Travel Photography Guru | Travel & Landscape & Portrait Photography
The Travel Photography Guru Blog is a fantastic resource for amateur and enthusiast photographers alike. Glenn Guy, the author and primary content producer, updates the blog most days with informative and inspirational articles on travel, landscape, portrait, architectural and night photography. The idea is to inspire and to help you make ever better photographs.
Red Square is an amazing place, particularly at night. I made this picture with the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral just behind me and to my right. The walls to the Kremlin are clearly evident on the left side of the photo.
I spent hours in Red Square. It was packed with a steady throng of tourists moving through the space. I included them in some photos and lifted my tripod up to exclude them in others.
In this case I position myself behind a temporary barrier so as not to have any people walking in front of the camera when I made the photo.
The vibrant colors of major Moscow landmarks, close to Red Square, by night.
Behold! The Dynamic Duo Of Light And Color
Light and Color are intractably bound together. However, to reveal the color of your subject you must light it.
There are several reasons, other than the iconic nature of the structures themselves, why Red Square is such an incredible place for night photography.
Many of the buildings and structures around the square are illuminated.
The light brings out the color, shape and texture of those structures.
The structures are, by their nature, colorful. The onion shaped domes of St. Basils Cathedral, for example, feature green, yellow and blue hues.
An exterior view of the magnificent St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow at night.
Making Great Photos at Night
The key to great night photography is to ensure that you are photographing interesting subject matter that is well lit.
To take this notion a step further, try not to think so much about the building in question, but about the light that illuminates it and what that light reveals. For example:
The composition (e.g., color, shape and texture) that’s inherent to the structure
The story that building propagates about power, majesty, state or religion
The vestiges of Russian power, both historical and contemporary, are clearly evident in Red Square. Rich in history and iconography it’s an amazing place to visit and to photograph.
A striking black and white photo featuring a classic view of city living, as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France.
Paris would have to be the most beautiful mega city I've yet visited. Churches, public buildings and palaces provide great subject matter for tourist and architectural photographers alike.
There is so much to see that the opportunities for photography seem, almost, endless. Paris really is one of those places where it would be good to spend 3-4 months exploring, documenting and expanding one's perspective.
I say that because travel isn’t just about where you go and what you see, but who you meet along the road.
Paris is incredible because it seems, somehow, to exist outside of time. The city is full of nostalgia and romance, yet it’s a very busy city with millions of inhabitants.
These local folk must go about their life, with the same dreams and desires, in much the same way most other folks do in other parts of the world.
The fact is that, with all the important religious and public buildings in Paris, there also has to be somewhere for people to live.
I wonder if we think about that when we make our photos.
A rooftop view towards the Sacre Coeur Basilica on Montmarte in Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe.
Your Photos Are Embedded with Memories And Meaning
The photo at the top of this post was made from atop the Arc de Triomphe looking down on what I assume are a group of apartments.
It's so different to my own background growing up in a small town in southeastern Australia.
The term the 3/4 acre block, while rarely the size of the actual house and land package, came to symbolize the aspirations of most Australian couples who grew up in a house, owned by their parents, with a decent sized front and back yard.
Things have changed and that dream is no longer possible for many, particularly folks living in major Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
Thank goodness for the Tiny House trend, which I’ve been following with interest for several years.
Wonderfully detailed statues high up on the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
An Unusual Perspective Brings Perspective
The view from atop the Arc de Triomphe is fantastic, providing a 360 degree birds eye view of the surrounding area.
The buildings and architectural elements shown in these pictures are beautiful and talk to the history of this iconic city.
I love the geometric layout of the buildings and the humor in the above photo of the headless bishop.
Life in Paris is so very different from my own upbringing, most of which was spent in a small weatherboard housing commission home in the country.
We were fortunate to be able to move to a beautiful home with a lovely garden when I was seventeen years of age. But I left that existence when I moved to Melbourne for a formal education in photography long ago.
It seems to me now that city living is, by it’s very nature, a place where space is a state of mind.
An action photo of a worker watering a plant outside a railway station in Kolkata, India.
Photography can be split into a range of genres, one of which is people photography. But there are so many ways to photograph people that it's sometimes necessary to break up that genre into a series of sub-genres which I’II outline below.
The Candid Photo | A Definition
I’d describe a candid photo as an image where the subject appears unaware that they are being photographed.
But, as is so often the case in artistic pursuits, it’s perception rather than fact that matters most.
The photo of the worker watering some plants outside a railway station in Kolkata, India was made without his knowledge. I almost never make photos of people without permission but, in this case, I saw what was about to happen, raised my camera and made the photo.
Whenever I’m doing any kind of street photography I’m constantly adjusting my camera according to the light (i.e., exposure), look (i.e., Depth Of Field) and feel (i.e., controlling movement) required.
I have made plenty of so-called candid images where the subject is aware that they’re being photographed. Therefore the notion of candid is somewhat fluid.
Photos have a truth unto themselves.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru
It’s because of this that I’m able to say that what matters most is the final image, not the facts that determine how it was made.
Excitement is evident on the faces of passengers as they jet boat around the harbour in Geelong, Australia.
The Action Photo Made By Freezing Action
To freeze action in a photo you need to combine subject movement with an appropriate Shutter Speed to achieve the desired result.
In the case of the photo of the fast moving jet boat I used a Shutter Speed of 1/5000 second to freeze the action.
The crowd moves silently through the spectacular Red Square in Moscow, Russia on a balmy summer evening flanked by the magnificence of St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin.
The Action Photo Made With Creative Blur
But suspending subjects in time is only one way to explore motion. Sometimes the most evocative movement based images make use of a very slow Shutter Speed to explore movement in unexpected and visually dynamic ways.
The image of the crowd moving silently through the spectacular Red Square in Moscow, Russia was the ideal solution for me to cope with a large bunch of people getting between me and what I wanted to photograph.
The 20 second exposure meant that, while still registering in the image, the people became fluid and, almost, ghost like as they moved through Red Square during the long exposure.
The duality between stationary and moving subjects is central to the success of this image. I have no doubt that the final result is far more evocative than would have been the case if everything in the image was recorded sharp and clearly defined.
A young Balinese woman standing against a wall in rural Bali, Indonesia.
How To Photograph A Classic Formal Portrait
Formal portraits require particular attention to detail. Generally the subject is illuminated with pleasing light and most often photographed looking directly into the lens.
Lens focal lengths in the telephoto range are often favored for formal portraits for the following reasons:
Tele lenses thin the face.
Tele lenses foreshorten the nose.
Tele lenses make it easier to separate the subject from their surroundings.
There are many examples of formal portraits including the following:
Head and shoulder as well as half and full length compositions.
Photographs consisting of an individual, a couple or group.
Photos that are made under direction or by working in collaboration with the photographer.
Photos that utilize either natural or artificial light and, on occasions, a combination of the two.
Portrait of a shopkeeper in his tiny, colorful shop in Kolkata, India.
The Environmental Portrait
The Environment Portrait is made in such a way where the subject appears in an environment to which they seem to belong.
There’s quite a specific recipe for making great Environmental Portraits. Like anything that’s worthwhile it takes practice to master this recipe but, by doing so, you will have a way by which your photos stand out from the rest of the pack.
Photography Genres | What's in a Name?
While on one hand tagging a photo as an environmental portrait might be considered irrelevant by some, the term is part of photography's vocabulary and, as such, can help to describe the differences between one kind of photo and the next.
By being able to deconstruct a photo you'll have a better understanding of how it was made. As a result you're that much closer to producing a similar image yourself.
A young man looks out towards Half Moon Bay from the cliffs above the beach.
Learning By Deconstructing A Photo
The photo directly above was made at the beautiful Half Moon Bay in suburban Melbourne. It's a lovely location, particularly around sunset when the sandstone cliff face is bathed in warm light.
A word of caution to enthusiastic photographers. The terrain is fragile, so please avoid climbing on or walking too close to the cliff face. Let's all stay safe and help preserve this lovely location for generations to come.
The question is, by using the criteria I’ve outlined in this post, how would you classify the above photo?
Is it a Candid Portrait?
It may well look that way.
However, not only is the young guy aware that he’s being photographed, I also suggested where I’d like him to sit and asked him to turn his head away from the camera.
Is it an Action Photo?
Is it a Formal Portrait?
Because it’s such a highly directed image some might call it a Formal Portrait.
But our subject’s face is so small in the frame that I’d say the photo is at least as much about the environment as it is about him.
Is it an Environmental Portrait?
I suppose you could classify the above photo as an Environmental Portrait. He’s carrying his camera and he does seem quite content in that environment.
But his face is so small in the frame that it’s not all that easy to recognize his identity. The balance between the subject and the environment in which their depicted has to be right and I just don’t believe you can call it a portrait when the face appears so small in the frame.
So where does it fit in people based photography?
Call it whatever you like. The fact is it appears to have elements of an Environmental Portrait and a Candid. This is common, which is why some photos are a little hard to classify.
Personally I’d refer to it as a general people photo. I know I haven’t listed that as a sub category of people photography, but I think it should be defined as such.
Just in case you’re confused take a look at the black and white image directly below. It’s a good example of an Environmental Portrait.
The subject is easily identifiable, because her face is relatively large in the frame. What’s more I’ve moved her off centre so that she doesn’t obscure the environment in which she’s been depicted.
Under normal circumstances, when asking a subject to turn their head away from the camera, I'd ensure there was more space on the side of the frame into which they're facing.
You can achieve this simply by taking a step to one side which will have the effect of moving your subject away from the centre of the frame.
Incidentally, if you were to place your subject much closer to the edge of the frame, to which they are facing, you'd create an image with much more visual tension. Think about a photo that talks to the lack of hope a prisoner in a detention centre might feel.
In the case of the color image of the young guy on the sandstone cliff I was happy to place him quite central, at least on the left/right axis, as it adds a slight tension to what is otherwise a straightforward portrait.
I have my own reasons for doing this which, on this rare occasion, I’m not able to discuss here.
What I can say is that portraits are landscapes of a kind and photographs can explore the landscape of the mind, whether it be that of the photographer or of the subject.
Of course composition doesn't end with subject placement. You'll notice a range of contrasts within the scene. There's the warm orange of the cliff face against the cool blue of the sky and the contrast between inanimate rock and the human form.
You might also notice other differences and similarities between the cliff and sky. One is textured and the other smooth. But it's interesting that the texture in the rock is referred to, albeit subtly, in the clouds.
As Above So Below
Landscape and human, sky and rock, air and earth, above and below. Talk about similarities and differences.
The notion of duality exists in many of my photos. It’s a fascinating theme and one you might want to explore in your own photography.
The Travel Photography Guru, Glenn Guy, and friends surrounded by prayer flags over looking Leh, Ladakh.
This photo shows me and some travel buddies surrounded by Buddhist prayer flags over looking Leh, the capital of Ladakh, in northern India.
The photo was made, way back in 1988, with a Canon F-1 camera. That’s a 35 mm film based camera which, back then, was the top of the line in the Canon stable.
What's Your Comfort Zone?
The weather is about to heat up in Melbourne, Australia. It’s going to get to 34C today and, I believe, 37C tomorrow. What's more I’II be suffering through it with a really nasty sinus infection that I’ve had for 9 days.
It’s no wonder that, at times like this, I think of travel.
This was my very first trip, which took me to Hong Kong, China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Thailand.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip was the time I spent in Ladakh (Land Of The Passes) on the Tibetan plateau in the far north of India.
The guesthouse I was staying at cost just a couple bucks a night. An old granny would bake flat bread for breakfast, on an ancient stove, which you'd smear with home made apricot jam.
The jam was made from fruit from the nearby Nubra Valley which borders Pakistan and China. Back then, foreign tourists were not permitted to visit the Nubra Valley. I understand that’s no longer the case.
Glenn Guy, the owner and primary content producer of the Travel Photography Guru site, on an early expedition to Pangong Tso (i.e., Pangong Lake) in Ladakh in northern India.
The Best Bread And Jam You Can Imagine
Prior to breakfast I'd be out and about making photos, most of which were ruined due to both camera and (film) processing related issues.
The photo at the top of this post is one of the few that survived. It features me (I'm the one in green) and some friends I’d met (in Kashmir, I think) during my travels.
Glenn Guy, the Travel Photography Guru, unpacking the jeep prior to another automotive repair on the road to Pangong Tso, Ladakh, India back in the early 90's.
A Morning Shower With a Difference
After breakfast we'd line up for a shower. It was rustic to say the least. The water, coming directly from snow melt from the surrounding mountains, was carted by hand by an old granny from an outlet several blocks away.
She was well into her 60's, but was as tough as old boots. She'd carry the water in a large metal jerry can, secured with rope around her shoulders.
You just knew she'd be able to chew you up and spit you out again without raising a sweat. She most certainly had my respect.
As the water was poured into a large 44 gallon drum on top of the shower block the idea was to delay the shower for as long as possible, without waiting for the day's water to run out, in the hope that it would be heated by the sun's rays.
It probably did take the edge off, but boy oh boy was it cold. Talk about a bracing experience. I never got out of that shower without a headache.
It was a little like the one you'd get as a kid after eating ice cream too fast. But rather than a sharp pain in the forehead, this one was concentrated around the skull with the rest of the body encased in a dull ache.
Needless to say I would have forgone my morning shower if I’d known how the water had to be carried, over an old woman’s back, to that rather medieval showering arrangement.
As it was I didn’t discover the facts until near the end of my stay. Though, when I did, the fact that she used to stare through a crack in the door while I took my (quite) long shower started to make sense.
For years afterwards I used to spend the last few minutes of my daily shower, even in winter time, under cold water in the hope that it would help me acclimatize to those horrible Himalayan shower experiences.
It never did, though I'd like to think it was still beneficial. And I returned to Ladakh several times over the following years.
I have many great memories from my first overseas trip in 1988. It's true to say that it changed my life. After the initial disappointment associated with losing most of my photos I determined to return again next year, which I did. And I've kept travelling, whenever I can, ever since.
Photography hasn't just recorded my travel experiences, it's also informed and enhanced them. I can barely imagine travelling without my camera gear. Life would definitely be easier, but no where need as exciting or creative.
Looking up through the leafy canopy, towards the light, on Mount Tamborine, Queensland, Australia.
The above photo was made on Mount Tamborine in the hinterland region about an hour and a half drive from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
The scene was beautiful, but it was a bright, hot day and the light coming through the canopy was intense. Such light is, more often than not, the death of good landscape photography.
Experience told me that it was going to be tough to maintain detail in all but the lightest shadows.
You see under a dense canopy, on a bright day, shadows are going to fill up quite a bit of your composition resulting in a very high dynamic range between important highlight and shadow areas.
The challenge was to find a way to resolve some of those difficulties on the way to making a successful photograph.
Needless to say a bit of technique allowed me to produce an acceptable result and a reasonable representation of what was a fun exploration of the rainforest.
Photographing dappled light is fiendishly difficult due to the usually high contrast (i.e., high dynamic range) under which you’ll likely be working.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru
I achieved this by doing the following:
Exposing for the highlights which means I adjusted my camera’s light meter so that the bright leaves and ferns would record as very light tones, without burning out.
Given the high contrast conditions under which I was photographing I composed my photo around the sunlight leaves and ferns and allowed the darkest shadows to render as black and act to surround (i.e., frame) the illuminated plants.
Strong backlight illuminates tree ferns and foliage on Mount Tamborine, Queensland.
What Is Photography’s Most Important Mantra?
Rules were meant to be broken, right!
Well, that’s assuming you first know the rules; understand where they apply; and how and when you might go about breaking them to achieve the desired result.
I’ve been teaching photography for many years and there are a number of mantras I continually return to when providing folks with technical feedback. The first one on my list is as follows:
A close-up view of a backlit fern on Mount Tamborine in Queensland.
The Brighter The Light, The Darker The Shadows Will Photograph
Most people make most of their photos on bright, sunny days. It’s when we feel good and are more likely to be outside enjoying life.
Sadly, this kind of lighting is far from ideal when it comes to making good photos, particularly where people are involved.
You can do it, sometimes with brilliant results. But it's tough, particularly for folks who's approach to photograph is to say smile and then go click.
One of the difficulties folks experience, along their journey in photography, is to learn to predict how the camera will record the world.
No doubt the ability of camera sensors to more adequately record a scene of very high dynamic range will largely resolve the problem of photographing under high contrast conditions that has plagued photography from its inception.
Digital camera sensors are getting better all the time, but there's still a long way to go. It's most definitely a major area of research and development, now that megapixel count and high ISO noise performance has advanced so much.
Is Live View The Answer?
While live view and electronic viewfinders (i.e., EVF) don’t actually fix the problems associated with photographing under high levels of dynamic range, they can help us by providing a real time view of how the scene in question will photograph.
But it can be extremely difficult to properly access an image on an LCD screen when bright light is reflecting off it.
Mirrorless cameras are the best solution as you get a real time view of the image, in the camera's viewfinder, before you've actually make the photograph.
This allows you to adjust for exposure, contrast and white balance problems before releasing the camera's shutter.
With that extra certainty you can now concentrate more on composition and the emotive elements within the image which are, ultimately, the reason you make photos and what you audience connects with most of all.
I can remember checking out the quality of images, displayed in the camera's viewfinder, on a number of high end mirrorless cameras about 6 years ago.
They were rubbish, particularly under high contrast and very low light conditions. But that all changed and the experience of using a newer model mirrorless camera, as I do, is both fun and very empowering.
It can be a difficult concept to accept, particularly after you've spent a whole bunch of money on a brand new camera, but the fact is your camera records the world in a way that is, quite often, very different from the way you perceive it.
Put in the simplest of terms, you are human while your camera is a machine that's been manufactured (hardware) and programed (software) to record and render a subject or scene based upon a range of parameters to approximate what we see.
It's important to understand three critical limitations associated with your camera.
Colorful leaves submerged under flowing water on a waterfall on Mount Tamborine in Queensland, Australia.
Your camera has little or no concept of subject. It doesn't know whether you are photographing a bowling ball, a bar mitzvah or a birthday cake.
Because of the above your camera has difficultly accurately recording mostly light or dark toned subjects or scenes.
Thankfully many weddings feature brides and grooms wearing clothing of opposite brightnesses to each other. Photographed together the white dress and black suit average out as a mid tone which your camera will likely base its exposure upon.
Being brighter than a mid tone the wedding dress will record as a very light tone while the groom’s suit, which is darker than a mid tone, will photograph dark.
As long as there’s not a huge difference in brightness between the two, which you can achieve by photographing the bride and groom in the shade, you might get lucky with your exposure.
As a way of concentrating our attention, many cameras (mirrorless and DSLR alike) even warn us when areas within the image are going to be recorded as either black or burned out highlights.
Just be aware that you may need to turn those warnings on in your camera's menu.
Such warnings should prompt the photographer to take immediate, in camera action to reduce the scene brightness range within the frame to produce a more acceptable result.
And the easiest way to do that is to change your composition. Simply move your camera around to include mostly light or mostly dark areas to reduce contrast and achieve a more desirable result.
Over time you’ll begin to understand, intuitively, what can and cannot be photographed and you’ll begin to compose your photos, from the get go, with this in mind.
Water spurts out between rocks at a waterfall on Mount Tamborine in Queensland, Australia.
Paying Attention To Composition
Many of the scenes in this post are quite complex. That makes it hard for the viewer to quickly navigate their way into the photo and focus their attention on a particular focal point.
To help overcome this problem I made sure I focused my lens on an area within each image that was illuminated. I then framed the scene in such a way so that the area in question was positioned prominently within the frame.
By allowing the darker shadows (e.g., tree trunks, rocks) to record black I was then able to employ them as a compositional device (i.e., leading lines) to draw the eye towards the main focal point (i.e., point of interest) within each image.
Put simply: compose around light and allow the shadows to shape and frame the scene.
Consider, for example, the ferns in the photos near the top of this post. The fact that the majority of trees that surround those ferns are dark also helps lead the eye to our 'hero' ferns.
It may not be possible to make a truly great photo under such high contrast conditions. However, with a few simple techniques it’s possible to make interesting images that make sense of an otherwise overly complex and hard to photograph scene.
Good photography is rarely about photographing amazing scenes. More often than not it’s about making good pictures at interesting places that, for whatever reason, may be very hard to photograph.
This historic church in southern Iceland is depicted against a dramatic sky foretelling a coming storm.
Photographing In Iceland During The Summer
There I was in the middle of an Icelandic summer. Sitting just a little under the arctic circle summer in Iceland means long days with loads of time for extended photography sessions at sunset and sunrise.
There's plenty of time for travel, either along the nations Route One or, with an appropriate 4WD, up into the wilder and more remote Highlands.
This series of photos shows one of the stops I made on a long day of driving and adventure in the south of Iceland.
A graveyard, in lush fields, behind a church in rural Iceland.
It’s Okay To Start By Photographing the Obvious
The above photo was made at a historic church and traditional settlement bordering a working farm in the south of Iceland.
Just to the right of the church I made what was probably my favorite image from the trip featuring a sheep shelter on lush pasture surrounded by a lovely winding creek.
On the other side of the church was a tiny cemetery which I also photographed.
In a classic photo essay the above photo could be referred to as an opening image.
It’s a photo that introduces viewers to the location and provides enough information for them to want to go in closer and explore the environment, and those who inhabit it, in more detail.
A series of well preserved, grass topped traditional farm buidlings in southern Iceland.
Then Try To Move Beyond the Obvious
Can you imagine being there? The photo at the top of this post was made after approaching the site directly from the carpark.
But it's only natural that I'd want to wander around and explore the site further. And the same is true for the viewer.
The story remains largely untold with a simple opening image. All the more reason to make the effort, with legs and with camera, and have some fun telling the story in a more comprehensive and, possibly, more meaningful way.
The point is that, whether on assignment or holiday, it's important to move beyond the obvious. That's not to say you don't make obvious photos as they help place you and the viewer of your work in a particular place and time.
However, once you've made that photo, continue to explore the environment in a way that produces visually dynamic images. Here's just a few ideas for how you might go about doing so:
From a technical or craft point of view you could try the following:
Explore a worm's eye point of view by getting down low to the ground and photographing upwards.
Photographing from above can isolate the subject from its surroundings and allow you to explore notions of vulnerability remoteness and isolation.
A sheep, keeping an eye out, rests in a shelter in rural Iceland.
Utilize Your Full Range Of Lens Focal Lengths
Use wide-angle focal lengths to emphasize space and depth.
Try a telephoto focal length to explore texture and to visually separate the subject from its surroundings.
Tell The Story Through Scale
By placing people or objects within much larger surroundings the relative power between the subject of your photo and their environment can be explored.
A dramatic mountain backdrop dwarfs a tiny hamlet, set amidst lush pastures, in rural Iceland.
Make Use Of The Direction of The Light
To reveal the color and identity (e.g., location) of the subject or scene photograph with the sun behind you.
To produce a more dramatic image photograph side on to the light and allow shadows to help shape your subject and enhance mood.
For iconic images consider photographing into the light to place your subject into silhouette.
It's helpful if the dominant lines within your subject (e.g., dead tree in the landscape, pregnant mother) form a graphic shape.
In this case the image becomes less about a gum tree or the particular mother depicted and more about notions of drought or motherhood.
These simply techniques can help elevate your photos from simple documentation towards something far more evocative where message and meaning can be explored through symbolism and metaphor.
A distant sheep shelter in an extremely lush, well watered pasture in rural Iceland.
Color Or Black And White | What’s Most Appropriate?
This photo is the one made just off to one side of the church. The strong shape of the landscape, enhanced by the line of the creek, and the textural quality of the grasses made it a strong candidate for rendering into black and white.
It's become far more evocative than how it appeared in the original color version. Having taken on that timeless quality that we so often associate with black and white photos is perhaps its greatest strength.
The view from Teddy's Lookout down onto the St. George River, just outside of Lorne, along Australia's Great Ocean Road.
This photo, made from Teddy’s Lookout along Australia’s Great Ocean Road, is one of the oldest images in my portfolio. I guess it was made in the early 90’s.
Having originally printed it in the darkroom as a 16" x 16" print I decided to dig out an old and not terribly high quality scan made from the original color negative and put some life back into it on the desktop.
I plan to get a much better scan, providing a sharper and more highly detailed image, in the not too distant future.
It was a favorite image, back in the day, and I can still remember the thrill I experienced when making it.
Driving through the tourist town of Lorne, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, I headed for Teddy’s Lookout, a short drive from town.
It was the third time I’d visited the lookout in as many weeks. Despite the picturesque location, the first two visits were uninspiring. In each case the light was flat and the tide had come in too far for an interesting image.
I wanted desperately to make a good photo, so I returned for a third attempt.
It’s a 2-hour drive, each way, when the traffic is light.
It was not, a fact which contributed to my lack of success the first two times when I arrived at the lookout just as the light had begun to fade.
But I’m nothing if not determined and the scene that awaited me, during my third attempt, was indeed beautiful. This time the tide, unique viewpoint and light were all working in my favor.
The warm end of day light illuminated the sand and foliage, while the cool skylight reflected onto the surface of the road and water.
I just needed one other element to bring the image together in a cohesive manner.
I noticed a group of people exploring the shallow pools of water on the edge of the St. George River. I kept a close eye on them and waited, hoping they’d add a sense of cohesion and harmony to the image.
My efforts and perseverance were rewarded when the people came together to gather around a small, circular pool the shape of which had been emphasized by a stone being dropped into the water.
The image was made on a Hasselblad 500C camera and Hasselblad 150 mm f/4 Sonnar lens with Kodak Professional Ektacolor Gold 160 film.
I originally printed my own RA-4 color prints on Kodak Ektacolor Glossy Paper.
The spectacular Great Ocean Road offers a classic driving experience as illustrated here as the road passes over the St. George River near Lorne.
The second image from Teddy’s Lookout was made back in 2009 while running a landscape photography workshop along the Great Ocean Road.
I made the photo with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24 mm f/1.4 wide-angle lens.
The rectangular format of the sensor and the classic wide-angle focal length allowed me to make an image that better explored the sweeping hillsides and the snake-like nature of the road as it winds its way around the coast.
A heavy warm/cool split tone was applied to add mood and provide separation between the brighter sand and grass and the darker tones of the surrounding trees.
A ship, now no more than a rusting hulk, lies in a bay near the city of Ushuaia in the far south of Argentina. The orange color of the ship is illuminated by the gentle sunlight and is a striking contrast against the predominantly bluish light resulting from gathering storm clouds.
It’s a myth that rain-bearing clouds are grey. They are actually blue in color. This photo, made off the coast of Ushuaia at the very bottom of Argentina, proves this point.
Rainy days are not grey, they’re blue.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru
Now let’s examine the facts.
The Color of the Light Effects the Color of the Subject
The color of the foreground rocks and grass, as well as that of the rusting ship in the mid ground, look pretty much as you would expect them to.
That’s because they are lit with gentle sunlight, sometime between an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.
It’s during that relatively large window of the day that we can expect sunlight to be, more or less, neutral in color.
However, the distant mountains are shaded. They are not lit by the sun, but by the sky above.
The distant mountains are blue because they are reflecting light from the clouds above, many of which are blue in color.
The white clouds do not contain rain, the blue ones do.
Let me say that again, albeit in a different way.
Rain bearing clouds are not grey. They are bluish in color.
Wow! But why don’t most folks know this?
It’s because our eyes see the bluish color of those rain-bearing clouds, but our brain actually neutralizes (i.e., white balances) the color of the light coming through those clouds.
Ultimately, our brain doesn’t believe what we see (e.g., bluish clouds) so it does it’s best to render the world the way it thinks it’s supposed to look.
Our notion of reality is somewhat skewed and quite often has more to do with our state of mind and level of physical comfort at that particular time.
Early morning light at De la Estancia on the outskirts of Ushuaia, Argentina.
First Your Need To See The Color Of The Light
Have you ever been in a conversation when someone comments on the beauty of one of your photos and then asks, is that really what it was like?
That’s a difficult conversation once you understand the information I’m sharing with you. Given that, it’s probably best just to say yes.
However, the fact is that colors in our photos are effected by the color of the light which in turn is effected by the weather we find ourselves photographing under.
Understanding how to set the White Balance on your camera allows you to either correct the color of the light, so that things photograph the way you would expect them to or, alternatively, allow the color of the light to affect the mood of your image.
Depending upon the circumstances and the result I’m wanting to achieve I choose one or the other approach.
White Balance is a very powerful tool for the creative photographer. But don’t go looking to your camera’s instruction book for answers. Camera manufacturers do a very poor job, in my opinion, of explaining how best to set white balance on your camera.
The subject matter in the photo at the top of this post is interesting. It allowed me to explore the theme of environmental damage in an otherwise remote and relatively pristine environment.
I think it’s a beautiful image, but it’s a somewhat melancholy beauty.
However, this photo is also very much a study of color. It explores the color of certain subjects, the relationship of those colors with each other and the variation in the color of the light across the landscape.
And who said you can’t approach topics of concern in a creative and picturesque way?
My view is if you want to engage your audience, even with potentially difficult themes or concepts, you need to do so through beauty.
I’m suddenly remembering some of those famous photos from the Vietnam War (i.e., the American War). They were tragic, they were challenging and they were incredibly beautiful.
The duality between beauty and horror is the reason why people looked at those photos as intently as they did.
It’s also why those photos, after all these years, are remembered so vividly and still elicit such emotional responses.
A stand of trees in a forested area on the shores of the sea in Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina.
Color Elicits an Emotive Response
I think the image at the top of this post features an interesting interplay between the positive feelings we would usually associate with sunlight and the color orange, compared to the more melancholy feelings sometimes associated with the color blue.
There’s different ways by which we can perceive and photograph our world. Likewise, there are many ways by which we can enjoy photographs.
The more we look the more we are likely to find. And that’s a great reward for someone who looks that much more closely than the average Joseph or Josephine.
For example, I’ve added very subtle olive and yellow/orange hues (i.e., colors) to the above black and white image of a stand of trees by the sea in Tierra del Fuego National Park.
You may not be able to see those colors, because they’re so subtle. But their function is to gently shift the mood of the image and, with it, your emotional response to the photo.
Such things may be lost on the average computer screen. But in a gallery environment, or as a display print in your home, these gentle changes are very important to the success of the image.