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Travel Photography: Curating the Content in Your Images, Including the Tourists!

What I'm Learning Now via CreativeLive: Travel Photography the Complete Guide with Ben Willmore

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This post is the third in a series of four. If you missed the first one, double-back here to get caught up. It's explains why I’m passionate about CreativeLive, and why I’m currently taking Ben Willmore’s Travel Photography: The Complete Guide class. The second in the series discusses Ben Willmore's sorting and processing style that will make going through your vacation photos a breeze. If you need to catch up on processing large amounts of photos, click to the second part here. I’m going to pick-up where I left off...

Dealing With Tourists
This subject grabbed my attention right away, and admittedly it was one of the first sessions I watched. Willmore presents some really great tips, all illustrated with examples from his own work. But, it gets even better, because included with the class purchase is a mobile-optimized, 35-page PDF guide, in a ‘done for you’ note-taking style with the photographic examples. It didn't take up that much space on my phone, and I've flipped through the pages like flash cards several times to refresh my memory. Old habits die hard!

Here are my four favorite tips that Willmore suggested for dealing with tourists:
1. Use the tourist to your advantage through their presence physically adding color or their placement in the composition.
2. Crouch down or move, solve your tourist-problem by getting physically flexible.
3. Compositing in Photoshop might be simpler for very popular spots, just keep your camera still and concentrate on where people move in order to be sure you have the entire scene necessary to successfully composite.
4. Patience. It’s hard when there are endless photo opportunities all around you, or if you have family members bored out their mind waiting for you to finish up. Sometimes, its worth it to be patient and wait out the crowd. If you do NOT have the time, see 1-3, knowing well that with #3, compositing in Photoshop, you’re going to be spending extra time editing. Is outlasting a crowd for five-ten minutes worth the time it would take to create the composite in Photoshop? You have to pick your battles.

Challenges in Shooting Architecture
One tricky topic Willmore brings up that I never noticed before, and now I can’t stop seeing, is distorted, small buildings. The fact that buildings are skewed/distorted with perspective I always assumed was out of my control. Not so! Apparently, its more the fact that personally as a short person I’ve been more likely to hold my camera at an angle to the straight angles of the buildings, where the distortion comes in. If I held the camera perpendicular to the buildings, the building lines would also be straight. This definitely poses a challenge for me as most of the buildings I enjoy shooting are much taller than I am, and the alleyways in Germany are so narrow its hard to back up far enough to keep the camera and the building perpendicular. Willmore offers a few solutions, one of which I’ve been working on implementing is trying to incorporate more than 1 side of the building. That way it doesn’t appear as though all of my buildings are falling backwards.

Willmore also explained the concept of ‘Visual Merging’, which is where objects in the foreground visually combines in your composition with your background. For me, this is another example of being mindful of the negative space objects create, but I hadn’t considered it in relation to travel photography. This trip, I’ve been consciously looking to see if foreground statues are separating enough from their backgrounds, and if they’re merging together I’ve tried Willmore’s suggestion of either shifting my position or switching my depth of field in order to solve the issue.

Local Subjects
My eyes sort of glazed over when Willmore discussed working with local subjects. For where I travel, predominantly Germany, local subjects are hard to come by, and even harder to become visually interesting as subject matter. Germans look and dress the same way, for the most part, as I do, and as I see in Florida every day. Even if you do see someone in traditional Bavarian clothing, chances are they’re not from Germany, but a visitor like myself. To be honest, I have a hard enough time getting my own family members to behave in front of the camera, going to a stranger to create a portrait isn’t in my realm of interest. It was interesting to hear how he (Ben Willmore) has an ongoing series with his wife doing yoga poses in various countries. Having a go-to concept for an ongoing series could be a solution for camera-shy family members. While his tips were helpful, for me they weren't as easily applicable.

Coming Up Next
Part 4 will explore whether or not this class improved my travel photography and come out after my return from Germany in October! As I embark on this mini-series, please feel comfortable in providing feedback through the comments section below, or through email. I’d love to hear from you. Definitely let me know if you’re interested in this type of content.


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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler