Travel Photography by Matt Draper

Travel Photography

By Matt Draper

Steve,

Your website is quickly becoming my favourite site, it is bookmarked on my Mac and I check it everyday as I am sure a lot of others do around the world. Your posts are informative, inspiring, humorous and the fact you always show a perspective from both sides shows most importantly that you are a down to earth dude that lets everyone have a say!

I sent you three photos that I had taken in Indonesia for the “Daily Inspiration” a few weeks ago, and as I sit in my 4 metre by 3 metre room in an iron ore mine in the middle of the West Australian desert counting down the months for my M9 and 35mm lux to be delivered (camera-less after selling my Canon set up to pay for it all), I decide to write a piece on travel photography that you may want to share with your faithful readers.

As I mentioned in my daily inspiration a few weeks ago, my name is Matthew Draper I am a 25 year old carpenter with a 2 week on 1 week off roster, this allows me to travel a lot which I am very grateful for.

I love photography; it has been my passion like many others for my entire life and my goal is to one day be a contributing photographer for National Geographic. (One of my photos is currently in the editor’s stockpile that I am very happy with)

Here are a few travel photography tips and some photos to go with.

I hope in any way at all it helps.

 

1) THE CAMERA, THE LENS, THE SET UP!!

Sure the M9 is the best travel camera around, the 7D is a quick focus/FPS master and the Canon 1D and Nikon DX series will give you more megapixels then you can poke a stick at. BUT nothing is stoping you from tacking a world-class travel photo with a compact or even disposable camera!

In saying this all of the photos taken below were shot from a 5D MKII and 24-70mm lens.

For image quality nothing will beat a fixed focal lens (35mm and 50mm being my favourite) BUT if you can handle using a bit of a slower lens something like the 24-70mm will compensate in how much of a wider range you can cover, especially when you are limited to how close you can get to a subject.

I found this one lens more then enough.

Know your camera! Study the manual before your trip, get use to focusing manually, using different modes and techniques to draw limited amounts of attention, be happy with the lens you choose to take and limit the weight of your set up.

I hated the size of the 5D, however I took it with me everywhere! to the beach, in the bush, in the rain, in the crazy heat, around my neck on a scooter or even under the seat between my backside and the engine, it handled everything! I always had it wrapped in a nice cloth and tried to minimise the size of the bag I took it in.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your camera EVEYWHERE you go when traveling! Always try to have a fully charged spare battery, a spare memory card, and any protective covers (I recommend a polarised filter) you can put on your lens or camera LCD. In a foreign country you never know what you are going to come across and/or when it is going to happen.

 

2) THE HUMAN SUBJECT

My favourite travel photos are those of the people of the country.

I feel it is important to treat locals or anyone in that matter you are taking a photo of just how you would like to be treated.

It is amazing how much more comfortable a person will feel if you learn even the smallest amount of their language and approach them with a smile and gentle greeting, sure there are times when we point shoot and run but a small conversation and shown interest will get you that much more of a pleasant subject.

A comfortable subject will give you a tighter crop; more time to compose or adjust settings on your camera and will give you a photo with a personal connection.

Remember to respect different cultures and religions; sometimes a gentle tap on the head or touch of hand can be disrespectful to others.

Don’t be scared to ask people to stand or pose in a certain way and always remember a few dollars in some countries can help someone get by for days.

 

3) POPULAR PLACES

Everyone has seen a picture of the Eiffel tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Great Wall of China but nothing ever really prepares us for the share ore of these sights when you get to see them IN REAL LIFE!

After you have sucked it all in and taken your happy snap under the Las Vegas sign or standing beside the Taj Mahal don’t be afraid to spend sometime getting a whole different prospective of the landmark.

Walk around it, take a photo of someone taking a photo of it, take a photo of the landmark in a window or sunglass reflection, through the hole of a fence, when the weather is out of control or even from the hot dog stand out the front.

Research your favourite photographer and/or the landmark and get some inspiration.

Think outside of the box and you may be quite surprised with what you can achieve with your own imagination and something that has been seen a million times before.

 

4) DOCUMENT

I like to take a small note pad with me, sometimes a little story of the person or place you have just shot can really be the icing on the cake to an award winning photo.

I try write the date, name of the person, name of the street or suburb and a little about them or the location.

This also aids as a bit of a travel journal which you can always look back on.

Try to get the spelling right and if you are in a rush just write a few simple facts down which you can come back to later and edit into a masterpiece caption.

 

5) BE BRAVE

If you have embarked on a journey your adventurous side is already oozing!

Be brave, get lost, walk down an alley way, past the well know tourist attractions to a local sports match or even an industrial area, this is where the real people are.

I travel on my own, this allows me to gain entry to certain places a group of people may not be welcome. I always take a local with me to certain areas I am cautious of. (it doesn’t take long to get talking to someone who is willing to show you crazy or amazing things they know of around the corner)

Get amongst it! If you are at a temple, in a cock fighting ring or knee deep in fish at a market talk to the people that work there get an idea of what it is like from their perspective, have fun and smile you will be surprised with how much closer you can get or the better treatment you will receive when it comes to pulling out your camera.

BE SAFE Always tell someone you know or trust (even someone behind the desk of your accommodation) a general idea of where you will be going for the day and what time you anticipate you will return.

Research the roads or area you will be going to and a clear way of how to get back to where you started if something happens to go wrong. Maybe take a cell phone if you have one and some I.D but never be too naïve, if something doesn’t feel right go with your gut feeling.

Next year I am off to south east Asia followed by Bangladesh, India and then Russia, I have been dreaming of spending a week photographing the ship breaking in Chittagong in Bangladesh, every post I have read on the internet says how much of a mission it is to be granted access but this is not going to stop me, I will arrive with my smile and M9 and see where I get.

 

These were just a few tips I thought I would share with everyone.

Thanks for reading, remember have fun and always be respectful.

I hope you enjoy the photos below. They were taken on my last trip to Bali, Indonesia

Thanks,

Matty

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15 Comments

  1. Hi Matthew
    Nice piece with lots of good advice and some great travel pics, especially the bat and the praying people (but I would consider cropping the 1st person out for more impact)

    I think your comment about getting someone ‘local’ on board is solid advice and I intend to do more of that on my next trip.

    I look forward to seeing what you get up to with your M9

    • Hello Neil, I just checked out your site, some very nice work there!!!!
      Love the first photo of your “street photography”
      I have posted below another pic from the praying, maybe its a little better 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!,
      Where is your next travel?, and where are you based?

      Matty

      • Sorry can’t post pic as I don’t have a URL for it…. it’s on my computer but not on the net…

  2. Thanks for everyones comment so far!
    Thanks Steve for posting it, means heaps!!!
    Ashwin I am very happy you checked this out!! I have your photo blog bookmarked on my computer, your photos are AMAZING and they inspire me very much.

    “Stephen B” you are so right on the two different ways to capture foreign subjects!

  3. those colorful chicks i see from time to time, and never occurred to me to take pics of ’em. sometimes it takes a stranger’s perspective to appreciate what we take for granted 🙂

  4. Lovely shots and a great attitude. The eternal question of how to capture foreign subjects and whether to be the silent and invisible observer or the involved participant. Both have their pros and cons but also I think either can work depending on the type of person. Some are masters of being involved but not influential (usually takes a significant investment of time to build trust) and others of being invisible and therefore not intimidating. The proof is in the photos ultimately. These are very nice.

  5. Thanks for all of your comments so far! Ashwin I was hoping you would check this out, your photos are ANAZING and I have your photo blog book marked.
    I would have loved to come take part in the work shop you and Steve are holding.

  6. Very nice article and lovely pics, Matty. I pretty much agree with most, if not all, of what you have said, and having done my share of travel, I think it is sound advice….

    • Thanks for the great comment Ashwin, I wish I had the time to come over and attend the cinema that you and Steve are doing.
      I would love to maybe get some tips on India off you sometime, as I am keen to spend a few months there next year and your photos from there are beautiful!.

  7. for a 25y/o carpenter, you own very expensive equipment, travel and spend a lot.. glad on you for enjoying life.. wish i could do that.. i’m sure everyone does..

  8. Great article, Matt. Thanks for sharing. You’re correct, people in a particular country will be more open when you take the time to learn a local phrase or two.

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