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September 2019

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Isn’t it amazing how far mobile phone cameras have come in such a relatively short time period?   If you’re a Millennial or a Generation Z-er, your first mobile phone probably was 8MP or greater.   The technological advancements made over the last years is no big deal to you.

I’m Generation X and my first mobile phone didn’t have a camera at all and I thought texting was out of this world. Seriously, I could type a message and send it through the airwaves to my friends and they would reply?   That was wild.   And then a year or so later I could also send a pixelated photo via an MMS?   That was state of the art and almost Jetson’s like.

taking travel photos with mobile phone

I remember working at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens and sending photos of the opening ceremonies as they happened back to dusty West Texas.   That was way cool and the person to whom I sent the images couldn’t believe they were seeing the ceremonies before the Games were televised in the United States.

Mobile phone cameras changed so much of every day life for everyone.   In fact, the digital age slammed professional photographers and not in a good way unless you’ve known how to quickly adopt new technology and adapt.  The internet and mobile technology put a lot of photographers out of business.  No joke.

I’m a traditional travel and art photographer.   This is my life and my professional life.  One of the requirements of being a professional photographer is to carry around a lot of photography gear.   Getting the right shot with the right camera and lens is important when shooting for books or magazines.  It is possible for me to carry around 40 lbs or more in my backpack depending on the camera with which I choose to travel.  

Like most people, keeping life simple is ideal.  I am one to simplify travel so life is easier and I don’t fumble changing lenses or even deciding which lens to use.   Before I leave my studio I know which camera and lenses I’ll use so I’ll only carry that and I leave everything that’s unnecessary behind.   Why needlessly overload, right?

taking photo with dslr camera

I also know where I’m going and I know what I’m interested in with regard to the images I want to capture.   I research ahead of time so I’m not completely blind or oblivious to what I’ll find when I reach a destination.  What are the best architectural features?  What is the lighting like for the landscape I want to capture?  When will I run into the least amount of people?    All these things I know before heading out the door.

There are always unexpected moments I’ll find no matter where I go and no matter the amount of research I’ve done ahead of time.  And sometimes, the unexpected moments and finds are the best photo opportunities.   What I’ve discovered is sometimes it takes too long to lift the camera, turn it on, adjust the proper settings, focus and click the shutter.   A moment that happens in an instant is long gone by the time I have my camera ready to shoot.   Candid and spontaneous moments missed.

It is my job to think and act in an instant as a travel photographer.   And I do just that.  Today’s mobile phone cameras, especially Apple iPhones, make the oftentimes impossible possible.

When the cute kid looks quizzically at the horse guard and then looks at his mom and smiles a huge smile, I can capture both in an instant with the iPhone.   And when a tractor putters by on a Himalayan mountain road loaded with Bhutanese, I can capture their smiling faces and friendly waves with video without even thinking about it.

As technology improves and mobile phone cameras become something only a DSLR could do in the past, possibilites become endless.   Editing apps right on the mobile phone increase quality results even more.   I’m still amazed quite frankly and no doubt I’ll continue to be amazed for years to come.

Capturing Photo with DSLR Camera

Do I ever ditch the DSLR just for the iPhone?   No. I’m far too conventional and since my images are often published in magazines or books, I’ve no choice but to use a full frame camera or film.   I still love film and am a believer that film’s quality can not be matched.   The portability and convenience of the iPhone can’t be matched either.

And so what you see in the video presentation in recent blog posts , were all captured with a variety of iPhones.   The earlier images were captured with the iPhone 4.   I then graduated to an iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6s, skipped the 7, went briefly to an 8 and now use the iPhone X.   The latest models are simply incredible when it comes to photo quality.  What is interesting is with each model, I thought it was the best only to be blown away by the improved mobile phone camera capabilities.

The purpose of travel photography is to document your journey and experiences.  These images serve as memories that will last a lifetime, and it’s likely that you’ll want to share them with family, friends and your social media followers.  Can you submit mobile phone images to stock photography companies?  The answer is yes.  The quality of images from mobile phones as improved so dramatically, stock companies openly welcome them as stock images.

While the image resolution and quality might be higher on a DSLR or other high-end camera, the iPhone wins hands-down on portability and convenience.  What’s better than slipping something into your pocket and is so easily accessible?  

taking photo with mobile phone

Have you felt the London Vibe?

A few years ago I was on my way to a member’s club to meet friends when I stopped in a small corner store for a couple things.  I guess I had an odd look on my face as the store clerk asked “Are you ok mate”?  “Yeah,” I replied, “I’m just tired”.  He looked at me with a smile and said “Everyone in London is tired”.  I think the store clerk may be right.

London is a city full of energy.  Everything moves fast and furious.  You wake up, get ready for the day, step outside onto the pavement and before you know it, it is time for bed again.  Seriously, this is how it feels for me most days.  The days race by in what seems to be an instant.  March through September fly by and the next thing you know is the Christmas lights are switched on in Oxford Street.  It’s incredible.

Being in London is living.  I always say – I go to London to live life and I go to Texas to sit down and take a breath.  There is a rush of energy in London that can only be matched by New York City.  You can feel this lightning speed energy simply by walking down any London street.  You can’t look anywhere and not see something moving.  Everything is in motion it seems.

People are always in a hurry, waiters in restaurants move fast, cars zip by, and tall double decker buses zoom past one after another after another.  Lights constantly flash in your eyes. Motion doesn’t stop underground as “The Tube” stops at a platform every few minutes.  Nothing stops.  Commuters rush through underground tunnels like ants bringing home food to their queen.   It’s crazy.

Have you ever had a quiet moment on the streets in Central London?  I haven’t found one and I’ve been walking London’s streets for more years than I can count.  I remember being on Oxford Street on a Saturday once and literally having a panic attack.  I never have panic attacks.  That’s not me.  On that particular day, however, all I wanted to do was get away from the crowd and the noise.  Now I avoid Oxford Street at all costs and I’ve even found an alternative route when I head that direction.  Since that day I learned quiet is inside me and that’s a bit of comfort when I find myself in a tense London situation.

The fast paced energy of London is actually a good thing.  The vitality of the city makes you feel alive.  You might even find there to be an extra step in your skip so to speak.  It’s a good feeling, if not a bit exhausting.  I always think better and my creativity is sparked simply by being aware of my surroundings as I walk.

London is a city where you can be anonymous and even alone amongst a million people.  As long as you like yourself and can keep yourself company, being anonymous and alone is great.  I love it myself.  If you need constant attention and validation, you might find London a wee bit hard, cold and callous.  Can you imagine walking through a city so crowded as London and never speak to someone and no one speaks to you?  It’s interesting.

I like the anonymous bit to be honest.  It’s especially nice when I’m out with my camera.   I can get lost in London without being literally lost.  I zone everything and everyone out.  It’s me, my camera and London.  Sometimes I feel as if I have the entire fabulous city all to myself.   If anyone speaks to me, it’s tourists and not Londoners.  Tourists want to know what I’m doing or how to capture a great photo.  Londoners might glance over to see what I’m doing but mostly they could care less.  It’s great.  It’s brilliant and part of the London vibe.

London is not for the faint of heart.  If it’s rainbows and butterflies you’re looking for, go to the Rainforest Café.  When you want the vim and vigor of a city full of liveliness, step out onto to the streets of London.  

London will challenge you.  Challenge her back.  Walk with your head held high, look people in the eye, offer the odd smile and don’t let anyone tell you London is not for you.  London is for everyone of all walks of life.  She is especially great when you contribute to her energy.

At the end of the day when you go home and prop your tired feet up, or you return to your hotel exhausted on your bed, remember the day you had.  Rewind everything that happened during the day.  Remember all the sights, sounds and motion that engulfed your senses.  And when you’ve done all that, remember what a brilliant city London is.

No matter how, when, why or where you travel around the world you are sure to receive one of the best educations of your life.  The lessons you learn may be small and unnoticeable or they may be huge and life changing.

A foreign culture may make you realise something you didn’t know about yourself and sometimes even move you to tears.  My visit to Bhutan took me to a state of peacefulness I’ve not found anywhere in the Western world.  I can’t begin to describe the effect the tiny kingdom had on me except to say when I viewed photos and video from the journey, tears rolled down my cheeks.  It’s a mystery to me why the tears came even today.  All I know is Bhutan touched me beyond measure.

The taste of new food, aromas, colors and even travel sounds can leave an impression on you well after you leave a destination.  The sensory elements of travel may inspire you to add them to your own creative adventures in cooking or music or handicrafts.

You may be in awe of Big Ben or Mont Saint Michel glowing against the night sky.  Istanbul’s Blue Mosque or the Old Medina in Marrakech send your senses into sensory overload.  A sunset on a beach in the Caribbean or Bali may change the way you look at the world.

But most of all, it is the people you meet along the way who will touch you in ways you never though imaginable.  Maybe you’ll understand that we are all just trying to make it in this world.  We just happen to speak differently or pray a little different.  Inherently, we’re all good people.

And so when I wanted to show the many places I’ve travelled throughout the world, I decided to do it in one go in one epic video presentation which I’ve titled “Travel Around The World With The Gentleman Wayfarer.”  There are approximately 3000 photos in the fast-paced presentation that span all the way around the world.  The places and people I’ve included have impacted my life in one way or another.  This is my tribute to every one and every place that has made a difference in my life.

Travel with an iPhone or any mobile phone is very common today.  If you are keen to improve your travel photography skills, a mobile device is a great way to do it.  Phones are easily accessible, they fit in your pocket and you really don’t have to think too much.

Consider these iPhone Travel Photography Tips during your next journey.

1) Strengthen your travel photos with different focal lengths.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject.  Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.  And remember – one key element to great photo composition is filling your frame.

2) Keep Using Your iPhone in Low Light

Some of my favorite images have been shot well after the sun has gone down.  I love the challenge of low light photography.  In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

3) Be In The Moment But Also Think Ahead

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected.  Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens.   To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy An Unlocked iPhone So You Can Switch to Local SIM Cards.

Communication is super important while traveling.  If you’re roaming internationally, the cost can be astronomical.  Buy a local SIM card as it allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, while you’re on the go. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo.  The iPhone’s memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different photographs.  I use this feature as I don’t always remember the names of the places where I’ve taken photos.

5) Bring a Small Tripod

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the iPhone optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone optical zoom, amplifies camera shake.  You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a sharp clear shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle.  To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Upload Your Photos to the Cloud Daily

Thanks to a the iPhone’s water-resistant feature, you won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ecuador. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand.  It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.  I love mind and take it everywhere I travel.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray.  This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play To The Strengths of the iPhone

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone as a camera is its agility.  You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary DSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your DSLR at home and travel super light.  The iPhone  doesn’t replace your DSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you.  You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.