Make better travel photos – while you’re there

July 21, 2011 | By | Reply More

By Dave Blaine, photographer

Not to make your big vay-cay into a working holiday (although that pretty much is exactly what happens to me every trip), but try to make the most of your time. It’s really no secret to photographers that the best light is found early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is low; so do your best to shoot those scenics and building exteriors first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon.  That way you can save shooting interiors or close-ups (not to mention retouching, e-mailing and blogging), or maybe just generally enjoying your trip for the middle of the day.


But don’t stop there!  There’s no reason to quit shooting just because the sun went down.  Yes, particularly in tropical paradises everybody loves to watch (and shoot) the sunsets, but in my experience very few people ever hang around for the rest of the lightshow.  Granted, in the tropics, the twilight doesn’t last anywhere near as long as it does further north and south, but still the colours in the sky following a sunset can last for as much as an hour or more depending on where in the world you are.  So dial down that shutter speed and shoot some skylines, monuments or silhouettes.  You’ll get some great results, and you’ll be amazed how quickly the crowds disperse if you just wait a bit.

By the way, if crowds bug you and you just happen to be a morning person, then get up and shoot that sunrise instead.  The lighting effects are very similar to the sunset (just in reverse, and the other direction), but the real payoff is that many fewer people on holiday are willing to haul their butts out of bed so early in the morning (which in the tropics is around 5:00am or earlier), so the best views will always be less crowded.




Finally, you’ll have to face the fact that the weather won’t always cooperate with you.  But consider this: is it really being uncooperative?  Just because the weather sucks doesn’t mean your photos have to.  Don’t pack away the camera just because the day is gray; it actually helps a lot of subjects to be shot under softened overcast light.  Think of the clouds as the biggest diffusers ever, and they’re provided free of charge.  Under conditions like these all you have to do is avoid the horizon.  Look down for interesting subjects and simply omit that flat and dull sky from your pictures.  The reward will be close-up shots of architecture, plants and flowers free of the harsh defined shadows from intense direct sunlight, and your people pictures will be much improved when your subjects aren’t all squinting under the blistering high-noon sun.

That said don’t reject the sun either.  Nothing says “wish you were here” better than a shot of an unbroken vista under a cloudless azure sky.


Dave Blaine is the owner and operator of Calgary- based Voyager Photography.  Visit his website at
All images provided by Dave Blaine unless otherwise stated.


Category: Travel

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