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Travel Photography - It pays to come back

This article in the Tim's Tips series for Travel Photographers discusses a conundrum familiar to all photographers who are trying to increase their portfolio of top-quality 'Wow' photographs: Shall I stay or should I go?

If you are on a short trip, and you wish to fit as much as possible into your vacation, it is understandable that the first choice is to move around a lot, taking photographs everywhere that you go. More places equals a bigger portfolio of photographs, right? Well, not always. Sometimes it pays to stay in one place and take similar photos over a longer period. This was especially brought home to me during my recent stay at Kovalam, in Kerala, on the southern tip of India. Usually when I go to India, a country I've explored many times, I travel around to visit a variety of places that interest me. This time, I stayed where I was for much of my stay, as I needed somewhere to work on my backlog of photographs prior to submitting to my agency, Lonely Planet Images. During my stay there, being a hardened Travel Photographer, I could never resist venturing out to take more photographs. Kovalam is a very small place, and so the range of available photo locations are not that great: 2 or 3 beaches, the lighthouse, views of the town and nearby villages. There is really little else there, and on a brief visit, one would think that there was unlikely to be much to photograph over a long period. Wouldn't the shots lack variety and interest? I thought this initially, but have been both surprised and pleased with the photos I have built up. Check out my recent gallery of Kovalam photos and see what you think.

I found that by visiting the same sites again and again, I was able to learn which were the best kind of views I would be interested in, and see how those views would change at different times of the day. I was able to see the changes that different types of weather would bring, and could afford to wait until the weather was just right before rushing out to get the shot that I had visualised. Some times I would make a mistake and arrive at the location too late in the day, finding that the sun was lower than expected. If I only had one day there, this would have been a problem, but as I was in the area for a while, I could return another day and not lose the shot I wanted.

So, the next time you are in an area for a while, go out frequently to see what you will find. Return to the same site at different times of the day, and on different days of the week. Things change all the time. A deserted square one day may fill with a bustling market on another. A sleepy town will transform itself when the Festival starts. Light plays a considerable part of how an image turns out, and light is ever changing. Watch the light, watch the weather, and keep a list of the best locations so that you can get there quickly when the light or weather is just to your liking. Walk around with some postcards or prints and see how other photographers tackled the scene, though never try and duplicate someone else's photograph: you won't succeed for a myriad of reasons, so don't even consider it: make your own path, keep being original, for that is the way to success.

Its great to travel around: as Travel Photographers we wouldn't have it any other way, but if you have to stay where you are for a while, don't despair: keep going out with your camera, and lets Look Again at what the world can show us.

Still on the subject of 'Lets Look Again', I will add here the importance of checking your work from time to time. It is easy to get in to the habit of checking your photos on the camera's LCD screen, then waiting until the memory card is full before checking your shots in greater detail once you have downloaded them to your laptop. However, by only using the camera's LCD screen, even if you do study the histogram as well, you could be missing a lot of potential errors: major dust spots on the sensor, focus errors, background problems, and a host of other possibilities. If you check your shots at full size soon after taking them, you will spot the errors and might have the chance to go and take the shots again. If you leave it for a few days, however, you may well have left the area, or the festival has ended, and people moved on. Your chance to re-take the shot, once there, has now been lost.

Some people don't realise that it is quite OK to look at the contents of your memory card before you download them, but after all, a memory card is treated by the Windows operating system as just another block of removable memory, so why not check it out before it is full? Get into the habit of quickly slipping the card from your camera and placing it in your laptop's card reader each evening, just to have a look at how your shots are progressing. It could be the one thing that lets you correct a problem and retake the photo before its too late.


Read other articles in the Tim's Tips series...

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