A Travel Photographer: Practicing Around the World

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Everyone is giving tips on photography these days, so I thought I’d jump in too. Having spent time hitting the big tourist destinations in Spain, I’m aware how tricky it can be capturing a meaningful image, one which isn’t filled with tourists. I use a point & shoot camera. It’s light weight and compact. I also rely on the easy automatic mode, even though it has numerous functions. This means my images need to be about getting creative with the angle, frame and lighting on hand. 

Travel in my Backyard

I’ve blogged about Epcot being an opportunity to play world traveler, and I’m doing it again. This time as a photographer. The excursion was an exercise for me, and I’ll share some of my not-so-secret keys to success. I want to beat the challenge of capturing meaningful images, when the destination is swarming with tourists. What better place to practice catching an iconic image, plagued by visitors, than in Disney World?

Photo essay, with brief photo “lessons”

You know how it is, everyone clamoring to get that shot? Here’s a thought, rather than capture the whole picture like this one:

Japan Pavilion’s 5-story pagoda

Japan Pavilion’s 5-story pagoda filled with people wanting the same photo as me

Get close, or zoom in, to get something more like this one:

big drum

Taiko drummer

Here’s a similar example, instead of the cliché:

Me & Carli in front of Spaceship Earth

Everyone takes this photo if they’ve gone to Epcot…though, we are kinda cute

Get real close. This one is totally different, and brings home a different take on the visit, a sense of color and design:

Close up of Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth, up close & personal

Conversely, going the distance may help give your image a tourist-free feel:

China Pavilion

View across Bay Lake

But, before I totally knock tourists – after all I am one too – there are times tourists may add to the atmosphere of the photo:

German pavilion

a quaint Bavarian village seemingly hosting a lively beer garden

Another strategy is to look where no one else is, like up. I may have been staring at the image too long, but I like the way the evenness of the shot makes it almost appear as a mirrored reflection on water, not a view into the sky:

Roof line of Tepan Edo

Roof top of Tepan Edo

Check out this chance “look up” shot – not spectacular, but… somebody’s not happy:

Bell Tower at Epcot's Italy

Bell Tower at Epcot’s Italy

I also suggest looking down now & then. At Epcot, you’ll likely find a “hidden Mickey”, but someday I will put together my compilation of manhole covers. They are like city logos, you trample on without notice.

Being patient is important. This is a tough one, especially when you feel you’ve waited your turn 5 times over. Like a football player, you need to wait for the hole, a tourist hole, such as you see in these two images which are tourist-free:

Epcot's England

I think we’re visiting a proper English courtyard

Norway pavillion Epcot

the sleepy town of Frozen’s Arendelle (Norway)

Many times it isn’t patience, but simply being camera-ready when the moment hits:

Monorail at Epcot

Monorail zooming in for Epcot Landing

One note, it’s key that your travel buddies are just as quick:

Carli caught in my photo

Wait, should I be smiling?

Getting behind the main attraction can often result in a surprisingly pleasant image:

China Pavilion by lotus pond

Sneaking up on the China Pavilion

End of the line in “Italy”

My Last, not-so-secret, Key for a Travel Photographer

Take pictures of people. This may seem contradictory to my introduction about avoiding people, but photographing locals communicates the essence of any destination. I need more practice on this front because I always seem to rush, not wanting to overly inconvenience my subject. Unfortunately this results in a not-well-planned photo. It’s important to ask permission, and I get plenty of “no thank you.” But the rewards for getting a “yes!” People photos bring me the most happiness, and I always wish I took time to ask for more:

market trader in "Africa"

Market Trader in “Africa”

Lion dancer in "China"

The little one was more interested in the lion, than looking at the camera. (Can’t blame her!)

Luckily I have a subject who allows me several takes, though I can usually hit the target with one attempt:

Carli

Little Miss Carli

I don’t even have to “try” to get a decent image of this princess.

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