No matter if you are a travel photographer or an enthusiast tourist, nobody is happy to go back home with just a bunch of dull pictures. It’s quite frustrating to look at those images and realise they don’t reflect the emotion and the atmosphere you experienced in that particular moment. Still, this is a very common circumstance.
To avoid this frustration and get the best out of your travel experiences the most important tip probably is: plan it!
Plan it in advance as much as possible. Gather the information about what you are going to visit, check the opening hours, how to get there, what’s in the surrounding, read other people reviews check the forecast, sunrise and sunset times, look at other photographers’ pictures and don’t forget to take advantage of services like Google maps and street view.
Well, if you’ve done all of that, your chances to be satisfied with your pictures, and overall experience, are starting to increase. Which is great!
A bit of experience, good technical skills, and a trained “photographic eye” will do the rest of the trick. Don’t be scared, it’s way easier than what it seems. The most important thing to do is to start off on the right foot: Plan it!
And if you don’t know from where to start with your plan, there are plenty of valuable resources around the web. One among all: Jimmy McIntyre. He is a terrific travel photographer, a brilliant communicator, and is blog is a precious source of inspiration for any photo enthusiast on this planet. Here you can find 32 of his tips on how to plan for landscape photography.
Many of them have been an essential part of my workflow for long, like the ones I considered while planning for this shot, which I am going to share.
- Plan for it.
I use an app called the photographer ephemeris, a map-centric sun and moon calculator. Thanks to it I knew that in summertime the sun sets just in front of the Giant’s Causeway, so I planned my trip here accordingly. This also leads us to our the next tip:
- Include a strong light source.
A strong light source can add depth and contrast to the scene, attract the eye of the observer, highlight the texture of other elements present in our image while “bathing” them with light beams. Overall, it enhances the mood of our photograph. A sun setting or rising, or the bright sky just after a sunset, or before sunrise, are some invaluable natural sources of strong light which can really make your photographs “pop”.
- Don’t forget the Foreground.
A mistake I’ve made many times. Being so captured by a gorgeous background, maybe a sunset, and take a pictures of it, forgetting the foreground. The result is usually an image which lacks of depth, and lose much of its impact. Add strength to your images including an interesting foreground. In this case it was utterly important, since the peculiar hexagonal pattern of the basalt columns is what makes this place unique, and you definitely want to highlight it in your picture.
- Capture water movement.
In the same way as light, water can strongly influence the mood of your image. Capture a choppy, rough sea with a short exposure time if you want to show the power of this element, or play with a longer exposure to “flatten” the sea’s surface, as I did here to let the rocks and the “pipe organ-like” structure of the causeway stand out more.
- Don’t forget the Blue hour.
The golden hour may be that “perfect” moment of the day for a photographer, whit is gorgeous and warm light. But don’t underestimate what the blue hour can look like. It often carries some magical atmosphere to the scene, and can give a dramatic mood to your images even after a dull sunset. Besides, you’ll be probably one of the few photographers around by that time (if not the only one), which is gorgeous if you want to capture the wilderness and loneliness of some landscape or seascape. That’s what I’ve done here; there were dozens of people walking on these basalt columns just before sunset. Not even an hour later I was left alone, and the majesty of the scenery seemed to be magnified in its wilderness.
- Look at the histogram.
The histogram shows the amount of pixels of particular brightness in your photograph, ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). Looking at it you may have a precise idea of “what’s going on” in your picture regarding the exposure. If your histogram is “touching” the left edge, you are probably clipping the highlight (losing details in the most bright areas of your image). If it is “touching” the right edge, you’re clipping the shadows. Either case can be usually fixed adjusting the exposure settings. In my case, the histogram showed that I was clipping the highlights. Underexposing a bit I got back all the details in the sky.
- Shoot with post-processing in mind.
Very rarely I’m satisfied with my pictures as they come out of my camera. Most of the time there is some fine-tuning to do and some details to correct in “post-production”. Personally, I think that editing an image is as much important as actually taking it and, with some practice, can also be good fun! Therefore, when I shoot, I do it thinking how I will then edit the image. In this case I had to underexpose it deliberately to get as many details in the sky as possible. The foreground would have been too dark then, but I knew Lightroom has a very powerful tool to bring out the details and fine tune the exposure selectively in the shadows, so I could take my shot, confident it would have looked as I wanted after some basic editing.
Do you have any other tips you follow when you plan for your photography? Please share it here in a comment!
Location: Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland – UK.
Coordinates: 55°14′27″N 6°30′42″W