park the car and I can instantly hear rushing water, yes it's been raining here to, not just a little it's been pouring, off down the track we head tripod and backpack in tow to be greeted with murky brown water and not just water, water, water everywhere and spray lots of spray and of course it's blowing downstream so it's going to be blowing straight onto the camera. 

I consider giving up and running back to the car but I think about the fact that it's barely rained in the Pilbara (where we live) in months and that perhaps this is a nice change. So I carefully climb over some rocks and set up the tripod, and filters. I take several different shots and also expose some for the water and some for the sky as I'm aware I might have to blend some exposures to arrive at an image I will be happy with.

Later that evening I excitedly upload my images to Lightroom and instantly feel let down. These are terrible, what was I thinking, Ahhh, just Ahhh! Oh well tomorrow is another day, I leave these images alone until we get home and then decide I must be able to salvage something, I start to process the image in my usual way and discover that it's just not working and I need to be a bit more heavy handed. So I watch a tutorial and give it another go and finally an image I'm happy with!!! Happy days!! My lesson here, don't give up because the weather isn't playing your game and the image you had imagined is not possible, if you can come back another day for sure do, but in my situation this was my one and only chance so make the most of it and create a memory of the day. Try techniques you normally wouldn't and don't be scared to learn something new. 

Peony Rose after the Rain - New Zealand - Travel Photography TipsPeony Rose after the Rain - New Zealand - Travel Photography Tips

As most of you will know I love my macro lens and can often be found in the garden photographing flowers or bugs! While in Russell we visited the Pompallier Mission house, again it was raining and I only had my camera and 28-75mm lens as I wasn't expecting to photograph much in the inclement weather. We were wandering along trying to keep out of the rain when we stumbled across the mission house and thought some local history might be quite interesting and also a way of keeping dry. The tour of the mission house was really interesting and towards the end there was a break in the rain, once the guided tour finished we were able to wander in the gardens. They are lovely English gardens and full of beautiful first thought was I don't have my macro lens so that's the end of that, but the photographer in me couldn't resist snapping away, thinking oh well some "happy snaps" will be nice. Again once loaded them into Lightroom I was pleasantly surprised and have come to really like this image. My lesson here, even if you think you don't have the right equipment or the equipment you would normally use take some shots you may be surprised!


Well all good things must come to an end and we are back in Karratha reflecting on our holiday and I have realised that I learnt a few things about travel photography. When I say travel photography I mean photography of our travels not actual travel photography! 

1. Don't obsess over not being at a location at the perfect time of day.

2. Look for interesting angles, think outside the square and you will be surprised what you can come up with.

3. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries and process an image in a different way or try a new technique.

4. Even if you think you don't have the right equipment for the shot use what you do have and take it anyway.

5. Make the most of each day even if the weather isn't perfect, sometimes it's the cloud that makes the image or the emotion you capture, inclement weather can be perfect for conveying emotion.

6. Most important of all, not every shot has to be a portfolio perfect image. It's ok to relax take some "happy snaps" and just enjoy the location after all you're on holiday!


Where will you be heading for your next holiday?



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