May 30, 2012

Making the Best of Travel Photography~ Even When the Travel Isn't for Photography

By Joel Olives

I'm not a travel photographer by trade.  Actually, I’m not even a photographer by trade.  I do, however, love the art of photography and I shoot as much as I can.  I consider photography an extremely advanced hobby.  It’s a wonderful solace in the world of chaotically analytical technology which I call my nine to five.  I love the escape it provides.

That nine to five requires me to travel occasionally, and when I do, I seize every opportunity I can to shoot the area.  A curious caveat to that is while I’m often whisked off to interesting places, the nine to five often becomes fourteen hour work days.  I’m amidst these places unable to do what I love, catching every sunrise and sunset.  I believe in persistence though and make the most out of whatever conditions allow me to shoot. 

I’ve read a lot of professional photographers that have written that it’s all about that special light that occurs so infrequently that it must be sought out, relished and thoroughly documented through the lens.  That isn’t my experience.  I say, “Document that bad light, take multiple exposures, blend them in Photoshop, and recreate the scene you saw in your mind’s eye.”  Perfect light doesn’t happen when you’re on the road working fourteen hour days.

Here are a few tips from what I’ve learned in my travels.
Tip number 1: Do not dismiss a sunset just because there are no clouds in the sky.  A couple months ago, I was in San Diego for two weeks.  The sky was a gorgeous blue and the sun was shimmering nearly every day.  There was scarcely a cloud to be found.  Opportunities presented themselves to shoot two sunsets on two weekend days while I was there. 

The first weekend opportunity featured an all-day powder blue sky.  It was cloudless… perfect weather for non-photographers.  I planned ahead online and knew I wanted to go to the La Jolla Cove to shoot the tide pools. 
When I arrived, there was a curious lack of other photographers.   The forecast let them know that it would be sun, sun, sun and more sun with no chance of interesting color in the sky.  I setup my tripod and settled on multiple compositions anyway.
That’s tip number 2: plan many compositions ahead of time.  There are a myriad of beautiful images to be captured during any sunset with a good preplanned composition.  I’ve seen many photographers pick their spot and leave their tripod anchored there for an entire sunset.  I believe this is an opportunity lost for multiple memorable shots.  I’ll usually plan for a half dozen unique compositions during any single sunset.

I was blessed that the weather forecast was wrong that evening (That never happens, right?).  As soon as golden hour started, a few clouds rolled across the horizon and in to view and created a wonderful orange canvas.  I captured 6 different compositions that night that I was very pleased with.
The other weekend was quite the opposite.  The forecast called for scattered clouds. I was excited, hoping for a beautiful sunset.  I chose Sunset Cliffs this time, but the weather did not cooperate.  It turned a very dull gray overcast.  Don’t be discouraged by bad conditions.  Shoot anyway.  Photographers love overcast days for portraits and macros.  For dramatic landscapes, most would choose a different day.  When your schedule is set and time is limited, that’s simply not an option.

A final tip: It’s really helped me knowing what various lighting conditions do to color tone and contrast.  While the differences are visible, it’s helped me to formulate, in my mind, what those differences are.  Overcast is much warmer than direct sunlight, it has a way of bringing out the natural warmth of objects in a way camera white balance doesn’t.  The lower contrast in those situations allows for you to see fine details that aren’t present on other lighting conditions.

With my analysis on overcast conditions in mind, I focused my compositions around the small details in the tide pools.  The sky added ambiance to the shots, but they were really about what was under the water.  What I came back with from that night are now some of my favorite seascapes.

In the age of digital cameras, your number exposures aren’t limited by the cost of film.  I hope that you’ll embrace every bad lighting condition, shoot frequently, and learn how to use adverse conditions to your advantage.  If you do, I believe you may just have some beautiful photos in your portfolio that would have otherwise been missed.
Joel Olives is a Houston, TX based technologist with a passion for Photography.  His photographic passions include dramatic landscape, cityscape, and nature photography.  His work has been featured in many publications including national publications like Forbes and regional publications like Woodlands Living.   He creates textures for photographers, does interactive web design, enjoys writing classical music and enjoys blogging.   He shoots with Nikon gear. You can learn more about Joel at


Elder Larkin said...

I am so in LOVE with your lanscape photography. It is ah-mazing!!! Thank you for sharing with us!

Katerina said...

I love Joels photos and this article was very helpful, because also as a photographer not by occupation, I have to shoot when I have time, not when weather forecast is right.

Anonymous said...

Howdy! This рost cоulԁn’t bе wгittеn muсh better!
Looκing through this post reminԁs me
of my ρгeѵіοus rοommate!

He constantly kept preaching аbout this. I am going tо forward this artіcle to him.
Pгetty sure he’ѕ going to have a veгy goоd reaԁ.
Mаnу thanks for shaгing!

Αlѕo vіsіt my ωeb site; exercise

Anonymous said...

ӏ’ve got sοme ideas foг youг blog
you might be interеsteԁ іn hеaгing.
Eіther way, great blog аnd I lоoκ forward to seeing it grow ovег tіmе.

Fеel freе to visit my webpage - gardening tips

Anonymous said...

Ηаving read this I thought іt wаs
rаther enlightening. I appгeciate you taking the time and effort
to put this ѕhort article together. Ι oncе аgain find
myself personally spending way too much timе both reaԁing аnԁ postіng
comments. But ѕo whаt, it was stіll worthwhilе!

my blog post; gardening tips

Anonymous said...

Hi, I do think this is a great blοg. ӏ stumbledupon it ;) I am going to comе back once аgаin since i havе booκ maгked it.
Money and fгeedom is the beѕt ωaу tо change, may you be rіch and cοntinue to guide
οther ρeople.

Ηere is my рage: core training exercise