Why You Need To Be A Guerrilla Travel Photographer – And How To Become One [Part 2]

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This post is the 2nd in a 2 part series by Tony Page from Travel Signposts and author of Guerrilla Travel Photography. See part 1 here.

4. Killer Landscapes

Lac Brienz, Switzerland. I used my wife, Helen, to provide a splash of accent colour and point of interest to what would otherwise have been a peaceful, but basically boring scene (guerrilla travel photographers always employ all the resources at their disposal...). Now it has a story to it, an emotional component.

Don’t Forget the Foreground

Want a killer landscape shot? Make sure you’ve got a striking foreground. Now in most cases, the foreground will not be the main subject of your image, and really serves as a kind of frame to emphasise the depth of your composition. One of the big advantages of using an ultra wide angle lens is the dramatic perspective you can get between a relatively close foreground and the rest of the scene while still keeping everything sharp. But you can still use this principle even if your lens is not so wide, although you have to be more careful about depth of field — stop down!

And Don’t Forget The Other Two…

The best landscape photographs have clearly a defined foreground, middle ground and background. I’ve emphasised the foreground because that’s the one that people usually miss out when they’re taking photos of an impressive landscape. Everyone usually gets the sweeping background, that’s often the first thing that strikes them when they look at a scene. But it’s equally important to have a strong middle ground to avoid a feeling of emptiness in the centre of your shot (unless that’s what you want, of course, the middle ground in the shot above is deliberately empty to emphasise the feeling of expansiveness).

5. “So What’s This A Picture Of?”

So you’ve got a foreground, you’ve got the middle ground, and you sorted out a fine background. Okay, what’s your photo about?

Monet's Lily Pond at Giverny, France. There are several visual elements in this image which draw your attention, but there's no doubt what the photo as a whole is about.

Well, what’s your photo about?

“Er, er, well, it’s a landscape shot, in Spain, I thought it was quite pretty…”

Dong! Sorry, wrong answer, you fail, you are the weakest link, goodbye!

With landscape photos, it’s quite easy to take a technically competent photograph about nothing. Attractive wallpaper. Don’t let this happen to you. The landscape in front of you may be beautiful, but you must have a focus to your picture, a clear subject so that anyone looking at your image can instantly say “this is a shot of a mountainous forest landscape in the Ardennes” or “this is a viaduct spanning a valley in Yorkshire” or the like. All right, they don’t have to be able to tell that it’s in the Ardennes or in Yorkshire, but you get my drift.

Your subject can actually be the light itself, “shafts of sunlight breaks through the storm clouds onto the fields”, or the weather, “a heavy downpour streams down the mountainside”, just so long as the subject of your photograph is clearly evident. If the person looking at it has to think twice about what your image is about (we’re not talking about your interpretation of the subject), it’s not strong enough.

6. Shooting Groups of People

When you’re shooting groups outside in sunny weather, even with friendly light, you may find it difficult to get the lighting right on everyone’s face. In harsh midday light, it’s even harder! The best way to solve this problem is to turn everyone round with their backs to the direction of the sun, and use fill-in flash to balance the light. The same goes for shooting inside, with awkward artificial lighting. Of course, you’ll come in relatively close and the light source won’t be included in the picture.

Get Them Up Close and Personal

When you’re doing a shot like this, when the emphasis is on the people in the photo as opposed to the surroundings, make sure that you get everyone to really squeeze together, especially their heads. Preferably, their heads should be virtually touching. Although they’ll feel strange, and it may cause a few giggles, you’ll find that the result will be immeasurably better than if you leave them to pose at the distance they themselves would normally select. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. It helps to break the ice and get a relaxed shot, too!

Make Them Look Up To You

Another trick I’ve found useful, especially when the group is quite sizeable, is to shoot from a higher viewpoint and get everyone to look up at you. You don’t have to get up too high, maybe a nearby low wall or a few stone steps, or if inside simply stand on a chair. This is helpful in avoiding people blocking each other, because you can be sure that later everyone will be looking for his or her own face!

Keep Up the Chat

As with individuals, always remember to keep talking when you’re photographing groups. You have to keep them amused and happy — it doesn’t matter if they think you look or sound stupid, as long as you get the shot.

7. Shooting Food

Close-Up Food Shooting

Food shots make great memories, but not many people remember to take them! When you’re shooting your close-ups with a point-and-shoot, don’t go too close to the food, and pay especial attention to this when you’re sitting at the table, or you’re liable to burn out your highlights. You want to use your zoom to frame the plate tightly, so if necessary stand up. Another way to do this is to photograph the plate of the person sitting across the table from you. If you have a diffuser on your camera flash, this will help no end.

Although I like to have as much of the food in focus as possible, you’ll often find that you are shooting at large apertures, which coupled with your use of zoom leaves you with quite shallow depth of field. Actually, this is currently very fashionable in professional food shots, just make sure that the first food element is in focus and let everything beyond the back of the plate (or closer) go soft. If you’re using flash, and find you have too much depth of field, just use a bigger aperture (f/2.8 is good) to get the desired effect.

Brand Your Shots

Take at least one shot that uses the branding devices employed by the restaurant or cafe to show where you are. These can be menus, paper napkins, coasters, plates, coffee cups or even sugar sachets with the establishment’s name on them. Just incorporate them into your composition.

You can also get good shots of “local” dishes at buffets; there is usually a wide range of food and the situation is often more relaxed. The arrangement and decoration can also provide interesting elements if you’re lucky.

Red Wine Trickery

Here’s an old pro tip about shooting wine. Red wine is always too dark in photographs as it is, so as you’re not in the studio, the easiest way to get over this is to — shock, horror — dilute it with water. You should easily be able to see your finger through the glass.

The Golden Rule of Shooting Food in Restaurants

Now if there’s one golden rule when you’re shooting food in restaurants or cafes, it is to BE QUICK! One very good reason for this is because you obviously want to shoot the food before you start eating it, and hungry people tend to get impatient when delicious fare has been placed in front of them. So get an idea of the way you’re going to compose your shot before the food arrives. If I’m honest, there have been some occasions when I’ve joyfully tucked into my food, before realising a little too late that I had meant to photograph it…

8. Night Shots

The best time to shoot night shots is at twilight. At that time, the sky still has some blue in it and the city lights have already come on. It’s obviously best if you use a tripod and cable release, as this opens up a whole range of shots to you that would be impossible without it. If you haven’t a tripod with you, you’ll have to make use of walls, lampposts and other supports, because the exposures will certainly be slow, unless you’re shooting brightly lit shop windows and the like.

Edinburgh Castle lit up for the famous Annual Tattoo. A slow exposure, 1/10 second, handheld but resting my elbows on the seat in front.

Exposing At Night

City Skyline: Don’t Burn Out

The tricky thing with night shots tends to be the exposure. If you’re taking a shot of a city skyline, simply taking an overall exposure reading will probably overexpose your shot, as the large expanse of dark areas will fool your camera into burning out the highlights. So in this case, you’re probably going to have to use exposure compensation to reduce your exposure a little. Fortunately, since you’re not paying for film and can check things immediately on your LCD, you can adjust your image to your own taste.

By the way if you are taking a skyline, if you can get a river or other stretch of water in front of it, you’ll get some great reflections that can really lift your shot. This also goes for decorative pools in front of floodlit statues or other tourist sites.

Bright City Lights

On the other hand, if the city lights and brightly lit areas are closer and you point your camera at them, it’s almost certain that your shot will be underexposed as your camera will work out the exposure based on those highlights. Try focusing slightly off to one side of the lights and use that exposure. If this doesn’t look good, you may find you have to increase your exposure compensation by +1 or +2.

[CAPTION: Traffic streams along the river freeway outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Taken from inside a coach, you can see the bus clock at the top left, on a Nikon E995 (yes!).]

White Night Balance

As far as your white balance is concerned, you’ll have to experiment. Surprisingly, I’ve found that the auto setting on my Nikon and Canon often produces acceptable results when shooting at night. You can have quite a mix of light in your shot, and although you might start with an incandescent setting, this won’t necessarily get you the best results. I’m often glad to be shooting in raw format!

You should note that sodium lights (orange) and some mercury vapour lights (bluish white) produce an incomplete spectrum, so cannot be properly filtered or balanced to give true colours; fortunately you see less of them of late (the use of mercury vapour lamps for lighting purposes will be banned in the European Union in 2015). Nowadays, halogen lights are popular for shop window displays, and you’ll frequently get a good result on your auto setting.

Wrap-up

That’s all I have space for here, but please share your own experiences and tips below. In any event, I hope I’ve encouraged anyone who ever thought “these travel techniques are all very well, but I simply would never have the time for them” to realize that they’re not alone, and that there are other ways of photographing on the road.

Cynics have said those who can, do, and those who can’t, take photographs. Guerrilla Travel Photographers believe that on holiday you can do both.

So, lock and load, and good shooting…

Tony Page is a professional photographer and writer. View his work at Travel Signposts. Tony has just launched his new eBook – Guerrilla Travel Photography with a special discount for dPS readers this week.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Ed

    Hey -thanks for sharing these tips. There’s some really great stuff here. I love the idea of branding shots using the branded stuff in hotels etc. It would be great to keep a napkin or something and throw it into a scrapbook with the photo you’ve taken of the cake – and you’ll keep that kind of thing forever.

    The only things I would add are to always try to take photos of locals. Portraiture is the hardest thing in photography, because you have to be very brave. Always ask, unless you’re really sure you can get a photo of someone (snoozing in a chair or something) without disturbing them or freaking them out. Photos of the people you’re around when travelling add great context when you look back through the photos.

    Anyway, great post with tons of good ideas – thank you!

    Ed

  • What about HDR for night cityscape shots? Would this help with the blown-out highlights?

  • Fooooooood! I never forget to take pictures of my food when traveling. In fact, it’s probably one of my most favorite things to take pictures of. I’ve had to train my bf to not dig right in as soon as the food arrives, so that I can take photos of his too. Sometimes he complies, and sometimes he’s too hungry to wait!

    Glad you added the tip about fill flash, I just never think about using my flash AT ALL, let alone during the day. I’m going to try and keep it in mind the next time a situation calls for it.

    Thanks again for a great article!

    ~WW

    Here’s a link to some recent TRAVEL and FOOD photos from when I went to Charleston, SC: http://www.wayfaringwanderer.com/2010/09/20-reasons-we-love-charleston-sc.html

  • Fill flash? You’re really going to have the tripod-carrying manual freaks foaming now!

  • NelsonW

    I love these tips. Especially the “If the person looking at it has to think twice about what your image is about (we’re not talking about your interpretation of the subject), it’s not strong enough” tip.

    However, my approach, with some great success AND great failure still is that rules are made to be broken. I keep in mind basic composition rules and use them unless I have a reason not to. Sometimes what I do is try to follow the basic composition rules and then shoot a couple of shots of the same thing where I do what seems right for the picture. Since digital photographs are basically free, shooting 5 pictures where I could shoot 2 isn’t a burdon in any way.

    Please keep posting these great ideas and great pictures. They are very informative and inspring.

  • Scott

    ..and another cool post, glad to know there are “guerrillas” out there! If you opt for beer instead, you never have to dilute….

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5026417052/

  • both articles are amazing.
    it’s really hard to deal with light while i’m on holidays somewhere for not long time. i just need to shoot all the time and don’t care about “golden hours”:) it’s also possible to take great pictures around midday.
    so i’m usually shooting indoor a lot if there’s something interesting (galleries etc.). this is an example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/5051838533/
    or i’m shooting lots of high-contrast bw pictures like this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4900816705/

  • Great tips! I love them all. Just an addition to the above mentioned tips – DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR MOST VERSATILE LENS! You must be able to get close to your subject and yet you must on the other hand be able to zoom in to some.

    I hope I made sense hahaha!

  • Great tips. Travel photography has become one of my very favorite things to do.

    Here is my set of main travel photos on Flickr. If I am in a bad mood, I just go hang out there for a while on any given day, 😉

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/greeblemonkey/sets/72157622578443740/

  • Great article.
    I’m taking the family to New Zealand later this month and was looking for some down to earth travel photography tips. I’m hoping to take some great shots, but will have to work with the family so time will be limited, hopefully some of these tips should help.
    Thanks.

  • Also, a note on branding.
    I sometimes do something similar when travelling. I’ll take a photo of a town sign or something with the city name in it. So when I’m going though all my photos weeks later I have some idea where it was taken.
    Kind of a cheap geo-tagging method. 🙂

  • JohnP

    Thanks great article! I have a question –
    What would you suggest would be the best to use when taking travel photos – bracketed JPEGs, bracketed RAW, bracketed RAW + JPEG, RAW +JPEG or just RAW? I used to use only bracketed JPEGs but now have switched to RAW + JPEG but at times wish I had bracketed my shots as well as there is only so much exposure latitude when processing RAW files. Ideally I suppose bracketed RAW + JPEG would be best but that slows the camera down and of course the files are huge. I like to have JPEGs as well as RAW as it is easier to view and share those.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Kamal Kamil

    Thank for the tip from the Post 1 and Post 2, very informative and down to earth tips.

    I’m planning to go to a vacation which in visiting two places, Brunei and Miri, Sarawak for 2 days only because of time constraint. Can you give some advise upon this?

    Also, how can you suggest some simple pose for one person and group shot, suitable during these rush hour travel? Because last time on my travel, some my friends keep doing the same pose, which can be a litttle boring, different place and scene but the same pose again and again..

    Thank you for all your help. I want to be a better photographer so that people will have confidence in me when I’m taking their picture..

  • First, thanks for all the comments, keep them coming! Here are a few brief responses:

    @ed: you’re absolutely right about getting local people in your shots; one of the best and most relevant ways to do this is to photograph people doing things, whether going about their work or simply enjoying life, e.g. playing a game of boules in a village square. Markets are also good for people shots.

    @D. Lambert: HDR for night cityscapes is a good solution, but of course presupposes you have the time (maybe) and tripod/support to do it. I carry a gitzo traveller tripod but if I’m honest don’t use it enough, simply because of circumstances (it’s a source of frustration to me, because you can get some really great night shots with long exposures).

    @wayfaring wanderer: fill flash is something everyone can use, especially because camera software has improved so that even the small flashes on point and shoots can give you reasonable results without blowing everything to kingdom come. Try dialling your flash down a stop if you can, or use a diffuser (thin tissue can work for closer shots).

    @Dave Hodginson: no need to fill in the blanks for you, Dave! But seriously, you have to fit the technique and technical requirements to the purpose for which you’re taking the shot. A good photo is one which perfectly fits the reason you (and not anybody else) had for taking it in the first place, whether for an exhibition or to capture magic memories for later.

    @nelsonw: your approach mirrors mine, nelson; I haven’t dealt with composition matters here because my Guerrilla Travel Photography book is all about the more hands-on practical aspect of getting the shots (my first book is about composition,etc.). BTW, if you’re not getting failures, you’re not shooting enough!

    @scott: if you’re shooting beer, make sure you spray some water on the glass if it’s not hot enough to cause condensation or, horror of horrors, the beer is too warm…

    @Leo Mangubat: yes, I find myself using my nikkor 18-200 VR a lot on the road.

    @Malcolm Chalmers: sign shots are really useful when you’re putting together an AV or album sequence, as well as a vital memory jog for those of us prone to “senior moments”! Don’t forget to take shots of explanatory captions or signs on historic buildings, town maps, etc., which can provide useful information when you’re back home.

    @kamal kamil:don’t try to do too much, and enjoy yourself before worrying about photos, otherwise why go on vacation? If your friends are always taking the same pose, and won’t cooperate, take the shot and then keep shooting as they relax. Or shoot them candidly while they’re looking at the location and talking to each other.

    BTW, please bear in mind that my posts, although Darren probably thinks they’re too long (!), are really just a few ideas to get you thinking along “guerrilla” lines, there’s lots more to say on these subjects!

  • Just as an aside, I see that the night shot of the Kremlin traffic has been missed out, sorry about that, I’ll see if I can attach it here…it was taken several years ago with a Nikon E995 (I was experimenting with digital in the early days!).[eimg url=’http://www.guerrillatravelphotography.com/images/kremlinnighttraffic_600.jpg’ title=’kremlinnighttraffic_600.jpg’]

  • Sorry, forgot @johnp’s question: I use RAW + JPEG basic. I didn’t believe Ken Rockwell but tested it out and while I still use RAW for flexibility, he’s right that there’s really little if any difference between basic and fine on Nikon cameras, try it for yourself. I rarely bracket automatically, but will vary the exposure using compensation or manual setting when necessary. Guerrilla style variation is to move the camera to meter a darker or lighter area, lock the exposure and then move back to your chosen frame (have your function button set to lock exposure and not focus, or make sure you focus on a similar distance object to your main subject). It’s surprising how good you get at this.

  • Tony –

    This probably isn’t a perfect choice for urban travels, but when I’m traveling in the great outdoors, I carry a TrekPod — this is a great double-duty tool, as it’s a functional walking stick plus a light-duty tripod. I captured some nice sunsets earlier this year that just wouldn’t have been possible without it, including shots at 1/20 – 1/10 seconds (below).

    [eimg url=’http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1070722/916709168_KbTQb-S.jpg’ title=’916709168_KbTQb-S.jpg’]
    [eimg url=’http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1080221/916506477_ZyiGX-S.jpg’ title=’916506477_ZyiGX-S.jpg’]
    [eimg url=’http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1080002/916630795_RiXhD-S.jpg’ title=’916630795_RiXhD-S.jpg’]

  • Absolutely amazing post!
    I always wonder… what I’m going to be shooting at… and I end up shooting everything without a clue (sometimes you get good shots) or even shooting after thinking too much and when the “perfect moment” is gone.

    This is really helpful, great tips!

  • Mei Teng

    Beautiful photos 🙂 I attempted some night shots during a recent three day break on a tropical island. The photos turned out really well for me.

  • Killian

    These tips have been great for me.

    Instead of mourning the fact that I’m turning 40 next summer, i decided to celebrate with a kick@$$ trip. I’m spending 8 days in Morocco, banging around with my camera and a few friends! I cannot wait to photograph the people, the colors, the textures, the food, all of it!

  • I will fight you for that cake.

  • PK

    [CAPTION: Traffic streams along the river freeway outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Taken from inside a coach, you can see the bus clock at the top left, on a Nikon E995 (yes!).]

    This foto is broken – cannot see it after few page reloads.

  • Really great tips, thank you. I especially like #5, probably because that’s a mistake I often make and so need reminding. And yes, I regret not taking more food (own meal shots) . ..came back from a trip to Japan, and had all these wonderful meals and maybe two shots. Oh well, next time.

  • JohnP

    Thanks Tony, I’ll give that a go. Makes sense to only have basic JPEGs if you are taking RAW as well.

  • keith

    No tripod at night? Best way to get the night shots of static objects without a tripod is to rest the camera on something solid (bench/table/ledge), set the 2-second timer and hit “shoot”. The timer allows you to take the picture and move away from the camera and the shot will be perfectly still. Forget trying to hold the camera steady, just set a 2 or 10 second timer and let the Auto function take the shot..

    You’d be surprised how well a point-shoot camera will do when you use this. No need to lug around the D-SLR at night when you’re out-n-about.. [eimg url=’http://keithtimes.com/images/246188658_vdJh3-L.jpg’ title=’246188658_vdJh3-L.jpg’][eimg url=’http://keithtimes.com/images/246190121_8SdWk-L.jpg’ title=’246190121_8SdWk-L.jpg’][eimg url=’http://keithtimes.com/images/467262707_xycgM-L.jpg’ title=’467262707_xycgM-L.jpg’][eimg url=’http://keithtimes.com/images/467284091_odZns-L.jpg’ title=’467284091_odZns-L.jpg’]

  • Corte on Camera

    I have really appreciated reading these Guerrilla travel photography tips – thank you. Do have any special tips for photography in Antarctica – I’m heading there at the end of this year – shooting with a Canon 7D and also taking my favourite small camera Linux T15 – or are there some suitable tips in your new EBook?

  • Thanks again for your kind comments!

    @D Lambert: I have been thinking about a TrekPod, having heard some good things about them from walking friends, and your experiences backs that up. I did have my doubts about strength, though, did you find it a bit bendy?

    @killian: hadn’t you heard? 40 is the new 30…Morocco’s a trip, in more ways than one! Don’t miss shooting the main square in Marrakesh from the big upstairs cafe, at night and during the day. And see if you can get out to the ergs, or sand dunes down south,

    @Osmosis Studios: Tough, I ate it – but you can get another one if you go to the Hotel Sacher cafe in Vienna (not crazy expensive, either).

    @lauren: Yes, they say the Japanese eat with their eyes, and their food is certainly presented beautifully, often in very interesting and photogenic bowls and plates – worth remembering next time.

    @corte on camera: I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to Antarctica yet. A friend of mine called Peter Eastway went and took a lot of gear some manufacturers loaned him, and his main advice was to make sure you and your gear were both weatherproof. Apparently it can get quite wet in the zodiacs. He wrote about his experiences in his Australian magazine, “Better Photography”, you might be able to get a back copy on line at the site.

  • @Tony – I’m pretty happy with mine. I’ve got the TrekPod II, which is the least expensive and heaviest (I believe) of the line. The higher models disassemble into smaller pieces for packing, or are made of carbon fiber. Mine is just two aluminum tubes (one w/ legs, the other with the head mounted).

    I took mine on a ten-day canoeing trip to Canada (where I shot the pics above), and I definitely didn’t baby it. I ended up carrying an 80-lb pack on portages up to a mile, and I leaned on it pretty hard as a walking stick with no problem whatsoever. At one point, I also ended up punching through some thin vegetation into a bog up to my hips. I couldn’t get out because both feet were stuck in the mud, but I laid the stick down in front of me and pushed myself up on it to get out of the mud. Again, no damage to the stick.

    As far as the stability of the tripod legs, they’re only 14″ or so long, so you’re not going to have a shooting platform that’s anywhere near as stable as you’d get with a “real” tripod, but I as long as I found hard, level ground, I was ok. Given the high CG w/ limited base, it’s susceptible to tipping in the wind. You wouldn’t want to, say, hang your hat on top of your camera, for instance, while you make dinner (not that I’d know from experience). Geometry notwithstanding, the mechanical sturdiness of the legs is quite good. The legs are strong, and I haven’t seen any loosening or play in the three-way hinge where they attach to the pole.

    All-in-all, I’m very happy with mine. The only part of the unit I’ve had any issues with at all is the adapter that connects the camera to the ballhead, and it looks like they’re now shipping new units with an upgraded ballhead, so that (hopefully) shouldn’t be an issue any more.

  • Just a note, if you want to check out the photo albums on my travel planning site, Travel Signposts, please use this direct link as there is some work being done on the home page and directory at the moment:

    http://www.travelsignposts.com/Destination/main.php

  • /shooting food guerrilla style is harder than it sounds. Lighting is more important here than ever. You don’t want your cream to look green, or your sandwich to look red. A good tip is taking the food outside, or atleast closer to a window (get the seat closest to the window, so you get the outside light on your friend’s plate). Maybe not easy to do in a fancy restaurant, but then I wouldn’t call a photographing in a fancy restaurant guerrilla photography… 🙂

  • And this WTD illustrates EXACTLY why you need to be geurilla:

    http://www.whattheduck.net/strip/1076

    So suck it tripod people!

  • @Robin Oberg The main thing to not getting false colours is colour temperature. If there’s a colour cast from “mood” lighting, I can usually knock that out in iPhoto.

    But yes, real light works. For breakfast and lunch 🙂

  • @Robin Oberg: That’s why I (or if the truth be known, more often my wife, Helen) usually use flash for food shots unless it’s really a no-no. I’m experimenting with different types of diffusers for the compact cameras we almost always use when photographing in restaurants, but haven’t come across one I can wholeheartedly recommend yet.

    @Dave Hodgkinson: That WTD cartoon is spot on, must see if I can get permission to use it!

  • sumit

    great tips tony. really enjoyed reading your posts. currently travelling myself, i daresay i might find some of them useful. With regards to point 4, a subject in a landscape (or cityscape) is so important. recently i went on this derelict photowalk in east london. while (i think so) got some great shots, what i have eventually realised is they are just shots without a story. and that obviously means I will be going back again.

    with travel photography I personally feel its a way to document our travels for posterity, which means every opportunity should be seized even a drink with a bunch of strangers in an airport bar while in transit (which i didn’t and now regret).

  • About six years ago I decided to try to help teachers of history and art by traveling around taking pictures of museum collections and historical sites then uploading them to Flickr and licensing them with Creative Commons so teachers and students could freely use them in the classroom. However, as I was traveling on my own dime, I didn’t have the time or money to spend a lot of time waiting somewhere for the perfect conditions and often resorted to many of the techniques you have included in your new book. I actually wrote an article about the particular challenges of shooting in museums and think your readers may also find it helpful.

    Capturing Images Worth a Thousand Words: A Practical Guide to Museum and Heritage Site Photography

  • Lee-n-NOLA

    I’ve been “branding” my photos for several years. Like Ed mentioned, it’s fun to keep a paper napkin, etc to include in a scrapbook with the photo. Often I wouldn’t remember where I’d had the meal if not for branding. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Crol

    Just returned from a long trip to the US southwest. Many hours were spent on the bus seeing the scenery zip by and having to have the shot. After many tries at various setting on my Nikon D40X I relied on the auto sports setting for some fantastic shots. Try it, you might like what you see!

  • Joe Quinn

    Tony, Great article and great tips. Travel photos, comprise 80% of my photos. I travel with my wife and she’s becoming my spotter – i.e., she spots some good scence for me to shoot. So it get her involved and she doesn’t mine waiting while I setup and take the shot (well, she doesn’t mind waiting a little bit.).

    Thanks for the tips.

  • anda

    The best piece of advice I could get about shooting landscapes is here: don’t forget the foreground!
    Thanks

Some Older Comments

  • anda November 30, 2010 02:05 am

    The best piece of advice I could get about shooting landscapes is here: don't forget the foreground!
    Thanks

  • Joe Quinn November 4, 2010 02:55 am

    Tony, Great article and great tips. Travel photos, comprise 80% of my photos. I travel with my wife and she's becoming my spotter - i.e., she spots some good scence for me to shoot. So it get her involved and she doesn't mine waiting while I setup and take the shot (well, she doesn't mind waiting a little bit.).

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Crol October 12, 2010 11:06 am

    Just returned from a long trip to the US southwest. Many hours were spent on the bus seeing the scenery zip by and having to have the shot. After many tries at various setting on my Nikon D40X I relied on the auto sports setting for some fantastic shots. Try it, you might like what you see!

  • Lee-n-NOLA October 9, 2010 01:16 pm

    I've been "branding" my photos for several years. Like Ed mentioned, it's fun to keep a paper napkin, etc to include in a scrapbook with the photo. Often I wouldn't remember where I'd had the meal if not for branding. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Mary Harrsch October 9, 2010 03:21 am

    About six years ago I decided to try to help teachers of history and art by traveling around taking pictures of museum collections and historical sites then uploading them to Flickr and licensing them with Creative Commons so teachers and students could freely use them in the classroom. However, as I was traveling on my own dime, I didn't have the time or money to spend a lot of time waiting somewhere for the perfect conditions and often resorted to many of the techniques you have included in your new book. I actually wrote an article about the particular challenges of shooting in museums and think your readers may also find it helpful.

    Capturing Images Worth a Thousand Words: A Practical Guide to Museum and Heritage Site Photography

  • sumit October 8, 2010 08:37 pm

    great tips tony. really enjoyed reading your posts. currently travelling myself, i daresay i might find some of them useful. With regards to point 4, a subject in a landscape (or cityscape) is so important. recently i went on this derelict photowalk in east london. while (i think so) got some great shots, what i have eventually realised is they are just shots without a story. and that obviously means I will be going back again.

    with travel photography I personally feel its a way to document our travels for posterity, which means every opportunity should be seized even a drink with a bunch of strangers in an airport bar while in transit (which i didn't and now regret).

  • Tony Page October 8, 2010 07:50 pm

    @Robin Oberg: That's why I (or if the truth be known, more often my wife, Helen) usually use flash for food shots unless it's really a no-no. I'm experimenting with different types of diffusers for the compact cameras we almost always use when photographing in restaurants, but haven't come across one I can wholeheartedly recommend yet.

    @Dave Hodgkinson: That WTD cartoon is spot on, must see if I can get permission to use it!

  • Dave Hodgkinson October 8, 2010 07:21 pm

    @Robin Oberg The main thing to not getting false colours is colour temperature. If there's a colour cast from "mood" lighting, I can usually knock that out in iPhoto.

    But yes, real light works. For breakfast and lunch :)

  • Dave Hodgkinson October 8, 2010 07:18 pm

    And this WTD illustrates EXACTLY why you need to be geurilla:

    http://www.whattheduck.net/strip/1076

    So suck it tripod people!

  • Robin Oberg October 8, 2010 07:00 pm

    /shooting food guerrilla style is harder than it sounds. Lighting is more important here than ever. You don't want your cream to look green, or your sandwich to look red. A good tip is taking the food outside, or atleast closer to a window (get the seat closest to the window, so you get the outside light on your friend's plate). Maybe not easy to do in a fancy restaurant, but then I wouldn't call a photographing in a fancy restaurant guerrilla photography... :)

  • Tony Page October 8, 2010 01:32 am

    Just a note, if you want to check out the photo albums on my travel planning site, Travel Signposts, please use this direct link as there is some work being done on the home page and directory at the moment:

    http://www.travelsignposts.com/Destination/main.php

  • D. Lambert October 7, 2010 11:56 pm

    @Tony - I'm pretty happy with mine. I've got the TrekPod II, which is the least expensive and heaviest (I believe) of the line. The higher models disassemble into smaller pieces for packing, or are made of carbon fiber. Mine is just two aluminum tubes (one w/ legs, the other with the head mounted).

    I took mine on a ten-day canoeing trip to Canada (where I shot the pics above), and I definitely didn't baby it. I ended up carrying an 80-lb pack on portages up to a mile, and I leaned on it pretty hard as a walking stick with no problem whatsoever. At one point, I also ended up punching through some thin vegetation into a bog up to my hips. I couldn't get out because both feet were stuck in the mud, but I laid the stick down in front of me and pushed myself up on it to get out of the mud. Again, no damage to the stick.

    As far as the stability of the tripod legs, they're only 14" or so long, so you're not going to have a shooting platform that's anywhere near as stable as you'd get with a "real" tripod, but I as long as I found hard, level ground, I was ok. Given the high CG w/ limited base, it's susceptible to tipping in the wind. You wouldn't want to, say, hang your hat on top of your camera, for instance, while you make dinner (not that I'd know from experience). Geometry notwithstanding, the mechanical sturdiness of the legs is quite good. The legs are strong, and I haven't seen any loosening or play in the three-way hinge where they attach to the pole.

    All-in-all, I'm very happy with mine. The only part of the unit I've had any issues with at all is the adapter that connects the camera to the ballhead, and it looks like they're now shipping new units with an upgraded ballhead, so that (hopefully) shouldn't be an issue any more.

  • Tony Page October 7, 2010 11:04 pm

    Thanks again for your kind comments!

    @D Lambert: I have been thinking about a TrekPod, having heard some good things about them from walking friends, and your experiences backs that up. I did have my doubts about strength, though, did you find it a bit bendy?

    @killian: hadn't you heard? 40 is the new 30...Morocco's a trip, in more ways than one! Don't miss shooting the main square in Marrakesh from the big upstairs cafe, at night and during the day. And see if you can get out to the ergs, or sand dunes down south,

    @Osmosis Studios: Tough, I ate it - but you can get another one if you go to the Hotel Sacher cafe in Vienna (not crazy expensive, either).

    @lauren: Yes, they say the Japanese eat with their eyes, and their food is certainly presented beautifully, often in very interesting and photogenic bowls and plates - worth remembering next time.

    @corte on camera: I'm ashamed to say I haven't been to Antarctica yet. A friend of mine called Peter Eastway went and took a lot of gear some manufacturers loaned him, and his main advice was to make sure you and your gear were both weatherproof. Apparently it can get quite wet in the zodiacs. He wrote about his experiences in his Australian magazine, "Better Photography", you might be able to get a back copy on line at the site.

  • Corte on Camera October 7, 2010 01:24 pm

    I have really appreciated reading these Guerrilla travel photography tips - thank you. Do have any special tips for photography in Antarctica - I'm heading there at the end of this year - shooting with a Canon 7D and also taking my favourite small camera Linux T15 - or are there some suitable tips in your new EBook?

  • keith October 7, 2010 01:07 pm

    No tripod at night? Best way to get the night shots of static objects without a tripod is to rest the camera on something solid (bench/table/ledge), set the 2-second timer and hit "shoot". The timer allows you to take the picture and move away from the camera and the shot will be perfectly still. Forget trying to hold the camera steady, just set a 2 or 10 second timer and let the Auto function take the shot..

    You'd be surprised how well a point-shoot camera will do when you use this. No need to lug around the D-SLR at night when you're out-n-about.. [eimg url='http://keithtimes.com/images/246188658_vdJh3-L.jpg' title='246188658_vdJh3-L.jpg'][eimg url='http://keithtimes.com/images/246190121_8SdWk-L.jpg' title='246190121_8SdWk-L.jpg'][eimg url='http://keithtimes.com/images/467262707_xycgM-L.jpg' title='467262707_xycgM-L.jpg'][eimg url='http://keithtimes.com/images/467284091_odZns-L.jpg' title='467284091_odZns-L.jpg']

  • JohnP October 7, 2010 08:44 am

    Thanks Tony, I'll give that a go. Makes sense to only have basic JPEGs if you are taking RAW as well.

  • lauren October 7, 2010 04:44 am

    Really great tips, thank you. I especially like #5, probably because that's a mistake I often make and so need reminding. And yes, I regret not taking more food (own meal shots) . ..came back from a trip to Japan, and had all these wonderful meals and maybe two shots. Oh well, next time.

  • PK October 7, 2010 03:26 am

    [CAPTION: Traffic streams along the river freeway outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Taken from inside a coach, you can see the bus clock at the top left, on a Nikon E995 (yes!).]

    This foto is broken - cannot see it after few page reloads.

  • OsmosisStudios October 7, 2010 01:31 am

    I will fight you for that cake.

  • Killian October 7, 2010 12:27 am

    These tips have been great for me.

    Instead of mourning the fact that I'm turning 40 next summer, i decided to celebrate with a kick@$$ trip. I'm spending 8 days in Morocco, banging around with my camera and a few friends! I cannot wait to photograph the people, the colors, the textures, the food, all of it!

  • Mei Teng October 6, 2010 11:58 pm

    Beautiful photos :) I attempted some night shots during a recent three day break on a tropical island. The photos turned out really well for me.

  • Lucy Originales October 6, 2010 10:44 pm

    Absolutely amazing post!
    I always wonder... what I'm going to be shooting at... and I end up shooting everything without a clue (sometimes you get good shots) or even shooting after thinking too much and when the "perfect moment” is gone.

    This is really helpful, great tips!

  • D. Lambert October 6, 2010 10:19 pm

    Tony -

    This probably isn't a perfect choice for urban travels, but when I'm traveling in the great outdoors, I carry a TrekPod -- this is a great double-duty tool, as it's a functional walking stick plus a light-duty tripod. I captured some nice sunsets earlier this year that just wouldn't have been possible without it, including shots at 1/20 - 1/10 seconds (below).

    [eimg url='http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1070722/916709168_KbTQb-S.jpg' title='916709168_KbTQb-S.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1080221/916506477_ZyiGX-S.jpg' title='916506477_ZyiGX-S.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://davelambert.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Sunsets/Best-Sunsets/P1080002/916630795_RiXhD-S.jpg' title='916630795_RiXhD-S.jpg']

  • Tony Page October 6, 2010 02:50 pm

    Sorry, forgot @johnp's question: I use RAW + JPEG basic. I didn't believe Ken Rockwell but tested it out and while I still use RAW for flexibility, he's right that there's really little if any difference between basic and fine on Nikon cameras, try it for yourself. I rarely bracket automatically, but will vary the exposure using compensation or manual setting when necessary. Guerrilla style variation is to move the camera to meter a darker or lighter area, lock the exposure and then move back to your chosen frame (have your function button set to lock exposure and not focus, or make sure you focus on a similar distance object to your main subject). It's surprising how good you get at this.

  • Tony Page October 6, 2010 02:36 pm

    Just as an aside, I see that the night shot of the Kremlin traffic has been missed out, sorry about that, I'll see if I can attach it here...it was taken several years ago with a Nikon E995 (I was experimenting with digital in the early days!).[eimg url='http://www.guerrillatravelphotography.com/images/kremlinnighttraffic_600.jpg' title='kremlinnighttraffic_600.jpg']

  • Tony Page October 6, 2010 01:54 pm

    First, thanks for all the comments, keep them coming! Here are a few brief responses:

    @ed: you're absolutely right about getting local people in your shots; one of the best and most relevant ways to do this is to photograph people doing things, whether going about their work or simply enjoying life, e.g. playing a game of boules in a village square. Markets are also good for people shots.

    @D. Lambert: HDR for night cityscapes is a good solution, but of course presupposes you have the time (maybe) and tripod/support to do it. I carry a gitzo traveller tripod but if I'm honest don't use it enough, simply because of circumstances (it's a source of frustration to me, because you can get some really great night shots with long exposures).

    @wayfaring wanderer: fill flash is something everyone can use, especially because camera software has improved so that even the small flashes on point and shoots can give you reasonable results without blowing everything to kingdom come. Try dialling your flash down a stop if you can, or use a diffuser (thin tissue can work for closer shots).

    @Dave Hodginson: no need to fill in the blanks for you, Dave! But seriously, you have to fit the technique and technical requirements to the purpose for which you're taking the shot. A good photo is one which perfectly fits the reason you (and not anybody else) had for taking it in the first place, whether for an exhibition or to capture magic memories for later.

    @nelsonw: your approach mirrors mine, nelson; I haven't dealt with composition matters here because my Guerrilla Travel Photography book is all about the more hands-on practical aspect of getting the shots (my first book is about composition,etc.). BTW, if you're not getting failures, you're not shooting enough!

    @scott: if you're shooting beer, make sure you spray some water on the glass if it's not hot enough to cause condensation or, horror of horrors, the beer is too warm...

    @Leo Mangubat: yes, I find myself using my nikkor 18-200 VR a lot on the road.

    @Malcolm Chalmers: sign shots are really useful when you're putting together an AV or album sequence, as well as a vital memory jog for those of us prone to "senior moments"! Don't forget to take shots of explanatory captions or signs on historic buildings, town maps, etc., which can provide useful information when you're back home.

    @kamal kamil:don't try to do too much, and enjoy yourself before worrying about photos, otherwise why go on vacation? If your friends are always taking the same pose, and won't cooperate, take the shot and then keep shooting as they relax. Or shoot them candidly while they're looking at the location and talking to each other.

    BTW, please bear in mind that my posts, although Darren probably thinks they're too long (!), are really just a few ideas to get you thinking along "guerrilla" lines, there's lots more to say on these subjects!

  • Kamal Kamil October 6, 2010 12:13 pm

    Thank for the tip from the Post 1 and Post 2, very informative and down to earth tips.

    I'm planning to go to a vacation which in visiting two places, Brunei and Miri, Sarawak for 2 days only because of time constraint. Can you give some advise upon this?

    Also, how can you suggest some simple pose for one person and group shot, suitable during these rush hour travel? Because last time on my travel, some my friends keep doing the same pose, which can be a litttle boring, different place and scene but the same pose again and again..

    Thank you for all your help. I want to be a better photographer so that people will have confidence in me when I'm taking their picture..

  • JohnP October 6, 2010 10:49 am

    Thanks great article! I have a question -
    What would you suggest would be the best to use when taking travel photos - bracketed JPEGs, bracketed RAW, bracketed RAW + JPEG, RAW +JPEG or just RAW? I used to use only bracketed JPEGs but now have switched to RAW + JPEG but at times wish I had bracketed my shots as well as there is only so much exposure latitude when processing RAW files. Ideally I suppose bracketed RAW + JPEG would be best but that slows the camera down and of course the files are huge. I like to have JPEGs as well as RAW as it is easier to view and share those.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Malcolm Chalmers October 6, 2010 09:04 am

    Also, a note on branding.
    I sometimes do something similar when travelling. I'll take a photo of a town sign or something with the city name in it. So when I'm going though all my photos weeks later I have some idea where it was taken.
    Kind of a cheap geo-tagging method. :-)

  • Malcolm Chalmers October 6, 2010 08:55 am

    Great article.
    I'm taking the family to New Zealand later this month and was looking for some down to earth travel photography tips. I'm hoping to take some great shots, but will have to work with the family so time will be limited, hopefully some of these tips should help.
    Thanks.

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey October 6, 2010 08:04 am

    Great tips. Travel photography has become one of my very favorite things to do.

    Here is my set of main travel photos on Flickr. If I am in a bad mood, I just go hang out there for a while on any given day, ;)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/greeblemonkey/sets/72157622578443740/

  • Leo Mangubat October 6, 2010 05:08 am

    Great tips! I love them all. Just an addition to the above mentioned tips - DON'T FORGET TO BRING YOUR MOST VERSATILE LENS! You must be able to get close to your subject and yet you must on the other hand be able to zoom in to some.

    I hope I made sense hahaha!

  • matabum October 6, 2010 04:07 am

    both articles are amazing.
    it's really hard to deal with light while i'm on holidays somewhere for not long time. i just need to shoot all the time and don't care about "golden hours":) it's also possible to take great pictures around midday.
    so i'm usually shooting indoor a lot if there's something interesting (galleries etc.). this is an example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/5051838533/
    or i'm shooting lots of high-contrast bw pictures like this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/matabum/4900816705/

  • Scott October 6, 2010 03:30 am

    ..and another cool post, glad to know there are "guerrillas" out there! If you opt for beer instead, you never have to dilute....

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5026417052/

  • NelsonW October 6, 2010 03:26 am

    I love these tips. Especially the "If the person looking at it has to think twice about what your image is about (we’re not talking about your interpretation of the subject), it’s not strong enough" tip.

    However, my approach, with some great success AND great failure still is that rules are made to be broken. I keep in mind basic composition rules and use them unless I have a reason not to. Sometimes what I do is try to follow the basic composition rules and then shoot a couple of shots of the same thing where I do what seems right for the picture. Since digital photographs are basically free, shooting 5 pictures where I could shoot 2 isn't a burdon in any way.

    Please keep posting these great ideas and great pictures. They are very informative and inspring.

  • Dave Hodgkinson October 6, 2010 12:59 am

    Fill flash? You're really going to have the tripod-carrying manual freaks foaming now!

  • Wayfaring Wanderer October 6, 2010 12:46 am

    Fooooooood! I never forget to take pictures of my food when traveling. In fact, it's probably one of my most favorite things to take pictures of. I've had to train my bf to not dig right in as soon as the food arrives, so that I can take photos of his too. Sometimes he complies, and sometimes he's too hungry to wait!

    Glad you added the tip about fill flash, I just never think about using my flash AT ALL, let alone during the day. I'm going to try and keep it in mind the next time a situation calls for it.

    Thanks again for a great article!

    ~WW

    Here's a link to some recent TRAVEL and FOOD photos from when I went to Charleston, SC: http://www.wayfaringwanderer.com/2010/09/20-reasons-we-love-charleston-sc.html

  • D. Lambert October 6, 2010 12:42 am

    What about HDR for night cityscape shots? Would this help with the blown-out highlights?

  • Ed October 6, 2010 12:34 am

    Hey -thanks for sharing these tips. There's some really great stuff here. I love the idea of branding shots using the branded stuff in hotels etc. It would be great to keep a napkin or something and throw it into a scrapbook with the photo you've taken of the cake - and you'll keep that kind of thing forever.

    The only things I would add are to always try to take photos of locals. Portraiture is the hardest thing in photography, because you have to be very brave. Always ask, unless you're really sure you can get a photo of someone (snoozing in a chair or something) without disturbing them or freaking them out. Photos of the people you're around when travelling add great context when you look back through the photos.

    Anyway, great post with tons of good ideas - thank you!

    Ed

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