There is nothing worse than coming home after a truly amazing holiday only to realise the photos you captured aren’t up to scratch. They’re out of focus, a little boring, blurry, dark and don’t quite capture the moment – we’ve all been there. To help you cherish your travel memories forever, we teamed up with real pro-travel photographer and blogger Mister Weekender to show you how you can take better photos on your travels in 10 simple tips.
1. Chase the best light
Whilst there is no such thing as bad light, it can be difficult to photograph landscapes that have impact in the middle of the day. Years ago, a photographer friend told me that he never shoots in the middle of the day when the sun is high. This is because the sun is harsh; it creates dark shadows above subjects and washes out colours. Good light happens when the sun is low in the sky because it creates warmth, depth, softer highlights, better texture and scale. I always talk about ‘magic hour’ being my favourite time of day to photograph, which is around sunset and sunrise. The light and the way it adds amazing colours to a landscape gets me every time.
2. Look for storms
Some of my most popular photos on Instagram are when I happen to be in a great location when a storm rolls in, aka #ihavethisthingwithstormchasing. The cloud breaks and the contrast in light create very dramatic scenes in a landscape photo. But you do need to be careful. If the storm is about to get intense or there is too much lightening around, I urge you to seek immediate safety and cover.
3. Stay for the rainbow
When there is rain, there is a rainbow. After a storm passes, the clouds break up and the sun begins to peek out, more often than not you will be rewarded with a rainbow. The clear air, the wet ground and the colourful light from the sun can change in an instant so make sure you’re ready!
4. Scout for locations
When you are out and about, always remember to scout for locations and start creating a list. When you do get time to photograph a beautiful location, remember to pack flash lights, extra layers of clothing and a warm drink to stay awake (and cosy) in the dark hours of the morning and night. But even if two or three hours of preparation give me a short three minute window of opportunity, it’s always worth it.
5. Have patience
My biggest piece of advice when photographing landscapes: go with someone who is like-minded or go alone. Nothing unsettles me more than taking someone with me to photograph when I can hear them tapping their toes with impatience or boredom. It kills my creativity. Additionally, I might have spent two hours in the dark of night hiking to find the best view of sunrise, only to find the light sucks. This is where patience kicks in. As well as the little friend on my shoulder called “What If?” … What if I left and ten minutes later I miss the best sunrise of my life? What if I stay and I end up wasting my time and capturing nothing? It’s ALL about patience, whichever fork in the road you choose.
6. Do your research
I know I touched on location scouting earlier, but sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time to drive aimlessly around to find inspiration or “the best location ever”. So my best piece of advice is to look in your own backyard. Do your research; speak to friends, see where people are going on Instagram, read blogs and get friendly with Google Maps. And whilst we all know the area we live really well, you don’t know everything. Get in your car and go find those places you’ve researched.
7. Use apps to inform
I use a few different apps to help me plan a landscape photography session. Before I head out to photograph a landscape, I use these apps to determine whether or not it’s going to be worth my time; and they are Google Maps, Compass, Moon, Scope Nights and Star Walk 2. My best tip? Make sure you check these apps before you head into the wilderness where you possibly might not be in range to access mobile data. Screen grab as a safety net.
8. Don’t photograph the ordinary
Earlier this year I met my landscape photography idol, Chris Burkard. One of the most pivotal things he said to me was not to photograph the ordinary. When I want to photograph a landscape or a subject in a landscape, he told me to walk above it, around it, through it and over it. I need to hike in mud, cross rivers, trudge through wind – whatever it takes to get a different photo than everyone else. By changing my point of view, I am able to change the composition and by doing this, I am able to get an epic photo that will keep people engaged. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, but also not doing anything too dangerous.
9. Use different lens
Never photograph landscapes with the same lens! On the flip side, you don’t need 12 different lenses. I shoot with my iPhone, a wide lens and a longer focal length lens, and find these are the best for what I want to achieve. Remember however, it’s very important to shoot in manual mode on an SLR so you have full control over the impact you are working to create.
10. Reality check
Landscape photography is not always as glamorous as the end result. It’s hard work and at times, uncomfortable. I am often freezing, hiking dangerous cliff edges, perched on rocks teetering over an ice cold lake, battling the elements and having endless conversations with myself as I often shoot solo. But if you’re anything like me and love a challenge, these moments blissfully fade away when I get that one truly magical shot.