Our world is under a lot of pressure these days. This is true on either side of the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. I’m unsure what’s happening to be honest except everyone is beyond stressed and no one can say anything right. If you want an escape from the madness, there is a tiny little Buddhist Kingdom at the base of the mighty Himalaya Mountains called Bhutan. Some refer to Bhutan the Last Shangri-La.
You know you’re in a special place even before landing at the airport in Paro. Pilots skillfully navigate between massive mountain ranges as if they are meandering on a mountain road. It’s incredible. If you’re lucky enough to sit next to a window, you’ll have a delightful landscape show that you’ll never expect.
You’ll also know you’re in a one of a kind destination when you pick up your luggage from the one and only carousel in the airport terminal.
Your Bhutanese experience will only continue to get better day by day. What I’m really saying is you won’t have a bad experience in Bhutan. The Bhutanese are beautiful, peaceful and well beyond friendly. Their smiles will make you melt. Do keep in mind the Bhutanese enjoy their quiet so keep your Western voices down to a minimum.
Schedule your journey to Bhutan to coincide with one of the many festivals that take place throughout the year. You’ll be treated to traditional Bhutanese music and dancing. The most intriguing part of any festival is the display of devotion to Buddha and the Buddhist ceremonies that take place.
Typically, festivals take place at a town’s dzong, which in olden times were large fortresses. Today the dzongs are home to local government councils and offices. Besides the glorious Himalaya Mountains that surround you in almost any place you find yourself in Bhutan, the Bhutanese architecture is just as grand and incredible to see. Be sure to pay attention to the minute details as most buildings feature brilliant woodcarvings and intricate painting designs.
Allow yourself enough time to travel beyond Paro and Thimphu, the capital city. Once your driver takes you past Thimphu, you’re basically on Himalayan mountain roads. Believe me when I say – you’re in for a ride of a lifetime. There is no straight smooth road through the mountains but the scenery is well beyond anything you’ve ever seen. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find your head in the clouds as low clouds move in at dusk. For me, having my head in the clouds was surreal and one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
It was in Bhutan on the long uphill trail to Tiger’s Nest when I first realised selfies had grossly infected society. I was only a few hundred yards from the pinnacle when a youngish American tourist whipped out his phone and declared – “It’s time for a selfie.” Needless to say I was taken back and in disbelief that someone would think to take a photo of himself before considering he was at one of Bhutan’s most sacred sights. Since then, of course, selfies have become more than common and might I add more than annoying. Tiger’s Nest, however, remains a majestic sight and well worth the three hour trek it takes to reach it. You can’t be disappointed, nor will you be.
Consider these iPhone travel photography tips so you can capture the best possible travel photos during your next adventurous journey.
LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Few styles of photography grant solace to the wandering soul like landscape photography. It invites us to seek out the wild, lonely places of the world. It can also be challenging to do well.
SHOOT DURING THE GOLDEN AND BLUE HOURS
Any professional photographer will tell you that lighting is one of the most important elements to landing a great shot, and with landscapes the most superb lighting occurs during the golden and blue hours of the day. The golden hour is the hour just after the sun has risen or just before setting, when the light is warm, soft, and creating pleasant shadows. The blue hour is the hour just before dawn or just after sunset, when the light is fading but not yet fully dark. This is when some of the most glorious sunrise/sunset effects happen. It’s also the best time to photograph cities, as there is still light in the sky yet the lights in the city are also on. Both of these hours will make for stellar shots. Conversely, the worst time to shoot is at noon (unless it’s a cloudy day), as you’ll get some harsh, unwelcoming light.
INVEST IN A TRAVELER’S TRIPOD
Some of the most dramatic landscapes can only be captured with longer exposures. Blue hour, night time, and HDR photography will all need some form of camera stabilization, yet traditional tripods are both heavy and bulky. That’s where a traveler tripod comes in. Traveler tripods range from the small, flexible like the Gorilla Pod(which will fit in a small daypack), to the larger, near full-size tripods that are built light and collapse into a small bundle meant for traveling. Which tripod you choose to add to your travel photography gear will depend on your budget, photography style, and the types of places you like to travel to, but having one will open up huge vistas of photographic opportunity for you.
DON’T FORGET TO USE THE FOREGROUND
It’s often challenging to capture that beauty in a 2-dimensional photo without something in the foreground to help put things in perspective. Incorporating a strong foreground into your photo will not only give context to the larger scene, it will also lend a sense of depth to your image that can be the difference between a flat, boring snapshot and an exceptional photo. Look for leading lines, interesting rocks, hill formations, or even just flowers. Just make sure that the elements you want to be sharp are in focus (which might mean using a higher f-stop).
ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
If you love traveling, you’re probably not immune to the immense beauty that lies in some of the world’s human-made structures. Whether you like the technical aspects, the culture it represents, or just admire a fine building, it’s hard to avoid wanting to land some great architecture shots.
WATCH YOUR LINES
One of the most challenging aspects to photographing buildings is making sure the lines go where they’re supposed to. Often we’re looking up at architectural elements, and that can cause the vertical lines to start to converge, making the building look like it’s falling backwards. If you find this happening, try stepping back from the building or moving to a higher point of view. Also make sure you edit your photos in a program that fixes lens distortions. This will often clear up lines that you thought were straight but came out crooked once you’ve clicked the shutter.
DON’T FORGET THE HUMAN ELEMENT
Most travel photographers try to avoid having people in their architectural images, yet including them can really add a whole other dimension to your image. After all, buildings were designed for and by people, and if we really want to capture the spirit of a place, then it makes sense to see it from the perspective of those living and working in it. On a practical level, including people will lend a sense of scale and depth to the image.
EXPLORE THE DETAILS
If you’re looking for a more unique shot, trying capturing the individual elements of a building. There are often plenty of details and geometric patterns in even the simplest of structures, whether built in or a product of light and shadow. Notice how the lines interact with each other, how the light illuminates textures, where the shadows fall. A little bit of exploration might not only grant you some fantastic shots, but may also lead you to discover something new or interesting about the building’s construction or history.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Street photography and traveling are pretty much a match made in heaven. Wandering the streets of a strange town or city is one of the primary pleasures of traveling, and capturing the real-life stories of the streets can be some of the most meaningful photos you bring back.
FIND A GOOD SPOT AND WAIT
Contrary to popular thought, one of the most tried and true methods of street photography is to find an interesting spot, compose your shot, and spend time waiting for something interesting to happen. One of the early masters of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson, often waited hours for what he called “the decisive moment.” But whether you wait for half an hour while you sip a coffee or lie in wait for hours, you’ll probably find this style of street photography less invasive than other forms, as the subject will be entering your space, not the other way around. You’ll also be more prepared, which means more opportunity to land the shot successfully.
While capturing truly candid moments is at the heart of most street photography, it’s important to remember that not everyone wants their photo taken or to have their image bouncing around on social media. So while everyone in a public space may seem like fair game (which is legally true in the US), both individuals and cultures as a whole may not appreciate the “shoot from the hip” method or other forms of surreptitious photography. From focusing on the whole scene to creating a connection with your subjects, there are many unobtrusive ways to capture real life on the streets, and if you are in doubt about a shot, try and talk to people that are identifiable and ask their permission if you plan to publish it. It may not always be practical, but it something to consider.
HAVE YOUR CAMERA EASILY ACCESSIBLE
There’s nothing like seeing something amazing (or even merely interesting) happen directly in front of you and not being able to get your camera out in time to capture it. The solution? Always have your camera handy. If you’re not wanting to lug around a bulky DSLR, consider investing in a lighter camera—the best street images aren’t amazing because of their megapixels, but because of their content and composition. Conversely, if you love your DSLR, try investing in a camera bag that gives you super-quick access.
BE SURE TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT GEAR
Believe it or not, drones actually do come in a size that you can take with you on a trip, but you’ll need to do your research to find the one that’s right for you. The larger, more expensive ones will be able to take better photos, but tend to be, well, large. (And therefore hard to pack.) If you want one that fits in your bag, consider models like the DJI Spark or the GoPro Karma. Both are reasonably priced and can fit into just about any travel bag.
STAY CHARGED UP
Like with any electronic device, having enough battery power and some to spare can prevent a lot of mishaps. While a single battery can cover a lot of territory, it’s always a good idea to have at least one backup. This give you peace of mind. You’ll also want to remember any travel adapters or converters you’ll need for juicing up in other countries.
LOOK YOUR SUBJECT IN THE EYE
The eyes are a great place to focus your photos – whether you can see them or not! By focusing on the subjects eyes and capturing the light you help bring life to the image and if taking portraits of children get down to their eye level to produce a more natural shot (rather than them looking up). You can experiment with having your subject looking directly into the camera or looking at something beyond the camera to create a sense of intrigue, or removing the traditional ‘eye’ element completely whilst still focusing at eye level (below).
BACKGROUNDS AND FRAMING
The background can make a huge difference in a portrait shot. Bright colours, stark whites, muted blacks etc but the background doesn’t have to be everything. If you can’t find what you are looking to use try and incorporate branches or other natural elements in the foreground of the frame for a different effect. If you can’t find either, be sure to use a wide angle lens and a longer focal length to blur your frame so all focus still falls on your subject.
GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT
You’re allowed the break the rules of composition (shoot with reference to the rule of thirds) when it comes to shooting portraits. Placing your subject away from the middle of the frame can create a dramatic effect.