Most of us use the camera most actively when travelling. When we meet new people and we take in views we have never seen before, our senses are heightened. We wish to preserve some of that feeling for later, when we are at home.
Anyone setting on a journey wishes to return with loads of photos to show to family and friends. Our holidays are the perfect time to take photos.
When we go to a new unknown place we should not be in a hurry to shoot. We should take the time to look around. We should take the time to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of the place. We should try to find the interesting details and pay attention to the light during the different times of day.
Turning tourist sites into beautiful photographs means selecting the right point of view, composing well and paying particular attention to the light. There are places which preserve the atmosphere of the past. These places are the ones which tourists tend to shoot most often, but unfortunately sometimes the photographs bring nothing but disappointment later on. This often happens because of details we missed when shooting the picture, but which made it into the frame and ruin the feeling of authenticity and the atmosphere of the place. It could be a shiny motorbike or cars parked in front of the wall of a fortress. People in modern clothes standing in front of an old house, a plastic flamingo under a century-old tree… In other words, any clash between times (unless this is a deliberately sought contrast) will be more of an eye sore than an asset adding to the power of the photo. One solution is to search for another point of view towards the object and a different viewing angle.
I had passed by this bridge on a bus during the day. I had liked the view and I decided that I would return in the evening to shoot the cathedral. In the evening, armed with a camera and a tripod, I headed towards the spot by the river. To my surprise (I was still young and naive) I could hardly find the place to set up my tripod. There were over 50 photographers with their tripods, even though it was a business day… The picture itself may not be so bad, but it is cliché. If you google Cologne Cathedral and Bridge, you will see hundreds of different versions of the same photo taken from the same angle under the same light. Therefore it is much better when travelling to pay attention to scenes which are truly only yours. You will not be able to Google the other examples in this article.
Although these places are interesting and photogenic, they have been shot by thousands of tourists before us. A good option is to pay attention to the nature, the flora and fauna and most importantly to the locals, their way of life and their traditions. You should shoot something you cannot find in the postcards section of the tourist shop.
Have you ever passed along a narrow alley which is full of interesting people and leads a life of its own? These people create the unique atmosphere of the place. Do not be ashamed to ask if you can shoot them. They might refuse, but it is also very likely that they will be flattered by the attention. Then you will have unique photos.
Try to capture not only the people, but also as much as possible from their surrounding environment. Do not ask them to pose facing the camera because the photographs will look staged. With your photos you must try to tell a whole story about the place and its people, about their way of life.
Most people are kind to a foreign photographer and will pose for you with pleasure. If you are polite and have good manners, you will not be faced with rejection often. Most importantly, you must always be polite and positive. Show respect to the country and the local culture and traditions.
If you are shy about starting a conversation with people, you can use a lens with long focal length or you can shoot from a distance. In this way the people will not be aware of being photographed and will look more natural in the shot. A 200-300 mm lens can work wonders for this type of photography.
A couple of years ago I took to the habit of packing a small drone (Mavic Air) in addition to my camera when travelling, because it gives me the opportunity to see well-known sites from a different point of view. The following photographs cannot be taken from the standard point of view of a tourist with a camera on the ground.
You can tell a great artist as much by what they do as by what they would never do.