How to (mindfully) take great pics as a traveller?
Whether you choose to shoot with a smartphone or a sophisticated digital single lens reflex camera, takings pictures when traveling is a perfect way of making memories (and keeping them). With these 5 easy tips, you can take great pics while being respectful to nature and truly immersing yourself in your surroundings.
1. Feel connected
It might seem obvious, but before snapping any pictures give yourself time. Allow yourself to truly connect with the place, observe your surroundings and take everything in; the sounds, the smells, the colours you see. For now, just let your camera hang from your shoulder strap. Pay attention to how light changes with the passing of time, e.g. the direction or the quality. First impressions can be great photographic material, but first, allow these impressions to sink in. Simply wandering around the streets of an unknown city is a good way to stay present and in the moment. Once you make a connection with the place and experience it as it is, you can start taking pictures.
2. Capture your impressions
When you notice something interesting or beautiful, take a few seconds to observe it a little more. What is it that caught your attention? Then look into the viewfinder (or your screen). Do you see exactly what caught your attention, nothing less and nothing more? If not adjust, for example, by moving a bit closer or a bit further away than your subject. Also become aware of your own thoughts and emotions in the process: are you worried about getting a good shot? Are you shooting with an audience in mind? These are all things that can get in your way and distract you from the here and now. Clear seeing and faithfully capturing your original perception of a place or face, produces fresh images.
3. Talk to people
What is a better way to find out more about the place you are visiting than to have a conversation with a local? Asking them what they love most about it or what their favourite spot is, can give you further ideas about what to photograph next. You might even agree with your new local friend to take his/her portrait. It’s always the story that can turn an ‘ok’ portrait to a great one (think of Humans of NY).
4. Avoid geotagging in wilderness
Ok, I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, but let’s be honest: there are alarming signs that social media can have a negative impact on nature as swarms of visitors climb the hills of Moher (Ireland) or Machu Picchu (Peru) to take the “perfect” selfie. Everyone chasing their own unique composition could lead to the whole area being destroyed, as these beautiful location are often also fragile locations. As a true nature lover, if you are going to share nature images through social media, “consider using them as a platform to raise awareness about nature conservation and threats to the subject of your photos” as the Tasmanian resource management organization NRM South suggests in their guide to ethical nature photography.
5. Get inspired
Following travel bloggers and influencers online is fun and inspiring. If you are really into photography and you are hoping to capture your perception, feeling and mood of a place while traveling, there are some really great storytellers out there to follow. Their pictures are not only great examples of how to set up an interesting composition or how to use light effectively, but they can also teach you how to take unique pictures that tell a story. Personally I love the honest work of photojournalist Emily Garthwaite and culture-oriented Afar magazine.
Author: Kassiani Nikolopoulou
Communication & Media lecturer| yoga teacher |photo enthusiast |currently on sabbatical traveling to Norway and India.