|Jarrad is an Australian-based photographer who has travelled the world shooting remote cultures, international rockstars and strangers on foreign streets. His worked has featured in exhibitions around the world and seen by millions worldwide.|
For many, one of the best ways to enhance the experience of travel is through photography. Travel allows us to see the world in a new way, burst that bubble of familiarity and throw ourselves into the unknown. It’s only natural to want to be able to capture those sights and feelings, both for our own memories and to share.
But I know more than anyone, how easy it can be to get overwhelmed when trying to capture stunning travel imagery. Popular places can be swarmed with tourists, the light can be too harsh and blast away those romantic details, and every photo you take seems just so *ordinary*.
Sometimes I find it helps to narrow down the parameters and focus in on specific ideas and techniques when it becomes a bit overwhelming. Here are a few ideas I often cycle through when I’m in new locations and low on inspiration.
Adding movement to a scene is a fantastic way to draw focus or create interest in an image that may be lacking so. This can manifest in a variety of ways. The key is to be deliberate with your shutter speed, and start slowing that down to allow motion blur to materialise. This could simply be other people moving in and out of shot while the subject stays in focus. Or perhaps some birds are flying past in the sky. Or a thundering waterfall create cascades of water. Life doesn’t stand still, so why should your photographs? The key to slowing down shutter speeds is by ensuring that you’re cutting down the amount of light that hits the sensor. In the middle of the day, this might be tough. So shoot in the early morning and dusk. A neutral density filter can act like sunglasses for your lens – using one of those bad boys will also help you take it to the next level and create something out of the ordinary.
Take the opposite perspective
Tourists flock together. All it takes is for a couple people with cameras to hang out in one spot, and soon enough you’ll find the entire mob following. I remember one hilarious situation in Yellowstone where one car stopped on the side of the road, which caused a chain reaction of cars to pull over at the same spot, all pulling out their cameras searching for the same photo opportunity, whatever it may be. The first guy then leaves (I submit that he wasn’t even stopping for a photo…), but everyone else is left behind, none the wiser, searching for the imaginary sighting. What I mean to say is, don’t be afraid to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Just because someone is shooting from a specific location, it doesn’t mean it’s the best one, or the one that’s right for you. When everyone walks left, walk right and see what you can find. You’ll have a different perspective, and less people around to cramp your style. And if you really get #fomo about that original shot, you can always give it a shot later.
Here in the Northern Territory, around 70 other tour guests walked in one direction… so we went the opposite and had this all to ourself.
Minimalism in nature
There’s nothing cooler than finding yourself alone in nature, off the beaten path with nobody else in sight. I particularly love emphasising this feeling of isolation and peace through the use of minimalist composition, combined with adding a human touch to the scene to draw focus and context. Sometimes you’ll find a few composition golden rules floating around, one of which is the rule of thirds (look it up!)… which I just love to break in these situations. By placing the point of focus well below the bottom third you can even further emphasise that insignificant feeling of being human amongst such grandeur. There’s time to follow rules, and time to break them!
Shoot early, shoot late.
I always get asked how I find myself in these amazing locations without anybody else in sight. Am I photoshopping people out pictures? Is it a secret spot nobody knows about? The answer is much more simple. I go when everyone else is asleep. It’s the most straightforward, easiest tip I can give you, though one of the most difficult to implement… I’m lazier than anyone I know and getting out of bed at 4am to get to a location before sunrise is torture. But that’s why you have to put in the effort – because nobody else will. Or alternatively, go after dark and shoot under the stars. The struggle is real, but the rewards are high. If you’re after unique travel photography, this is something you will need to drill into your methodology!
Shoot the rainbow
When options seem unlimited, this can actually hamstring you more than an agenda with parameters. One last method I use to kickstart creative inspiration is to break it down in colour – sometimes I try to craft my itinerary or shot list based around capturing the entire colour spectrum. I used this mindset when travelling around Namibia – where there were endless photo opportunities, so much so that I didn’t know where to start. So I broke it down into colour. Perhaps it’s the green of the savannah, the purple of the lightning and thunderstorms, the orange glow of sunset or the blue of the night sky. By focusing on colours and setting smaller goals I was able to come away with a kaleidoscope of travel imagery that truly represented the experience.