Everyone thinks they can take a good photo nowadays. With the emergence of smartphones with ridiculous amounts of megapixels, a new iPhone with studio photography lighting, filters, Instagram and selfies, everyone thinks they’re David Bailey. However, there is a real art in taking a photograph. Sure, you could whip on a noir filter to give your shot a bit of a moody undertone, but if it’s a picture of your dog lying on his back in front of the fireplace in your living room, what’s the point? You need to seek out the experiences that are truly worthy of documenting through photography. This is why travelling and photography go hand in hand.
Photography started out with film. Yes, film! Tell a millennial about the humble film canister and reel, and they’ll look at you like you’ve just landed on the planet. Fast forward a hundred years and everything is digital. The skill has been ripped away from the photographer meaning that anyone and everyone can whip out a camera or phone, snap away and the image that appears on the screen will inevitably look half decent. So how does the artistry come back into photography? If you’re a big fan of travel photography, then the chances are that you may have an actual camera rather than a smartphone. The manual controls that an SLR camera can give you still allow the photographer an element of artistry. You can control the aperture, the light, the shutter speed and the exposure. Each of these elements can alter the tone and feel of a shot. Coupled with the need to structure the composition, lighting and depth of field, means that any budding photographer can still head off to far-flung destinations and capture the most incredible memories through the lens of their camera.
If you adore photography and love nothing more than hot-footing it to new, exciting and wonderful destinations to immerse yourself in different cultures and enjoy new vistas and scenery, then take a look at the ultimate destinations that every budding travel photographer should aim to visit.
If you’ve never considered Iceland to be a destination that you might wish to travel to because it’s simply too cold, you should think again purely for the magical and ethereal vibe of the island. This is the land of fire and ice, where Vikings eat pickled herring for breakfast and where the vast majority of the population believe in elves. Iceland is a wonderful nation full of diverse, extraterrestrial like landscapes, incredible people and weird and wonderful cuisine.
For the budding travel photographer, Iceland is a haven of geographical wonders and scenery to explore. You can practice your action shot skills with a perfectly composed image of the island’s most spectacular geyser. You’ll need to hone your white balance skills with countless images of Gullfoss waterfall, frozen in time as the temperature slips further and further away from zero. You might even wish to venture to the unique spot on the island where two tectonic plates meet. It’s possible to straddle both.
If nature photography is more your thing, why not head out on one of the many boat tours and find your sea legs. Opportunities for observing humpback and fin whales flipping mid-air and crashing back into the sea are plentiful. While a Holga filter may look pleasant on an image of a sea eagle swooping down to catch a fish, there’s no way you can blow this image up, so it is sharp enough for a large canvas. You can’t upload it to Adobe Photoshop and make some sophisticated edits to the shot so that the white balance is even and the shadows don’t detract from the subject of the image. The flexibility that a camera can give a photographer is immense and requires infinitely more skill than a smartphone.
The ultimate triumph of any Iceland trip is witnessing the Northern Lights. For this, only an SLR will do. The exposure times needed to capture the green hues flashing across the night sky are simply impossible with a smartphone. The closest you can get to the naked eye is an SLR, and this is what you need to accommodate the stunning natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis. Even with a digital SLR, capturing the splendour of the Northern Lights isn’t easy and requires the expert use of aperture control, knowledge of how to implement a long shutter speed, and a steady hand. If you ever make a jaunt to Iceland, be sure to have your trusty SLR with you.
If you’ve never ventured to the Far East, Malaysia could be the ideal introduction to the region. With phenomenal scenery, awesome landscapes, bustling cities and exceptional cuisine, Malaysia is a hot pot of photo opportunities. Your best bet is to spend an extended period of time in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, rent a townhouse for a few weeks to save on hotel expenses and settle in for a photographic adventure.
Kuala Lumpur itself is manic. Forever busy, the capital city has the most iconic landmarks to photograph. To marvel at the scale of the Petronas Towers and capture their sheer size in a single image is no mean feat. With sunlight flooding every shot, it can be hard to strike the perfect balance between composition and lighting. You could also check out the urban landscapes from Kuala Lumpur Viewing Tower. By getting up high and taking in the cityscape in all its glory, you can get some sublime awe-inspiring shots.
If you have had your fill of gritty urban landscapes and shiny new architectural wonders, you might be keen to head out of the city and venture to the Batu Caves. A whole different photographic experience awaits as you attempt to alter the manual controls of your camera to take into account the low lighting. You may need to swap your kit lens for a more nuanced lens that allows in the maximum amount of light possible to account for the near darkness. Attempt to use flash, and your shots could be ruined, so it’s up to you to hone your skills with aperture and ISO.
Set into a limestone hillside, you get to venture deep underground to marvel at the 400 million-year-old formations, set foot inside an ancient temple and take some amazing shots of the golden idols that adorn the area. The photography you compile from Malaysia will range from the urban and gritty to the most colourful and scenic. This nation of contrasts will be reflected in the portfolio that you end up with on your return.
If you want to take a trip to the Far East, but you’re not sure about which destination could really challenge your photography skills, then why not consider the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan has the sprawling metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka, but also the peace and tranquillity of ancient rural feudal towns that are still in existence today. The contrast between old and new is very much a theme in Japan. You could take some of the most incredible busy shots of downtown Asakusa in Tokyo, the Dotonbori area of Osaka and the riverside traditions of Kyoto.
At the same time, there’s nothing stopping you from having your own secluded Robinson Crusoe type moment. By heading out to the more remote island of Miyajima, you can capture wild deer, scale Mount Misen to arrive at the peak’s temple and enjoy the spectacle of a floating shrine. Because Buddhism and Shintoism are so ingrained in Japanese culture, you will have ample opportunities to explore the serene temples, shrines and halls. While you may not be able to take photographs out of respect, you will be able to observe Buddhist ceremonies, marvel at the wonder of the giant Buddhas and explore the beautiful oriental gardens are strewn across these temple complexes. Historical buildings such as castles are dotted across Japan. By touring the breadth of the country and compiling a photo journal, you’ll be able to document the old and the new, the hustle and bustle and the serene, and the religious and the secular.
Travelling and photography are the perfect marriage. While you are taking a foray overseas, your trusty camera acts as your eyes and your brain, capturing the memories that you warrant particular significance. While in the midst of travelling, you can become immersed within a culture and you can worry about holding onto every moment and remembering every experience. By taking candid shots with your camera, you can enshrine a memory into an image. Using digital technology, this can be stored and saved forever. Your travel photography will be a hugely personal documentation of your experiences but can be appreciated by all. Next time you’re planning a travel adventure, why not scratch that wanderlust itch with one of these awe-inspiring destinations.