If we use the Top Travel Photo Ops destinations in Part I as examples of typical travel destinations, you can learn some specifics about what travel photos will sell. The first step, starting weeks or more in advance, is to do research. What are the best seasons to visit for weather and events? Possible to connect with any one there to help find a good guide or translator/driver if the situation requires? If you want your images to stand out, you are going to have to forgo shooting the backs of heads. The most desired images have released people, both tourists and residents, engaged with the camera. Refer back to this earlier blog for some good references.
A local person can help you the most to smooth those initial conversations to convince someone to let you take your pictures and get the releases signed. Use your connections. Sometimes there are even fewer than six degrees of separation from us all even when trying to find a contact on another continent. Tell everyone in your blogs or other networking sites where you are planning to travel. Ask everyone from your grandmother to the barista that fixes your morning java shot who they know in that place. You’d be surprised at the connections you might make.
Not only are trends in travel spots indicators, so are other social developments. Travel is all about green this year; consider how environmental sensitivity might impact destination photography in other ways. TripAdvisor’s annual travel survey was reported in the Travel Industry Wire: ‘Twenty-six percent of respondents said they will be more environmentally conscious in their travel decisions in the coming year. The green trend may be evident in their choice of transportation -- 22 percent said they'll go biking while on vacation this year, compared to 13 percent, last year. Forty-seven percent of travelers plan to go hiking this year, up from 43 percent, last year’. Include bikes and hikes in your shooting plans, for certain. (No more hikers/bikers shot from behind unless they are headed toward a great scenic.)
Using a Nicaraguan popular destination as an example: you’ll want to drive through sweeping rainforests and visit its famous surfer beaches. If you shoot from the beach, use a long lens or max zoom. A tiny surfer in the image isn’t going to say, “surfer” nor will it compete with stronger close-in images. When boards are in the shot, ensure that the trademarks and copyrighted art on the board are not visible or remove in post. Step up closer and if the lens can’t zoom in enough to capture the action and the emotion focus on something else.
Take shots as you pass through agricultural areas. Nicaragua’s main agricultural crops are coffee, cotton, sugar, and bananas. These type of images are useful in textbooks and for non-tourist related uses.
In Guatemala a ‘must photograph’ region is the Lake Atitlan area. Author Aldous Huxley famously described this lake as ‘the most beautiful lake in the world’. In the blue image of the lake here, we have the best of scenic destination images: a famous location, great mood and terrific composition with the isolated fisherman off center. On the shores of the lake is the Nature Reserve of San Buenaventura. The Reserve is committed to encouraging and preserving the vast biodiversity found there. There are butterfly and bird refuges on the site. With luck and planning you will get images of tourists in an important ecological tourism location and also document them observing colorful animals.
Now that globalization has imposed identical styles of clothing and kinds of food, across the world, handicrafts and indigenous art are gaining in popularity. Not only are displays of handmade goods icons of a culture, they often present colorful graphic displays. Visit the best markets for native handicrafts and steer clear of the real tourist traps. You will usually be able to determine which is which by asking around. Engage the people around you in conversation. Ask the waiter, the bus driver, the guy who rents bikes where they go to shop for fresh food. It may be a supermarket but you may instead discover an open air market off the beaten track. I always look for hardware stores. In fact the people in hardware stores seem to know where to find almost anything in my experience.
End of Part II. Next: why you should know how to shoot snow in Dubai and those promised travel photography references.