If you’ve ever cracked open a glossy magazine and wondered how the photographer was able to capture such a profound moment: a cheetah zooming across the plains; a striking sunset over a beach; or a city illuminated by lights at dusk. You could be the producer of that image: all it takes is hard work, dedication, and a few essential tips from an expert in the field. Nikon Ambassador, Deborah Sandidge is a professional photographer specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. “I love the experience of visiting new locations with endless photo opportunities to discover,” says Sandidge. “You can make your photo travel adventure more memorable with just a bit of planning and exploration.” Here are Sandidge’s top 5 tips to fast tracking your career in travel photography:
Research locations in advance to know what to expect, which lenses to bring, and to identify potential opportunity for creativity. I like to use Google Earth, maps, tide charts, weather apps and general location searches. Destination apps help identify great shooting locations. Pre-planning allows me to browse ideas for shots and learn about upcoming photo-op events. These sources also provide information for optimal time to shoot, navigation, and localized information, which is a huge time saver. Research also helps me plan which lenses I want to bring, as well as what other gear is needed, such as neutral density filters and a tripod.
Lens choices are key for interesting, storytelling narratives. I always travel with a wide-angle lens. With my Nikon Z cameras, I use the wide-angle Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens, which is amazing for capturing vast cityscapes and landscapes. I like to use a mid-range zoom, and the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens has proved essential when I need a little more reach. A telephoto zoom such as the NKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 lens enable me to move in for the detail shots. Depending on the location and subjects such as wildlife in Africa, I might bring a longer lens such as the NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6 lens.
Plan your Hero shots for the best time of day. When I travel, I like to shoot sunrise, all day and into the night. Each location can have a lot to offer no matter the shooting conditions, and it’s my job to take full advantage of the beautiful light, whenever I can find it. During my research, I’ll decide which location would be best at sunrise, sunset and the blue hour, and I’ll often plan a dramatic “hero” shot during this time. After the sun goes down, crowds dissipate, streetlights create dramatic shooting conditions, and it’s easy to find all kinds of interesting opportunities.
Move past the snapshot. One of the key things I try to think about as I’m out shooting is: How can I make this shot personalized and unique to the composition? I’ll often take an establishing shot, review it and see what works, what doesn’t work, and what can be improved. If an opportunity presents itself, I might use a long exposure to blur any clouds or people to create a more artistic shot. Narrowing the aperture while including a part of the sun can result in fascinating sunbursts within a photograph. I like to see “what happens” if I try a different shutter speed or aperture.
Gear considerations include what types of camera equipment and which tripod is best. If I’m shooting in rugged conditions like near the ocean, a heavier tripod is ideal. If I’m walking miles in a city, a lighter tripod is a better choice. Neutral density filters are essential to help control shutter speed. They can be used for video or slow shutter shots, such as creating a silky blur to rapidly moving water. Filters offer creative control when you’ve reached the limits of your camera and can help you imply motion in a static shot. Microfiber clothes, I can’t carry enough of them, and I always carry a small tactical flashlight.
Move around, change perspective and angles. Once I define my composition, I’ll look for alternative shots. This may mean changing my angle to capture the subject differently. Or, it might mean looking for a completely new vantage point to photograph from. For example, I located a historic church, and even with my widest lens I was unable to capture what I envisioned. However, scouting around allowed me to find a rooftop café that provided the wide vista that I wanted. I was able to include some vintage cars and a wonderful sky by simply changing perspective.