USE A FIGURE IN THE LANDSCAPEI love to create pristine landscape images of wild places and always seek out these shots during my travels. On my recent trip to the Atacama Desert, landscape images were abundant. After shooting dramatic storm scenes over the Valle de la Luna, I realized adding a person to the image would help the shot. The rugged landscape was so vast that it was hard to get a sense of scale without any people in the image. I took another image of the desert with a hiker watching the sunset from the canyon rim. By adding a person in the image, the massive scale of the landscape was better illustrated.
WATCH FOR EMOTIONPeople respond to emotion. Imagine a child's face when they get an ice cream cone—you smile just thinking about it. Or imagine how determined a runner is during a race. Viewers empathize with subjects showing emotion, and images capturing emotion catch our attention. Capturing emotion isn't always easy, but it's worth the extra effort.
DON'T BE SHYI'll admit I sulk away from some images during my travels. I'll see an interesting person to photograph on the street, but just convince myself they wouldn't like their picture taken. The next moment a friendly workshop participant goes up and talks with the same person, and winds up taking some of the best images on the trip!
You may get turned down by some subjects, but you'll never know if you don't ask. If I have time, I like to chat with a person before I bring out my camera; everyone feels more comfortable this way. If you're limited on time, ask or gesture to take someone's picture, and if they say no, then just walk away. More often than not, people don't mind having their picture taken.
LOOK FOR SIGNSPhotographing local signs accomplishes two things. First, it helps you remember details and facts about the place you're photographing. I photographed a lot of Moai statues on Easter Island, and many sites had signs describing the significance of the location. This helped me later with my captioning and remembering which Moai site it was. Second, sign photographs help viewers learn more about the area by literally telling them with words where they are and what's happening.
Travel photography is one of my favorite subjects. New sights, sounds and smells put your creativity into overdrive, and most photographers go wild shooting when they first arrive at a new location. Just remember to settle down, follow these tips and create a stunning portfolio of images. Get ready to knock your audience out of their seats at your next slideshow!
Tom Bol is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer based in Colorado. Visit www.tombolphoto.com.