Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

Patience is key to travel photography

June 30, 2002


When it comes to travel photography, the expression "patience pays" applies. If you don't have patience, you'll miss some good travel photo opportunities. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

When I travel, I like to look for an interesting scene, and then wait for someone to walk into it.

I recently tried that technique while shooting on a small island in Kuna Yala, Panama. I saw an interesting setting a narrow, sandy road lined with large, thatched houses. While I was leaning on a building, I framed the scene and waited for someone to walk down the road.

After several minutes, a Kuna woman, dressed in her colorful traditional clothes and carrying a baby, walked slowly into the scene. I took a few shots as she walked toward me.

Because I was shooting with a digital camera, I was able to show her the pictures, which she appreciated.

If you want to try that lay-in-wait technique, here's a tip: Keep both eyes open when you look through the viewfinder. That way, you'll be able to see what is in the viewfinder and what is happening outside of the frame.

Another example of how patience pays off: When you see someone you want to photograph, spend some time with him or her before you shoot. Ask a few questions simple stuff like "What's your name?" Have a conversation. Take your time. Tell the person where you are from and why you want to take their picture.

After you feel the person is comfortable with you, begin your photo session. Remember that as the person's comfort level increases, so does your chance of getting good pictures.

For landscapes, cityscapes and seascapes, you often need patience to get a good picture. Sometimes, you need to wait for just the right light.

For me, that frequently is in the early morning and late afternoon, when the color of the light is "warmer" and more pleasing, and when shadows are longer and more dramatic. In addition, you have to wait for all the elements in the scene to be in place.

I have waited for a long time for a car or truck to move in or out of a cityscape. I've waited for more dramatic clouds to roll into a landscape scene or for the sky to clear. I've waited for the sun to get lower in the sky to get a nice reflection off the ocean. And I've waited and waited and waited for wild animals to move into the light from the shadows, or to get involved in some natural activity, or to look directly into my lens.

Most of the time, that waiting and patience has paid off.

Rick Sammon is the author of 21 photography, nature and conservation books.

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