How to take better travel photos.
Photographing the outdoors can be a challenge, especially if your on a limited time vacation schedule, and your family is traveling with you.
I always have precious ‘family time’ with my family, but I also like to try & set aside some ‘photography time’, esp at sunset or sunrise. Often, my family will be asleep in the hotel room when I go out for ‘my photography time’ in the early morning. It can be a challenge to wake up early, leave your family, and haul camera equipment around in the dark of the night. I’m the only serious photographer in my family, but sometimes one or more of my family members will tag along, and that makes some great family bonding time too! I may be able to bribe my youngest son to go out early with me if I assure him that we will first stop at a donut shop.
Once a great location is found, it might take 2, 3, or more trips to that special spot before you get some ‘magic light’ and can create a strong image in camera …. if your lucky enough and Mother Nature works in your favor!
Stormy clouds can create beautiful sunrises & sunsets, so try to go out and photograph the scenery when a cold front or storm blows through, just stay safe. I always watch the weather, and use a weather app. I really enjoy photographing the outdoors during storms, fog, as well as cold fronts as it can create beautiful & moody skies.
Day 1: Mid-afternoon scouting
This is a great time to use any basic point-n-shoot camera, or any SLR Camera with a general purpose zoom lens for your mid-afternoon excursions with the family.
My family & I visited Fulton Pier near Rockport Texas, and I grabbed a hand-held snaphot of it during the mid-afternoon This is the worst time of the day for photography, because the sun is high in the sky, creating harsh shadows, contrast, and its a very boring light. It looks like a standard snapshot. See pic below.
Day 1: Sunset
I returned to the Pier that evening with my wide angle landscape lenses and tripod, hoping that the light would be interesting. But the evening sky was weak & boring – there weren’t enough interesting clouds to create a dramatic sky, and people were in the shot.
Some people would say, ‘just use photoshop and drop in a great sky!’, but I prefer to try and take good images in-camera. It takes a lot patience.
I changed my plans that evening, and focused on boats instead. I went to the T-heads, and used the sails and masts on the boats to fill the weak sky. A polarizer filter helped to darken the sky. A graduated neutral density filter would help with that as well.
I like how the golden sunlight is hitting the boat in this image.
It was a peaceful evening, and we enjoyed watching the boats.
DAY 2: EARLY MORNING
On our second morning, my youngest son and I awoke around 4am, and we loaded my camera gear inthe car. We arrived at the pier long before sunrise and had plenty of time to mill around – and eat a couple donuts!
There were no other people, and the dark, pre-dawn clouds were rolling through. It could be a good sunrise. Maybe.
We set up the tripod, & waited.
Finally, the light just barely began to peek through, and I started shooting away.
The sun rays were beautiful, but the window of opportunity was very short. The ‘magic light’ only lasted a few minutes, because a wall of thick clouds rolled in, completely blocking the sun. So glad we were already set up!
Because of our pre-planning, we managed to get a couple great shots – an award winner!
tip: Always have a bag filled with extra goodies, such as water, duct tape and/or gaffner tape, snacks, extra batteries, cards, bug spray, sunscreen, etc… and make sure its always ready to go.
So, as you travel about with your family, enjoy the moments shared together, and have fun chasing the light! Don’t get discouraged if the light doesn’t work in your favor. You may need to re-visit (if you can) to get a better shot in a different light.
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