The best way to record trip memories you’ll be proud to share is by using pictures to create a coherent story. This article will help you develop a clear idea of the highlights of your trip and which of them are best to share, be it an online gallery, a slideshow or a photo book.
Many trips involve visiting scenic landscapes, which require normal or wide-angle lenses. This shot was taken with a 30mm lens on a camera with a M4/3 sensor, using an aperture of f/11 to optimise depth of field. The tiny figures of people on top of the central rock adds a sense of scale.
Choosing an appropriate sharing medium will dictate the format you’ll use and roughly how many images you need to cover the trip. Images shared in photo books require much higher resolution than those shared online.
Settle on your sharing method before leaving home. This will let you decide what types of pictures you’ll record and how you will manage them while you’re on the go.
If you’re returning to a place that’s familiar you’ll have some idea of what to photograph and masking decisions will be easier than if you’re going somewhere new. Most trips take you to particular destinations and involve specific activities so you should be able to predict most situations you’re likely to encounter
Techniques for story-telling
There are lots of ways to tell a story with pictures. Simply taking a photo of a person in a particular context can be enough to tell a story. Well-chosen portraits can also tell a powerful story.
This portrait of a Maori performer was taken at dusk with a telephoto lens. The blurred background isolates the subject, whose expression and motion convey passionate involvement, which is the visual ‘story’ for this event.
Sometimes you need a sequence of shots to capture a period of time during which something interesting occurs. This could be as simple as showing activities at, say, a market or ceremony; recording an action sequence or revealing different views of a single subject.
Three frames from a series of 44 shots taken within an eight minute period while watching a pair of your male Oryx battle in the South African Kalahari region. The camera was in single-shot mode; not continuous shooting.
Sports action is often best captured with the camera’s continuous shooting mode. This mode can also be useful for photographing wildlife, particularly birds in flight. However, fast burst rates will produce many shots, which are often very similar. It can take time to select the relevant ones. Burst shooting can also consume a lot of memory.
Movies can be powerful story-telling tools, particularly when you want to record subjects in motion or document craft activities. They can also be a good way to encompass very large subjects, since you can pan the camera across the scene as well as up or down to add a sense of scale.
Most cameras will allow you to shoot stills in JPEG format while recording movie clips. Some will impose the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a HD movie clip but others will let you record stills independently with a pre-selected aspect ratio.
Movies provide a great way to document an action sequence like this black-backed jackal drinking at a waterhole. Still frames can be grabbed from movie clips and integrated into slideshows that will be shared online or shown on HD TV sets.
Slideshows are a great way to present travel photos and most cameras include a slideshow playback option. However, most photographers prefer to edit their shots before compiling a slideshow and save them either as JPEGs, in PDF format or as PowerPoint presentations. JPEGs are easiest to playback on TV screens.
With more cameras able to record HD movie clips, an increasing number of photographers will want to shoot movies as part of their total image portfolios. Determining the appropriate balance between what you record as a movie and what as a still picture is very much a personal matter, although there are ways in which you can do both simultaneously.
Most cameras that can record 4K video allow you to select and save individual movie frames as JPEG files. Although the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) standard for 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160 pixels, most cameras record at a ‘consumer 4K’ resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which equates to 8.3-megapixel frames. You need a fast memory card to support 4K movie recording (see Section 4 for details).
A still frame extracted from a 4K time-lapse movie, recorded at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This 8.3-megapixel image is printable on an A3 sheet of paper at a quality that would be as good as a regular JPEG still image.
Cameras that don’t support either form of 4K video, will normally offer Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) movie recording, which equates to just over two megapixels per frame. If you can ‘grab’ frames from these movies, their resolution is high enough for posting on social networks, although not high enough to make prints larger than snapshot size.
Most cameras that can record still images at higher resolution if the shutter button is pressed during a movie recording will apply the same 16:9 aspect ratio as used for movie capture. A ‘break’ of up to a second (or slightly more) usually occurs in the recorded footage. This needs to be edited out when you’re assembling the ‘final cut’.
Cameras with electronic viewfinders (EVFs), such as some CSCs and fixed-lens digicams, are easier to use than DSLRs because you can record movies while looking through the viewfinder. With a DSLR, composing shots on the monitor screen provides the only way to see what is being recorded, since the optical viewfinder can’t display what the sensor is recording. In bright conditions, monitors are often very difficult to ‘read’, resulting in ‘point-and-guess’ shooting in live view mode.
The following tips will help you take photos that tell a story:
1. Look for things that will engage people’s attention.
Photographs containing people are always interesting. This example shows a mother and daughters collecting mushrooms in a national park forest north of Helsinki in Finland. It is one in a sequence of 10 shots taken with permission from the main subject.
2. Take a sequence of shots ““ at least five or six. You may not use them all but having several different viewpoints to choose from enables you to pick the one that best represents your intention. And, if you want to display a sequence, the shots are in the bag!
3. Shoot some close-ups. Few travellers think of doing this, yet they can result in intriguing and memorable images.
Close-ups add variety to your image collections and provide a more intimate view of the places you visit. This large piece of amber containing a trapped lizard was photographed in a shop window in Talinn, Estonia, one of the leading sources of amber in the world.
4. Vary the angles of view and shooting positions you use when photographing popular tourist destinations and be prepared to walk away from carparks and lookouts so you don’t get the same shots as everyone else.
A different view of the much-photographed Machu Picchu, showing the terraces on the slope leading up to the ancient Inca city with the cloud-draped mountain behind it. Most photographs are taken looking down on the ruins.
5. Wherever possible, avoid shooting landscapes in the middle of the day. Get up early for the sunrise and arrive in time for sunset. The hours surrounding these times have the most attractive lighting and can produce interesting shots for your portfolio, even from popular viewpoints.
This early morning view over a harbour shows how warmer colours can appear a little after the sun has risen. It can be safe to shoot directly into the sun when it is partly obscured by cloud.
Article by Margaret Brown – see Margaret’s photography pocket guides