04/04/2017

Ambitious Travel Photography

Travel photography is sometimes a topic of controversy. On the one hand there is a growing interest in travel and street photography. However, images of people from poor developing countries are from time to time being discredited. Sometimes people even use the term "voyeurism" in this context. There is also a debate whether families of western industrialized countries would like being photographed in their own front yards by African or Asian people.

Myanmar (Burma), U-Bein Bridge...

Typically, travel photography is a mixture of landscape photography, cultural photography, street photography and travel portraits. The group of tourists who capture cultural events or famous buildings mostly via the smartphone while shooting countless photos will certainly not count to the group of ambitious travel photographers. Travel photographers are usually more amateurs than professionals. The professionals in this field are often specialized as landscape photographers, wildlife photographers or photojournalists. Of course it might be a good idea that travel photographers sell their images via Getty Images or comparable online stock platforms. But nevertheless travel photographers who live exclusively from their photographic work are rather more the exception.

Street photography and travel portraits

The most sensitive areas of travel photography are street photography and travel portraits, especially when children are involved. But the question mentioned at the beginning, who likes to be photographed in his own front yard, is actually not correct. The better question would be why do travel photographers prefer to take pictures of people in foreign developing countries rather than in cities or villages of their own industrialized countries. There are basically two reasons for this. In many densely populated countries, such as India, Bangladesh, or in countries of South-East Asia, privacy is perceived completely differently compared to highly developed countries. In addition, it is much easier to photograph people in developing countries because the “right in one’s own image” has almost no relevance. In these countries, it is quite normal when locals publish “selfies” with tourists on Facebook without permission. Of course there are also more conservative countries, especially in Africa, who deal with travel portraits less openly. But this has either religious reasons (Arabic states) or they are afraid that the tourists might make a lot of money with the pictures of local children by selling them to glossy magazines.

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08/15/2016

Madagascar: From Morondava to Tuléar and Anakao

When you visit Madagascar you quickly realize that travelling around is not that simple, especially if you prefer round trips or off the beaten tracks. Distances are long and public transportation in rural areas is poor. Sure, it is quite simple to reach let's say Fianarantsoa from Antananarivo in one day, and the taxi-brousses on these roads, mainly Mercedes Sprinter, are quite comfortable. On the other hand, the trip from Tana to Morondava is an exhausting 17 to 18 hours drive, mainly at night, and sometimes when the car breaks down the trip can even take more than 20 hours. But there is no doubt - the real adventure starts where the public transportation ends!

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Madagascar offers many opportunities for off the beaten tracks, particularly along the coast. A good example is the trip from Morondava to Tuléar. True, with your own 4x4 you can do the trip in 3 or 4 days via Manja. The nightly taxi-brousse from Morondava to Tuléar is only advisable if you can catch a seat in the driver's cabin of the truck. The real challenge is to follow the coastal line by a mix of pirogue, taxi-brousse and fishing trucks. However, if you choose this adventurous trip you better bring a lot of time! There is no continuous road along the coast, river crossing often requires a detour and public transportation only exists on certain part of the coastal road. Sailing pirogues strongly depend on the wind and fishing trucks, well, according to Bradt Travel Guide it is quite a "stinky journey", and after the trip in the truck you need an urgent laundry for your clothes as soon as possible :)

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07/11/2016

Travel Photography: Tips and Tricks for High Contrast Scenes

It's summer, time for travelling and also peak season for nature and travel photography. Digital cameras are still getting better and better and easier to use. However, sometimes it is quite disappointing that a picture such as a historic city alley either is partly underexposed with huge dark shadow areas, or the roofs and the sky are extremely overexposed. Although it is possible to review the image immediately in the display on the camera, the problem can often only be addressed at home in the post-processing workflow, and then it might be too late to fix the image in order to get a beautiful photograph.

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Many travel and landscape photography pictures have very high contrast. "Dynamic range" is the term for the range of light intensity from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights and it is measured in "exposure values" (EV), also commonly called "stops". Our eyes are able to adapt to see high contrast scenes but the dynamic range of the sensor of a digital camera is limited. Unfortunately the dynamic range of monitors, photographic paper or print is even more limited. A dynamic range of an image of about 8 to 9 EV is usually no problem. Experienced photographers can handle dynamic ranges of 10 to 11 EV quite well with exact exposure settings and with the help of calibrated monitors. But what about high contrast scenes with a dynamic range of 14 EV and higher? In particular landscape photography offers a wide range of high contrast scenes: idyllic sunsets by the seaside, backlit photography or scenes in high mountain regions.

An important rule in photography is to avoid high contrast in the first place. Many professional landscape photographers shoot only early in the morning or between late afternoon and evening because the light is much softer. Long shadows can be avoided when the sun is at the back of the photographer. Foreground subjects in backlit photography should be placed in front of a dark background because the high contrast can only be recognized as a small light fringe around the foreground subject. Long shadows might be wonderful for creative photography, but the final picture should offer enough details in dark shadow areas as well. The dynamic range of a scene can be simply reviewed with the help of the brightness histogram on the rear screen of the camera or manually calculated with contrast measurement. If the dynamic range of a scene or subject exceeds 10 or 11 EV the photographer should probably try out one of the following approaches.

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