Articles Tagged: Travel

Photographing People

The question I get most often is “How do you handle shooting people? Should I ask permission or just take the picture?” This is a tough one and depends on so many things. In a public space like a street, square, festival or park I think it’s usually OK to shoot people without asking, up to the point where you are getting into their space or shooting something that might be embarrassing. This would depend a lot on local culture and norms. It might be much more acceptable in a European country, for example, than in a Middle Eastern country. Also be sensitive to the camera fatigue that many people must have when tourists and travelers find them interesting and shoot them all day long.

Sometimes you just have to be a little sneaky. One of the things I like about the newer mirrorless cameras is that many of them have a truly silent mode. The camera makes no noise at all which makes shooting unobtrusively so much easier. The flip screen on many cameras helps even more, allowing you to keep your eyes off the camera. I frequently line up the shot and then look in another direction, using my peripheral vision to wait for a good arrangement of elements before pushing the button.

The safest thing is to ask permission and then live with the answer. One thing I am against in almost all cases is paying money to shoot someone on the street unless they are a performer or you are on an organized trip and know that tipping is part of the deal. Paying people for pictures just perpetuates an unhealthy relationship between traveler and resident that dehumanizes both. Just my opinion.

Large public events are, of course, great places to photograph people. Not so much for the front-facing parades and shows, but for the behind the scenes chaos and moments that happen whenever that many people are in one place. The last photo below of a family unwinding after the official ceremonies was shot in Oslo during Norway’s National Day. There are so many cameras around those kind of events which gives the more serious photographer (you!) more freedom to shoot what looks interesting.

Slow Down

One of the best ways to get better travel photos and enhance your own trip is to give your photography time.

If you’re in a hurry you’ll miss out on the time-stretching experience of having your camera on a tripod, just waiting for the nice light. Or framing up a side street and waiting for something interesting to happen. This is what National Geographic photographer Sam Abell calls “compose and wait”. It’s something that takes practice but can make a big difference in the quality and energy of your photos.

I framed up the sign and stairs and waited for some people to come up out of the Metro. I didn’t expect what looks like a choreographed move from a boy band video!

The real gift is that even if you don’t get a good shot every time, you’ve stopped and noticed what’s happening in that foreign place, even if it’s just photographing a row of shopping carts in a Walmart parking lot in Reno.

Booksellers on the Left Bank in Paris. I was waiting for the other pedestrian traffic to clear to get a shot of this perfectly styled shopper. As I did, I noticed the other photographer off to my right with a D810 and a 70-200mm lens. Then I heard her giving directions to the woman in the red dress. It was a setup, which would explain the picture perfect outfit!

Digital Photos to Printed Photo Books

I’m extremely excited to be joining the DCP team. I have been interested in cameras for as long as I can remember, probably because my dad always had his camera around his neck on most occasions while I was growing up. I remember dropping off the film with him at the local photo store and the anticipation of picking it up 24 hours later. Fast forward 20 years and I now have a digital camera of my own that accompanies me on my trips and on special occasions. I would call myself an amateur photographer who loves to capture memories.

When I am spending time with friends and want to share photos from a trip, it kills me to open my iPhone and search for the photos. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to open the notification at the top of the screen while searching for the perfect photo that you think you remember taking sometime between January and May of 2013. Plus, it takes away time with loved ones! Besides, that little iPhone screen does not do justice to the large elephant who charged our safari vehicle on a recent trip to South Africa. I found myself overwhelmed with the 25,000 photos (and counting) available at my fingers tips, so I started making photo books that we keep on our coffee table and on our bookshelf.

Creating my first digital photo book for print reminded me of the mid-90s when scrap-booking was all the rage. Now the process is better because I like for things to be straight and pictures perfectly aligned which can be accomplished quickly on a computer.

A few tips for your photo book:

When I am on the plane home from a trip, I start going through the photos and picking my favorites. If a picture sparks a memory or brings a smile to my face, I put it in the ‘to be considered’ folder. After a few days of being home, I revisit the folder and start to be selective of the best photos that capture my storyline and what I want to remember.

Captions are your friend! While events are fresh in your mind, write captions that will jog your memory years down the road. In my first couple of photo books, I thought I would remember the details — the name of an island we were on and the name of the restaurant — but it was difficult without making notes soon after the experience. Looking back a few years later, I wish I had written down those details.

Somewhere in the Caribbean…. I wish I had captioned this.

Have fun with it! With so many pre-made formats available, you can drag and drop your photos and find the right combination to show off your adventure.

Let your personality show when you are in front of the camera. Those are the pictures that will spark the most memories when you look back on them.

You can use online services like Shutterfly, Snapfish or Blurb. Lightroom has a Blurb module built in which makes layout easy and lets you edit the photos once they are placed. Sometimes two photos that look good separately don’t look so good next to each other. Being able to click over to the Develop module and make adjustments is fast and easy. I personally love creating small series of photos. Maybe it’s of my husband and I trying to pull off the perfect jumping photo or a lion cub yawning in sequence. I also love having my strongest photos stand alone and make a statement. Lay-flat books are great for this exact reason!

The feeling of flipping through the pages of your finished book is rewarding and powerful. Call me old-fashioned but the element of having your photos being printed on the pages of a book bring the story to life which can’t be replicated the same way on a digital screen. Printing images is a part of digital photography that many people have abandoned and need to reconsider. The pages of a photo book make the experience real for family and friends to enjoy. Photo books also make the best gifts for family and friends. Take as little as 10-15 pictures from an experience you shared with someone and create a book to give as a gift. It is something that they will treasure for years to come.

Data Backup on the Road

Data on an SD or CF memory card is pretty safe. If you won’t be traveling long you could just take enough cards to handle the number of photos you’ll shoot and download them when you come back. Memory cards are cheap and don’t crash often, but they are pretty easy to lose. I’m not a fan of huge capacity cards for two reasons. If one does get corrupted you run the risk of losing all your photos. The more important reason is that if you’re shooting on a card that holds thousands of photos, you’re likely to make it through a whole week or trip before you fill one up. That means that your camera, which is the likeliest thing to get stolen that you’re carrying with you, has all your precious photo memories in it. If your camera is lost or stolen the pictures go with it. I prefer to have several cards of smaller capacity and leave the extra cards in the hotel room in plain sight. If they’re tucked away in your camera bag they are likely to be stolen along with everything else. A little paranoia can pay off when protecting digital files.

Get a good memory card holder or wallet. My favorite by far is the Pixel Pocket Rocket by Think Tank. It comes in two sizes, one for CF and one for SD cards. It folds over, holds your cards securely, holds business cards and has a fob with a clip. This is a great idea and one that gives me a lot of peace of mind. I clip that thing to a ring on my camera bag or loop in my jacket and don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping all my memory cards in a river or through a subway grate.

Favorite memory card holder: Pixel Pocket Rocket by Think | Favorite storage device: Samsung T5

If you want to backup your data while you’re traveling, there’s a temptation to just download them into your laptop, then reformat the card and shoot some more. Don’t do this! You have moved your data from a very secure, low theft device like a memory card to the spinning hard drive or SSD memory in your shiny, more-likely-to-be-stolen laptop. If you want to use your laptop, either keep the data on the cards as well or take an external hard drive with you to backup the files on. My favorite storage device is the Samsung T5. It’s available in .5, 1 and 2TB. They are much more expensive than external hard drives but they are tiny, lightweight, fast and completely not prone to physical crashes the way hard drives are. The laptop and hard drive shouldn’t be in the same bag at the same time to avoid a total loss in case of theft. Data backup maxim: Data should be stored in at least two places at all times, and one of those should be in another location.

The Tripod 20% Rule

I often get asked if it’s worth carrying a tripod while traveling. I’d say yes! The next question is, which one?

If you haven’t done any low light photography, then you’re missing some of the most satisfying experiences as a photographer. At the very least take a mini table top tripod with you. The best two I’ve found for DSLR and large compact cameras are both by Manfrotto. The model 709 costs about $50 and fits in a deep pocket. The step up from there is to buy a kit of the 209 legs but with the larger Manfrotto 492 Mini Ball Head. That combo is sold by B&H Camera online for about $85 and is something I never travel without. These little guys have gotten expensive over the last couple of years but B&H also carries less expensive ones made by Oben. The TT-50 is the smaller one and runs about $25. The TT-100 is the slightly larger one and runs $35. A small tripod is usable on any flat surface and good metal ones like the Manfrotto or Oben can also be pushed up against a wall or column to do vertical long exposures. If you shoot with a pocket camera you should absolutely have a tiny table top tripod with you. You can find them at camera stores and at Target and Walmart.

A tiny table top tripod from Target and the resulting shot. This allows you to drop the ISO and stay away from the high noise that compact cameras are notorious for.

If you want a larger tripod, remember to buy one that you’ll actually carry with you. There’s a whole world of tripods out there, but if you spend less than about $150 you’ll probably be replacing it sooner than later. We have found a good rule of thumb is that you should plan to spend about 20% of the cost of your camera and biggest lens on a tripod. It’s worth investing in one that you’ll keep for years. Try to find one that comes up to your standing height but is small enough to pack and light enough to carry around. Shorter people have an advantage here since the taller the tripod, the heavier and more expensive it tends to be.

Geeking out a bit with the gear plus the resulting shot. If you’re going to do night shooting Peter recommends a Petzl style headlamp with the red LED.

I’d recommend a good, light weight ball head instead of a traditional pan/tilt head. They are more compact, quicker to use and pack smaller. Also get a good quick release system. Trying to get a camera screwed off and on of a tripod will shave years off your sanity.

Remember whenever you’re shooting on a tripod turn off your vibration reduction or image stabilization. If you don’t, the pictures will be blurry. On DSLRs this is usually a dedicated switch on the lens. On mirrorless cameras it is sometimes a menu setting.

Tripods are also really helpful for panoramas. Even though long exposures weren’t required for this photo, having a panorama head with an offset plate allowed the foreground in this photo to be properly stitched.

Ciao from Italia!

Our Natural Light Portrait teacher, Patrizia Montanari, has been spending her summer in her home country of Italy. She sent us this note along with some of the photos she’s taken:

Dear Peter,

It’s been two months since I left Texas to visit Italy after four years of absence. It has been amazing and I found myself rediscovering this colorful and folkloristic country with new eyes. My journey so far has been interesting, challenging (as I am traveling with two small children), emotional and regenerating. I have a love-hate relationship with my home land, I appreciate the way it is and the way it will never be. Mostly I enjoy all it is giving me, the smell, the taste, the history, the family and the multitude of dialects, I am absorbing it all, and save it for my return to Texas.

As you know, before my departure I spoiled my self with a new camera, a Fujifilm X100T, which it has been my best friend since I landed in Milan. It’s a fantastic tool, it’s with me all the time and the quality of the images is sublime and never disappoints me.

I have been traveling all over Italy quite a lot and got so much inspiration from places and people. I have been taking trips to the Alps, the Riviera Ligure, the hills of Tuscany, the country side of Umbria and the gorgeous Island of Sicily. I have been bouncing from loving to photograph landscape to finding gorgeous light to photograph people. Location scouting requires no effort here and most of the time I am actually crying for a model.

I am grateful for the art of photography and what I am doing to preserve these memories, I am also grateful for hashtags, #lamiaitaly will always remind me of this wonderful trip.

I hope you are loving your Texas summer,
A presto, ciao
Patrizia

You can following Patrizia’s adventure on Instagram by following @patriziamontanari.

 

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere”

A client of ours is with her husband in Longyearbyen, Norway. She’s there to shoot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We asked her to send back a photo of their trip so far and this is what we got yesterday. The “rig” mentioned at the end is the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice that has been converted to lodging.

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere and stopped at a frozen water fall and there was a man there taking video. Turns out he’s a German photographer making some movie/book. Anyway we pulled in and he had also just gotten there to shoot the frozen fall, but he left his battery back in the town. He had a brand new D 4 S, but he borrowed my body to get the shots as I had battery. Then he rode off in his snow mobile and told me that I’d get a free copy of his book! It was pretty cool, so that’s what the one photo is. The other is of our “rig”, the ship frozen in the ice”.

leslie-kadane-dallas-center-for-photography

leslie-kadane-dallas-center-for-photography-2

My Mom Learns About “The Photo Shop”

On my recent trip to Chicago, I posted a Facebook photo of my friend and me in front of the skyline. We have a dear, mutual friend by the name of Julie who is currently working on getting her masters in graphic design. As a joke, she reposted the photo on my wall with Kevin Bacon posing with us. A few minutes later I get a text from my mom asking me where I met Kevin Bacon. “Photoshop,” I replied.

Later that week I returned to Dallas and had dinner with my mom. “I didn’t realize Kevin Bacon was so short,” she said to me. Confused, I asked her why she would say that. “I was surprised that he is the same height as you and Brad. That picture of you guys at The Photo Shop is pretty great.”

jillian-and-brad-meet-kevin-bacon-dallas-center-for-photography

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

I just got back from a week in Oregon and had a chance to download just a few of the photos so far.  This is a quick B&W conversion from Multnomah Falls, on the scenic highway that runs through the Columbia River Valley just outside of Portland.  The processing is a little heavy across the top but I think this will turn into a real keeper with a little more (or less!) work. Shot with a 16-35mm lens, D600, f11, 1 second, 3 stop (very wet:) neutral density filter.

Peter-Poulides-Dallas-Center-for-Photography-Oregon-Falls

Falls In Oregon

We’re at the end of a week-long family trip to Oregon. Man, is it gorgeous out here! Today we took a drive on old scenic highway 30 near Portland and I stopped along the way to shoot some new shutter speed examples for the DSLR classes. First photo is just below Bridal Veil falls. The second is at Multnomah Falls, the third is a very wet neutral density filter on a 16-35mm lens. It’s a 3 stop ND filter which allowed me to slow the shutter down in order to get some decent shots of water in motion.