How to Take Better Travel Photos: HDR Photography | What It Is and When to Use It

How to Take Better Travel Photos: HDR Photography | What It Is and When to Use It

HDR Photography, or High Dynamic Range Photography, is all the rage right now. With the advent of image-heavy social media platforms that call for eye-catching and dramatic photos (like Instagram and Pinterest), it isn’t any wonder why this artistic photography technique is even available on your iPhone. Not everyone loves HDR; some even argue that it’s more like digital imaging than real photography. I’m not going to take a position on the merit of HDR, but rather to explain more clearly what HDR Photography is, and when you should and definitely shouldn’t turn it on.   What is HDR Photography? Remember that lesson on the histogram when we talked about situations of high contrast? If you need to freshen your memory you can take a look back at my previous lessons on histograms and exposure. In brief, high contrast most often occurs when you have a very bright sky casting harsh shadows on the foreground. In situations like these, it can be difficult for your camera to get the exposure right—your photo will likely be too bright or too dark. Taking your photo using HDR can fix that though, ultimately allowing you to capture the details in the sky without making the foreground too dark. Here’s how it’s done: HDR photography uses a technique that involves combining multiple images into one. Basically your camera will take 3 photos at different exposures: one bright photo, one ‘normal’ photo and one dark photo. When the 3 photos are combined, the shadows will become brighter and the highlights become darker. The camera will take the three photos automatically by changing your shutter...
The Northern Lights — Everything You Need to Know About Seeing the Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights — Everything You Need to Know About Seeing the Aurora Borealis

When we first booked our plane tickets to Stockholm, we had no intention of making the journey up north to Lapland. To be completely honest, I don’t think we even knew where Lapland was. But when we learned that the Northern Lights were visible there through the start of April, there was no question about it—we were going to the Arctic. We soon discovered that there was a lot more to Lapland than just Aurora hunting, and we became captivated by the endless ski, snowmobile, dog sled, and snowshoe opportunities waiting for us. Traveling to this region would be a completely new adventure for us in every sense of the word. We were still secretly hoping that the impetus behind the trip—to see the lights—would be possible, but we also had to remind ourselves to be practical. There was a large chance that we wouldn’t see any Northern Lights during our two-week stay. February had been so cloudy that no one saw any lights for the entire month. There was just no way to know for sure.   In the end, we were extremely fortunate. Some nights were better than others, the lights colorfully dancing throughout the sky. Other nights we could only distinguish the lights from the clouds when we looked at the playback on the camera. But there was no question about it—we saw the Northern Lights.   Seeing the Aurora was in many ways a dream come true for us. But throughout the experience we learned a lot about what it’s really like to witness them. And spoiler alert: it’s not like the photos you’ve seen...
How To Take Better Travel Photos: The Exposure Triangle

How To Take Better Travel Photos: The Exposure Triangle

Grab your cameras folks—it’s time for another edition of How to Take Better Travel Photos! If you’re new to the series, check out our previous lessons here. (If you’ve forgotten what your histogram should look like, I especially recommend giving this one a read-through before continuing.) Today we’re going to go over what the exposure triangle is, its different parts, and how they affect your photos. These are the fundamentals to getting out of Auto. And let’s be honest, if you have that fancy DSLR, you really, really don’t want to be shooting on Auto all the time. So let’s get started! The Exposure Triangle The exposure triangle is composed of 3 parts: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Each of these corners of the triangle relate to light and how it enters and interacts with your camera. For the perfect histogram, these three variables need to be balanced. It keeps the triangle happy. It also means you always need to have all three elements in mind to compose the perfect image. So for example, if your shutter speed is extremely fast, the aperture and ISO will need to shift in order to balance your exposure triangle. Now, let’s break down the triangle: Shutter Speed Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open. Think of the shutter like the eye to your camera. The shutter speed is essentially how much time it takes for your camera’s eye to blink. So the faster your shutter speed, the less movement and light you’ll capture in your photos. Great for sports or pesky animals who just don’t want to say...
How To Take Better Travel Photos | Understanding the Histogram

How To Take Better Travel Photos | Understanding the Histogram

On the back of your camera there is a brilliant little graph that many first-time DSLR owners have no idea what to do with. It looks like this: Please excuse the quality of these images as I am photographing the LCD of my DSLR using an iPhone :-p This my friends is called the histogram and it is one of the most important tools a photographer can learn to use to assess what your camera has recorded. On DSLR cameras you can find the histogram while reviewing your images. On my Nikon 7100, I press playback and the up button to view the histogram along with some other details. Grab your cameras manual to figure out where yours is.   The histogram essentially shows you the data your camera has recorded from a particular image on a graph going from black to white. The left side of the graph shows pixels (the tiny dots that make up your image) of your photo that are completely black. The right side indicates completely white.   The “ideal” histogram (image graph) will be a bell curve with the most information in the center and less information on the edges toward complete black and white (left and right sides respectively). Of course the game changes when you’re shooting in low light, silhouettes, snowy scenes ect. so lets just stick to the basics for now. Avoid having your curve shift to the right or the left side; a bell curve is best.   Here are a couple examples:   This was a photo I took of staff at a hotel. The lobby was dimly...
How to Take Better Travel Photographs: Composition

How to Take Better Travel Photographs: Composition

There is a subtle difference between taking a picture and composing a photograph.   This tutorial is going to show you how to take bland, lifeless images and transform them into photographs that capture your viewer’s attention–because we all know you want to do more with your photos than just prove where it was you traveled. Tell a story. Inspire your viewer. Remember why it was you took the photo in the first place. And keep in mind, when it comes to photography, you’re really not ‘taking’ anything. You’re making art. 8 Tips To Composing Better Travel Photographs   1)   Find a subject When you’re traveling, you are completely immersed in the scene.  Your photographs, however, are a flat image that only show a fraction of the story. As a result, it’s important to focus on what makes a particular situation photogenic. Simplify the scene. Create a focal point. This is your subject. Take the following example: Image 1 This was a photo taken from our housesitting abode in Costa Rica. You probably find your eyes scanning the picture for something to look at, but there’s ‘nothing there’. It only shows a fraction of the spectacular view that greeted us from the kitchen, and it’s difficult to tell the grandeur of the landscape from the photo alone. Your brain likes to have something to focus on and then expand from. Here’s how I slightly changed my strategy on the mountain to add a subject. See what a difference that made? Now we have a subject, and as a result, dimension. To achieve this I decided to step back and add a bit...

How To Take Better Travel Photographs: Choosing a Camera

This is the first post in a new series: How To Take Better Travel Photographs. Recently I’ve received a lot of great feedback about my photography (thanks, guys!) with requests for tips and tricks on how anyone can take better travel photographs. Well, you ask…we answer! Even if you have no upcoming travel plans, you can still benefit from this series.    We’re going to kick things off with the most basic aspect of photography: choosing a camera. It can be a daunting task, but I’m going to help you narrow down your options and find a camera that’s right for you. Let’s get started!   Mobile Devices You probably already have a camera that you carry around with you everyday. I’m talking about your smart phone. Surprisingly enough, these pocket-sized cameras may be all you need (depending upon your photography goals). There is an amazing Flickr pool dedicated solely to iPhone photos, and looking at those masterpieces sometimes makes me want to chuck my big complicated DSLR out the window. Photography is about creating a powerful image, which a phone is more than capable of doing, hassle-free. But if you want to take your photography to the next level, then you’re going to want something with a little more flexibility and customization that a mobile device just can’t provide…yet.   Point-and-shoot Honestly, if you are looking to buy a new camera, a point-and-shoot isn’t going to be much of an upgrade from your smart phone. Sure it’s got more zoom and better picture quality than your phone, but the quality and affordability of today’s DSLR cameras makes point-and-shoot...