Making Travel Photos That Tell A Story, part 1 - Wake UP!

Venice Travel Blog

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Morning Light

I am willing to dispense free photography advice to all who will listen. So, as a self-acknowledged expert, I will let you in on how to look cooler to your friends by taking stunning photos.

I look at every day in the proverbial blocks on a schedule (of sorts). I start by planning the day loosely, with goals in mind that seems to always involve food, drinks, (either alcoholic or caffeinated) and some cool place to shoot.
Block #1 Sunrise, early morning activity, breakfast and coffee.
I’ve found the most interesting photos I’ve taken over the years have been capturing scenes of daily life. I love peoples’ morning routine, particularly the locals. I’ve found this to be true in any country I’ve visited. These photos will give your friends a visual narrative of your trip and makes great wall art to stir memories.

Sunrise wides are nice, but most sunrise shots tend to look the same. I recommend shooting vignettes and silhouettes instead, or try black and white. They show the unique character of the village or the town you’re in.

Some key tips for morning shots:

•    Concentrate on the details as opposed to the eye level “this was the street, look at me!” shot.

•    Remember, “photography” is capturing of the relationship of light as it comes in contact with physical objects

•    Look at the light coming down a narrow alleyway or through trees. Find the details in the high contrast, half-shadows and highlights. You may see a weathered posting on the side of a building that looks cool; shoot it with a very wide lens, or try shooting the smoggy light rays beaming through tall metropolitan buildings. This shot made with a long telephoto lens and a dark background will punch out the rays and make an artful keeper.

•    Over breakfast, take 5 seconds to look at the fruit on your French pastry. Look closely at the artisan-created food in front of you. Snap an extreme close-up, full frame and make it a centerpiece on your kitchen wall. By shooting using a tight depth of field, (foreground and background out of focus), maybe using a macro lens, you will be sure to have great talker for dinner parties.

•    Simply sit and enjoy a cappuccino and look around at the textures of life. The coat rack, door latch, street sign, peeling paint in the back of a chair in front of you, and the mud on the boots of the guy walking down the cobblestone sidewalk, can all make killer shots. Just use a long and fast telephoto lens to capture that moment in time.

•    Don’t waste time with a tripod, unless you are shooting in the dark. For a quick morning routine, it’s too much hassle. Plan to shoot around your gear and available light. My rule of thumb is: If I can’t shoot because it’s too dim, I just enjoy the moment and get creative. After all, you’re traveling to expand your international awareness, not to lug all your gear and just work.

The night before a planned shoot, I’ll think what to take the following day. In my hotel room after dinner, I scale down my gear to just the essentials I’ll need when I wake up. First to go is usually the tripod, dead weight unless I really need it. The next items to go are the flash, lights, and chargers. The lighter I travel, the more creative I will be forced to be. And lastly, use common sense and think of where you are going and how you’re getting there. The doors of a Prague streetcar are very narrow and the stairs up to the top of the Duomo are long and steep.

In my pack for the morning:
Nikon D200, 17mm-35mm f1.6, 70mm-200mm f2.8, extra 4GB SDFlash, REI pocket tripod, and a handy cleaning cloth.

Look out for Part 2 “Midday Sun and Late Afternoon”, and Part 3 “Nights Behind the Lens”




Isabetlog says:
Thanks for sharing, Michael, I surely could use a tip or two :) Wonderful pictures too, looking forward to upcoming blogs like this :)
Posted on: Jun 27, 2008
WorldXplorer says:
Great blog, with beautiful pictures and good tips!
Posted on: Feb 07, 2008
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Morning Light
Morning Light
photo by: asturjimmy