Articles Tagged with: travel
Top 45 – Travel Photographer Society Awards 2017

We are delighted to announce the Top 45 Photographs shortlisted in the Travel Photographer Society Awards 2017. We received an incredible 3681 entries from 108 countries worldwide.

Entries were open from the 19th of November 2016 – 10th February 2017. Our jury panel judged each image on the following criteria; narrative, originality, relevance to the category, composition and overall image quality. The categories were Landscape/Enviornment, Travel/Documentary, People/Culture and Street.

The Grand Prize Winner and Category Winners of TPS 2017 have already been selected by the jury team, and are among these Top 45 photographs, which will be announced on April 6th on Facebook, Instagram and our website: www.travelphotographersociety.com

You can also view all 3681 entries on the TPS website gallery!

Cheers,
Editor-in-Cheif

Drew Hopper

Travelling with a Light Footprint

 

“Take only photos, Leave nothing but footprints”

We’ve probably all heard the saying, but what does it mean? Basically ‘take only photos, leave nothing but footprints’ means to make as little impact on an enviornment as possible. As a travel photographer I’m always doing my best to work with humility, respect and a light footprint. It’s not rocket science, but there’s a lot of photographers who either don’t understand it or simply don’t care. This is the wrong attitude, and can spoil it for others who do the right thing. Here are my six tips to inform aspiring travel photographers about how they can move lightly and enjoy their travel photography experience at the same time.

Understand Culture

Culture isn’t just a race or ethnicity; in fact it goes far beyond that. We are all members of numerous cultural groups with cultural identities based on influences. This is an ongoing process and development. When we travel we are exposed to different sets of beliefs and values that may not be part of our culture or upbringing. This is what makes travel culturally rich, vigorous and complex. However, it’s important not to become too consumed with our own beliefs or habits.

Culture is a system of shared beliefs that are used by a society or group in order to socialise with the world as well as each other. Accepting other people’s ways of life can sometimes be challenging, even for seasoned travellers. The key to accepting this is to be open-minded and positive. By respecting different cultures you will learn a lot about yourself and the people you meet, which will allow you to go deeper into a culture to capture stronger images. Acknowledge these new experiences and embrace every encounter. It’s a rewarding experience that can shape your journey as a photographer.

Practice self-awareness and remember everyone is equal regardless of ethnic background, religion, demographic or income. Never try portraying someone else in false light. Be honest with the message you wish to convey, respecting different cultures whilst enabling, not disabling people through your work. Photography is a powerful medium, so use it effectively and wisely.

 

Respect People

The further you travel into unfamiliar lands and cultures, the more varied the people you’ll encounter. This is probably the most exciting part of travel. At times it can feel somewhat alienating, but remember, it works both ways. The key to interacting with people as a travel photographer/storyteller is to treat them with respect. Whenever I travel I live by the golden rule: do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. It’s good practice to acknowledge a person’s intrinsic value as a human being. It’s almost impossible to learn anything or capture the true essence of a place without meeting the local people. Be polite and ask before you take someone’s photo if you feel the situation calls for it. No one appreciates having a camera shoved in his or her face, so try avoiding it despite how much you want ‘that’ shot.

You can learn a lot about a destination or a person by making an effort to have a conversation. Respect goes a long way, more so in unfamiliar territory, when in actuality, you are the stranger. Never demand anything from your subjects, bribe or violate their human rights. Be friendly, move gently and always work with a light footprint – it makes the world a difference. 

Respect Property

This is just as important as respecting people, if not more significant. A prime example of disrespect for property was in Cambodia’s Angkor archaeological park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which consists of ancient temples including Angkor Wat. Five foreign visitors were arrested and deported after they were caught taking nude self-portraits at the sacred sites. These sites hold enormous spiritual and historical significance. It’s completely disrespectful to climb these structures, let alone strip off and strike up a pose. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with nude photography when done tastefully and respectfully, however there’s a time and place for everything. 

As travel photographers it’s our duty to document these incredible places. A lot of it comes down to common sense, which unfortunately seems very uncommon for a lot of people who travel abroad. Just because you’ve left home doesn’t mean you should leave your manners and morals behind. Travel is fulfilling so be respectful, don’t take it for granted by being another idiot abroad.

Avoid Paying For Photos

This is a difficult one, and it will vary depending on what photography means to you and why you do what you do. As a travel photographer interested in having culturally rich experiences, I very rarely pay anyone to take their photo. There’s obviously a difference between travel and commercial photography, but where do you draw the line?

Here’s an example from a recent trip to Asia, where I spent 8 months travelling and photographing both commercially for a client and for my own enjoyment. My assignment brief was to capture the essence of the destination and it’s people for a book. My client provided me a specific brief for the type of images they needed. Some of the images required me to setup moments with models, which of course came at a cost. This is the commercial side of travel photography. I was able to capture and deliver exactly what my client asked, however, it wasn’t exactly fulfilling and it felt as if I was spoiling part of the culture. There’s nothing wrong with shooting commercially and paying to get the shots, except this does set expectations among the people who may assume everyone who travels will pay for photos. I found it difficult on many occasions where people on the street would ask me for money even if it were a candid moment. It became frustrating because I ended up missing photo opportunities due to other peoples expectations.  Some people would get aggressive, which at those times I would kindly respect them and move on. The main concern for me was that the culture seemed blanketed by this expectation; this made it challenging in places to find authentic cultural experiences.


Instead of paying people with money, try giving something back; food, water, clothing or a kind gesture is a great way to thank someone for their time. I remember photographing a group of sadhus (holy men) in Varanasi, India. These men would ask me for money every time I walked past. The day I stopped I knew I wanted to take their portraits, and no doubt they knew they would receive something from me. Rather than paying money, I bought the men a meal each. Instantly their moods changed to being thankful for the food. By offering something people need will allow you to interact without spoiling the culture. There’s nothing worse than watching a bus load of tourists handing out countless amounts of cash to people on the street, it’s setting a bad example and high expectations for other travellers.

Keep in mind the importance of understanding the purpose behind your travel photography. Once you understand this you’ll be able to move, tread lightly and enjoy your travels. A real traveller knows that it’s not about the destination; its about the journey. Seek and you will find.

Foster Tolerance 

This comes back to respecting people and culture, and is a very important concept to assist in accepting cultural differences. It is not a passive concept and does not equate to indifference or indulgence. It’s all about acceptance of differences of other people and is the recognition of the significance of those dissimilarities without any judgement. How does this apply to photography? Well, if you judge someone or something on appearance or behaviour without fostering tolerance than it’s likely you’ll miss parts of the story, therefore resulting in missed photo opportunities. By acknowledging these differences new opportunities will arise, opening up new doors that may have never opened without the open-mindedness. 

Be tolerant and listen before acting. Great images don’t create themselves; you need to go deeper than just clicking the shutter if you want to take your travel photography to the next level.

 Assess then Act

When we travel into new and unfamiliar territories outside of our comfort zone we are exposed to a different lifestyle. The best way to deal with this is by assessing each situation and knowing that the same approach cannot be necessarily applied to every occasion. As an Australian, I’ve spent the majority of my life in the western world. I understand the system and find a level of comfort working where I live. For example, if you’ve never travelled to Asia than it’s likely that you will feel anxious at times resulting in your nerves taking over. Language barriers can be difficult when trying to move freely as a photographer in a foreign land. In order to handle these challenges it’s good to make photography secondary to your travels. Slow down while taking in the moment and then assess if it would make a great photo opportunity. Once you’ve travelled enough the urgency to photograph in a manic way wears off and this is when you’ll evolve as a photographer.

Every time I find myself in a new enviornment or situation, I always pause and observe what’s going on around me. Analyse the mood, the light, the interaction and behaviours of the people to get a sense of understanding. By doing this you’ll be able to find exactly what you want or need to document. It also puts other people at ease with your presence, you will no longer be ‘the foreigner’ with the camera, you’ll be immersed in the culture, which will help you shoot more inconspicuously.

 Tell the Truth

As photographers, we have the power to change the world, but in order to make a positive impact we must work with integrity. This means being honest and precise, especially when working as a documentary photographer or photojournalist. If you are commissioned to document a story, it’s crucial to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Your images should be relevant to the event and society for it to be effective. If you photos are inaccurate or misleading of the message it will have a negative impact. It pays to do a lot of research in order to work lightly and openly.

 Lastly, Pack Light

This is probably the most literal way to work with a light footprint when travelling. It’s also one of the best ways to move around generously without the burden of being weighed down by your gear. As a travel photographer specialising in street and landscapes I always try to minimise weight as much as humanly possible. There’s really nothing worse than lugging around gear that you don’t need. Take only the necessities you know you will use. This takes time and a few trips before you work it out, but once you get it sorted you’ll be able to take full advantage of being nomadic. During my first trip to Asia, I took way too much camera equipment, which mostly ended up staying in my bag or back in the hotel room. On the second trip I knew what I needed and what was going to slow me. So remember, take only the essentials and forget the dead weight. You’ll be glad you did. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. It was originally written for Australian Photography magazine, and published in their November 2016 issue. 

 

A Mothers Anguish: The Story Behind The Image

As a travel photographer there is always the paradox of whether to take the shot or to put the camera down. This is one of those paradoxes I faced during a morning stroll along the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi, India. This one particular image I hold deep in my heart, for better or for worse, it’s a moment simply cannot forget. It’s also one of the photographs out of thousands that enlightened me with a greater understanding into Hindu religion and opened my eyes reinforcing how valuable life is. 

Whenever I’m travelling in unfamiliar territory, my main objective is to capture the beauty of the culture, people and the location, and India is no exception! It’s an incredible country, rich in culture, colour and life with some of the nicest people I’ve met. I do enjoy portraying the positivity of a country, it’s very rewarding, however, moments arise, unexpected and completely shocking. Here’s the story behind my image ‘A Mothers Anguish’.

A Mothers Anguish

Varanasi is an incredible place, a real eye opener and a step back in time. You witness events you may have never imagined, or have ever wanted to see. It’s completely unavoidable and totally unpredictable. It’s the kind of place that you shouldn’t expect anything, but embrace every moment.

I was walking along the Ghat’s in the morning, as I did most days, when I came across this staggering scene. A distressed Indian woman standing on the steps by the River Ganges, confounded by the body of a deceased infant floating on the water. I instantly froze, my skin turned cold as I tried to get a closer look. I wasn’t sure whether it was a human or an animal. You often see dead cows, dogs and other animals floating down the river. As I observed I recognised the hands and feet of a child. It didn’t feel appropriate taking a picture, but I knew if I didn’t than I would have regretted not documenting the sight.

I remember slowly inching my way closer down the steps towards the woman, removing my camera strap from around my neck and holding the camera at my waist with my finger on the trigger. I did this because I wasn’t sure how people would perceive or react if they noticed me with my eye to the viewfinder. As I approached I clicked this image before stopping a few metres behind where the woman stood. She was quietly speaking in some kind of tongue. That is when I decided I shouldn’t impose, which is when I walked away. I do however regret not staying as I would have liked to speak with her and find out the story.

An Indian friend who was with me at the time was shocked as well, but he explained it’s often a common sight to find deceased children in the Ganges, because the children are not cremated like the adults – instead they are sent off into the river to drift downstream. This is incredible India, where two worlds live parallel to one another.

Capture Better Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits typically portray a person in their natural environment. Different from traditional portraits shot in a studio, locational portraits capture the character of the subject and give insight into their daily life making for a more personal image, generally telling some kind of story about who the subject is. This can be achieved anywhere from their work place, home, or anywhere where they like to spend their time. However, you can also setup an environmental shoot to illustrate their character in certain scenario or situation. The benefit of photographing people in a natural environment is people feel more relaxed and comfortable being photographed resulting in better and stronger images.

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 Planning Ahead

The first thing I do before every photo trip is decide what I want to see and the type of photos I intend on capturing. On a recent trip to Myanmar, I was inspired by the culture, so I wanted to capture pictures of local people and the culture, both staged naturally and candidly. I spent countless hours researching online to make sure it would be a successful trip.

Determine the style of the shoot, the purpose and the mood you plan on conveying. Do you need an assistant or fixer to help translate if working in a foreign country? Are you shooting indoors or outdoors? Do you need location permits or a model release if you plan on selling the images commercially? These are just a few questions to think about before picking up your camera.

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 Location is Everything

Finding the perfect location can be challenging, but is the key to capturing environmental portraits. It’s a good idea to scout the area in search for the right place to depict your subject. Persevere until you find the right location and it definitely result in stronger images.

Meet with your subject beforehand and get to know them. Perhaps they have a place where they feel relaxed. As an example, people often feel comfortable at their homes, which strengthen the chances of capturing natural facial expressions and body language. Although, some people may not feel comfortable inviting a stranger into their safe place so be respectful if you are invited into their home. Allowing your talent to choose the location can be extremely beneficial when working in a new or unfamiliar territory and can safe a lot of time looking for location yourself.

Background detail is imperative in adding a sense of place and defining the character of your subject. However, be mindful when composing your shots so that the background doesn’t detract the presence of your subject. The focus should be on your subject.

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Communication

An essential part of photographing people is communication and interpreting what you wish to achieve. If working in a foreign country you may not speak the language, this makes things trickier. The best way around this is to use a location fixer or someone local who speaks the native language who can translate. Fixers can also sort out shooting permits for special locations while liaising with local authorities to make things run smoothly during the shoot.

In some countries people enjoy being photographed. Myanmar is a great example of this. It is much easier to approach people if they are open to having their picture taken and an excellent opportunity to meet new people. By talking with people you’ll find the confidence to approach strangers and take their photos whether staged or impromptu. If there is a language barrier, simply point to your camera and smile. Most people already know what you want once they see the camera. However, if they refuse to have their picture taken, respect their wishes and move on. Always remember to smile and always say thank you.Be polite and project positivity when you work, people tend to take on your energy so be that radiating photographer everyone wants to know.

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 Posing Your Subject

Posing your subject and capturing natural body language takes some work, but with good perception and practice this can be an enjoyable experience for both yourself and your model. It’s vital that they feel relaxed, as any strain will be evident in your pictures. Again, communication is an essential part of this process. Ask them how they feel and never push them to pose a certain way they aren’t confident or capable, this will result in tension resulting in unnatural body language.

Most people feel at ease when sitting or having something to lean against (wall, doorframe for example), this is a good starting point. Have your subject sit in their environment, not necessarily looking at the camera. Ask for them to look off into the distance, or get them to focus on something. As an example, if you’re shooting someone in their workplace, they could continue with their daily routine while you shoot. Remember you are capturing their personality, so step back and observe how their actions before directing. If you are shooting candidly there is no need to pose. Anticipation is key, wait for the right moment (the decisive moment) to take your shot.

When shooting closer more intimate portraits it’s best to approach with humility, respect and a light footprint. This means working respectfully with your subject and their environment. Never physically handle your subject, especially if you’re a male photographing a female. Politely explain/demonstrate the pose and then have your model reposition. It’s about gaining each other’s trust, which takes time but if approached appropriately it will dramatically improve your results.

 Add Drama to your Pictures

Working under natural light is a great way to add drama to your pictures for moody portraits full of character. It’s also a fantastic way to better understand the importance of light and how to effectively use it. If you are new to photography, you don’t want to complicate matters by adding multiple speedlites. Instead go out with your camera and observe your environment, study the light and take notice of how different lighting changes the mood of the environment you are in.

Photographing elderly people in low light is a fantastic way to exaggerate facial expressions, lines and wrinkles to make a dramatic portrait. One of my favourite approaches to low-light portraits is finding a dark space with areas of light highlighting parts of the scene. An example could be an open doorway into a dark room. Position your model in the light against the dark area. Notice how the light highlights your subject and the background is dark and free of distractions? Keep an eye on the light and try shooting from different angles, or reposition your model to stand half in the shadow and half in the light to create deep contrasts. This is the easiest way to manipulate natural light for a more dramatic feel. Experiment with natural light, you’ll be surprised how effective it is.

Another way to add/enhance the atmosphere of your portraits is by adding smoke. Your model could be smoking a cigarette and exhaling smoke into the air, or burn incense. Darker backgrounds work best for smoke, as smoke is typically light so a brighter background won’t have the same impact. Use a shallow depth of field to draw the focus on the smoke to create a subtle illusion of depth. Candlelight is another natural light source to create ambience, but be careful of fire and hot wax.

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 Keep Post-Processing in Mind

Cameras have their limitations where they cannot capture the entire tonal range of some more challenging lighting situations. Shooting during the middle of the day when the light is harsh can cause an unflattering loss of shadow detail. If your subject is backlit, half in shade or wearing a hat you’ll notice this problem. Asking your subject to move, or waiting for the light to become favourable isn’t always an option, so it’s good practice to shoot with post-processing in mind.

By underexposing or overexposing elements in a scene allows the freedom of recovering lost details in your editing software by adjusting the shadow/fill depending on the situation. Exposing for someone’s face when the light is harsh may result in an extremely over-exposed sky. In this case it’s likely the highlights would be unrecoverable, so expose for the highlights and tweak the shadows in post. If this increases digital noise (grain) you can reduce this with some noise reduction in post.

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 Don’t be afraid to up ISO

A common photographic fear that I’ve noticed is photographers afraid to increase the ISO setting on their cameras. Most photographers advise to use the lowest ISO possible. There is good reason to shoot lower ISOs, as image quality is at its maximum compared to shooting with a higher ISO. However, camera technology has improved a lot since the first DSLR was released and most modern DSRL’s are capable of shooting higher ISOs (1600 – 3200  or greater.)

Increasing the ISO enables you to shoot at faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures, which can be extremely useful when shooting portraits in low light conditions without the need for a tripod or flash. High ISO combined with a fast prime lens opens up a whole new world of experimentation and this is often when the best light happens. If noise is evident than you may need to adjust your settings, but you can also remove digital noise in post-processing, so go explore and see what you find.

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 Use Model Releases

Basically, a model release is a contract. It is a written and signed agreement between the photographer and the model. The purpose of obtaining a release is to protect the photographer from future liability if something were to happen and become a lawsuit, which can and does arise if someone files a legal claim against you, such as an invasion of privacy or defamation of character. Every photo you sell that features a recognisable person must feature a release unless it is being used for certain reportage/documentary purposes. The document imposes the terms and conditions that one party may use images taken of another party. In short it’s an essential part of being a portrait photographer when using images commercially.

There are a number of phone apps that allow you to electronically draft legally binding model releases in seconds. All you need is a smart phone or iPad and a good app. I have been using the app by 500px called ‘Releases’, which lets me save model and location information. Once you’ve filled in the blank fields all you need is your models signature, which he or she can sign with the ease of the touch screen using their finger and you can save it as a PDF to print, file or export elsewhere. Saves a lot of time doing paperwork!

The World Asleep (Ongoing Series)

The World Asleep is a personal project/photo series I decided to put together after noticing how many images I’ve captured of people sleeping in interesting places. All the photographs in this post were shot in Asia. I see this as being an ongoing project, purely for my own enjoyment and a little challenge that will help keep me alert when wandering the streets. It’s good to have some drive, something to motivate me to click more pictures.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India

 

Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

 

Old Delhi, India

Old Delhi, India

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India

 

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

 

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India

 

Delhi, India

Delhi, India

 

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India

 

Bundi, India

Bundi, India

 

Old Delhi, India

Old Delhi, India

 

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India

 

Delhi, India

Delhi, India

 

Kolkata, India

Kolkata, India