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Two perspectives on travel photography


The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Two perspectives on travel photography

I travel a lot, sometimes it's for fun, sometimes it's work related. But I find myself in a lot of different towns, a lot of different places. You'd think that as a photographer that means wow it's just one shooting opportunity after another. And it is, it's just I don't always take advantage of it. How many times have you experienced this thing you, you, find yourself in a new town, and you've got your camera with you, but you're dealing with your car and you're checking into your hotel, and you're doing whatever business you have to do. And then you're getting your car back and you're trying to find parking and you're driving around and you're paying tolls and you're doing all this stuff and you realize, wow, I didn't take any pictures.
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  1. 6m 8s
    1. Pulling stills from a timelapse NEW
      6m 8s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 12h 10m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 56s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s
    79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
      4m 54s
    80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
      7m 16s
    81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
      2m 16s
    82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
      11m 19s
    83. Working with hair in post
      3m 28s
    84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
      5m 50s
    85. Getting inspired through the work of others
      11m 22s
    86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
      4m 21s
    87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
      3m 3s
    88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
      5m 38s
    89. Shooting stills from a drone
      6m 57s
    90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
      8m 0s
    91. Understanding lens profile correction
      5m 33s
    92. Working with models
      2m 40s
    93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
      10m 32s
    94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
      6m 18s
    95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
      3m 24s
    96. Tips for shooting panoramas
      7m 16s
    97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
      4m 44s
    98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
      5m 35s
    99. Evaluating camera-strap options
      4m 42s
    100. The 100th Practicing Photographer
      3m 31s
    101. Using light-pollution maps for planning night shoots
      3m 26s
    102. Shooting a series of star shots for a stack
      8m 32s
    103. Stitching together stacks of stars
      8m 59s
    104. Understanding how to clean sensor dust
      10m 27s
    105. Dry sensor cleaning
      6m 23s
    106. Cleaning the sensor with moisture
      7m 32s
    107. Composing in the center
      2m 48s
    108. Working with an electronic shutter control
      2m 50s
    109. Understanding how to use the Wi-Fi feature in some cameras
      2m 56s
    110. Exploring the software equivalent to graduated ND (neutral density) filters
      7m 8s
    111. Don't be predictable in your framing
      10m 21s
    112. Shooting with ND filter and flash to balance subject and background exposure
      2m 42s
    113. Understanding when to go low contrast
      3m 15s
    114. Reasons for shooting images alone
      4m 5s
    115. Working with colored lens filters and converting to black and white
      14m 4s
    116. Waiting for a subject when the light is good
      5m 2s
    117. Understanding options for tripod heads
      7m 23s
    118. Shooting a slow-shutter zoom-and-spin shot for light effect
      4m 47s
    119. Shooting and processing a long exposure at night
      10m 0s
    120. Getting creative with image curation
      4m 12s
    121. Why equivalent lenses don't always meter the same
      5m 42s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
12h 18m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Aug 27, 2015

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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Two perspectives on travel photography

I travel a lot, sometimes it's for fun, sometimes it's work related. But I find myself in a lot of different towns, a lot of different places. You'd think that as a photographer that means wow it's just one shooting opportunity after another. And it is, it's just I don't always take advantage of it. How many times have you experienced this thing you, you, find yourself in a new town, and you've got your camera with you, but you're dealing with your car and you're checking into your hotel, and you're doing whatever business you have to do. And then you're getting your car back and you're trying to find parking and you're driving around and you're paying tolls and you're doing all this stuff and you realize, wow, I didn't take any pictures.

That happens to me a lot. And, just earlier today, my friend Troy Word and I were driving around. Troy is a great photographer. Predominantly a portrait and fashion photographer. And we were out in Southwestern Oklahoma. We'd had breakfast in a small town and left, and we hadn't taken any pictures. We realize, you know, we ought to go back and shoot. And this came out, largely Troy, because you had seen a waitress at the restaurant that you thought you wanted to shoot. So, you really were on a mission. I wasn't so much.

>> When we came back to this town, it was the middle of the day, the light was lousy, and we really had this idea that well, we're going to come outta here with some pictures. So Troy, I want to talk to you first about, about your approach. We both got out of the car, but you already had an idea. You were going to go find this waitress. I was just in an existential photographic haze. But What did you do? What, first of all why did this waitress catch your eye? >> Well it it's, it's interesting here. I think there's, a real, beauty to the people in this area of Oklahoma.

I, it's really difficult to describe because I feel like it's different than other parts of Oklahoma. And it's just, a very simple, unselfconscious prairie beauty you know, that people have down here. So, it was you know we had breakfast and she just had this sort of like, you know, I don't know, just a very simple unfussy beauty about her. And, I thought she'd be an interesting portrait subject. Plus this location is just fantastic, it's like, you know, a Hollywood movie set, or you know the dusty Oklahoma town, you know, diner, hamburger joint, you know.

She's the proverbial waitress, and you know, hamburger joint in Oklahoma. So it was the perfect situation, so. That was my mission. >> Now, most people are terrified by the idea of walking up to a total stranger and asking to take their picture. I think there's also, an additional gender thing going on. If you're a man walking up and asking a woman to take your picture. You're worried about, is she, think I'm being a creep or whatever. You don't seem to have those concerns. Did you, had you sensed something in her, or would you do this with anybody? >> Not at all. You never know what the reaction's going to get.

The key is to just be smiling, open, friendly, you know, I mean it is intimidating. I find it intimidating, because I think photographers in general, we tend to like, to hide behind our instrument which is the camera, we like to look at the world through, you know, that one point of view, and in a way, that's our barrier to the world. So in these situations, you have to get past the camera and really go interact with people. >> Hey, how are you? >> Good. Thank you. >> I'm Troy. >> Dana, nice to meet you. >> Dana, how are you? >> Good.

>> I'm here in town and I'm doing some pictures of some of the people here in Mangum. >> Okay. >> And I think this place is amazing and I was wondering if it be possible that I could shoot your portrait. >> Absolutely. Yeah. Sure. >> Alright, great. I love the way that the hamburger shop looks right outside. Would you. >> We do it right out from here? >> Yeah, would you mind coming out with me to do that? >> Sure, let's go. >> All right, great. >> The inside of that restaurant is very interesting. You pulled her outside. >> Yeah. There's, you know, just this, sort of, lunch counter area that just looks like it's from 1935, you know.

And I just love, there's so few locations like this, anymore, that aren't constructed for a movie set. I just thought it was extraordinary. I mean, we could have shot inside as well. It would have been a completely different feel to the images. It would have been much darker, you know, much moodier. But I just love this bright light, and it just sort of really lit up her face. She had, you know, a really beautiful, open face, and we had this beautiful fill light coming from underneath, almost like if we were in a studio, you know. Sort of filling with these broad sources of light which always really make people just look amazing, because you get all this light bouncing back off of them.

And, and it's, it's a really luminous look. >> Now you were getting that fill light from a reflector? >> No it was coming off of the street. >> Oh just coming off the street? Oh great, okay. >> And you know obviously I think in a real world situation, where you don't have reflectors and you don't have light modifiers, you have to find these locations and think about that. You know, the street was great because it was a neutral reflector. It put beautiful, white light into her eyes and opened up her face. If that was a green lawn it probably would've been horrible. >> Yeah. >> Because it would have put all this green, you know, reflected in, so.

We were shooting black and white you know, it wouldn't have affected that situation. But I think you have to look for these spots where you have this sort of magical kind of light. And if the light's very high, it's usually some sort of overhang, with some sort of. >> Okay, with reflected light. >> Yeah, reflected fill light coming in. And it can be really quite, quite stunning. It's a beautiful way to do portraits. >> Now you were shooting black and white. If you had been shooting color, would you have made the same choice for a location? >> I don't know. I might have tended to shoot inside, because you know, everything is so bright and sun bleached out there, it might not have really read quite as dramatically on color, but the black and whites sort of intense, intensifies and it adds to this sort of nostalgic feel.

You know it, except for the modern t shirt she had on, I mean it could have been a picture from 1935, you know, and you know that, you have to think about that as well. You know, when you're shooting color, black and white, when you're shooting film obviously. Digitally, every picture basically is a color picture, you just manipulate it to black and white. >> If, if what attracted you to her as a subject was her lack of self consciousness, now you've put her in front of a camera, what do you do to keep her from going into her head and becoming self conscious? >> You, I mean, I think you have to be a little mini-psychologist.

You have to sort of feel out your subject and see what they're going to respond to or not respond to, I mean. >> Did you do that before the process of shooting, or during? >> Yeah, yeah. You know, just talk. Talk about the weather. Talk about where you from? You know I mean, there's a lot of things that you can do to just sort of, like. You know, it such an uncomfortable process being photographed and you know, the more you can sort of let the subject forget all of the mechanisms of taking the picture, I always think, the better. The only other thing that is really important is like making sure that first picture looks great, because if you can create that amazing image the first time then you have them.

You know, then they'll do whatever you want. You know, this is particularly true with celebrities you know that I've learned. It's like, doesn't matter if that's the way your going to do what you intend on doing, just make sure the first picture looks amazing. If the first picture looks amazing, then you have them, because everybody wants beautiful pictures. >> It keeps their confidence up. >> Yeah. I mean, they're confident. I mean, you know. It's, it is. I mean, people are very self-conscious, and, of course that's what I loved about the people of Mangum. They seem completely unselfconscious. >> If you were shooting digital, would you be showing her images as you went along? >> Would you show her images any time? >> I prefer not to show images but sometimes it's a confidence building thing.

You know? Because I think everybody, you know the thing I've learned shooting a lot of models, no matter how beautiful someone is there's something they hate about themselves and it's the only thing they see. >> It's the way their bridge of their nose, there's a bump, or there's a tiny, you know crook to the edge of their mouth, and that's what they obsess with. That's the only thing they see in an image. I mean it would be interesting to see an illustration of what it looks like when they look at the picture. It's like. >> The size of the bump. >> Everything blurry except for the bump on their nose. It's like, you know, so you know, I find it's better not to show your subject the picture, because they're going to change their performance.

What you're trying to do is get a certain look, out of the subject. They may be fighting you because they say well, I'm only good from the right side, so they're only going to give you that angle. So you know, it's, do it if you have to, but if you don't have to, why do it, because it's, it's more likely to create a problem than it is to to help the session. >> So once you were shooting her, did you give her any direction or anything or did you just let her lead? >> Yeah. Part of the, you know, the problem with this really strong light when you're in a diffused situation like that is, there's still really strong light that they're looking at, so it's very difficult to open eyes.

>> And then she's squinting. >> Yeah, so the first couple of frames in fact, with polaroids, we pulled she was blinking or, or the eyes were closed. So I, you know, one of the techniques I used is just, get in position, relax, close your eyes completely, on the count of three, just open your eyes. And usually, that'll work. If you can get them in a relaxed state, close their eyes, and literally all they're doing is opening their eyes. Usually you can get one or two frames off that'll just be that moment you want, you know, because you're just trying to get that moment of you know, I don't know what it is.

You know, some connection with the subject through the eyes. >> They're not blinded when they open their eyes back up into the light? >> They are eventually, but you can get two or three frames, you know. >> Yeah. All we care about is our pictures, right? >> Right. >> She's seeing spots the rest of the day. >> Yeah. >> You got great stuff. Were you pleased? I think they look great. >> Yeah, yeah. I mean I, it was exactly what I kind of envisioned. It was sort of a portrait of this sort of you know, proverbial diner and this proverbial waitress in rural Oklahoma. It's you know, it was great. >> That's great. And this is a very easy thing for you to get out of the car with an idea to do.

>> Yeah. >> Even if you haven't already spotted the waitress. Say, wow I like that diner. I'm going to go see if someone in there will, will give me a portrait. It's a really nice way of coming out of a location you've never been in and weren't expecting to shoot in with a picture. I went the opposite direction. I decided, all right. I'm just going to wander around town and see what I can find, and I, I think I made a decision at the beginning of, I'm not expecting to find anything, which doesn't mean, and so there's a happy ending where I find something. It means that the goal is no longer about getting a picture, its just about practice. And I tried to settle into that, so I shot, first I was just seeing shadows and cracks in the sidewalk and textury things and so I shot those.

And then I found these weird dolls in a window in plastic bags that were kind of creepy. And just all sorts of weird little small town things. I think the, I think the trick is to understand that you don't always, and maybe this is true even if you're going to go shoot a portrait of someone, you don't always have to go out going, all right, I must come back with a good picture. A musician doesn't pick up their instrument and every time say, I must perfectly play this concerto. They know there is value in simply practicing and simply playing. And it was good for me to, after a day of driving, and not really being in a shooting space, to go right.

I need to go reattach myself to shooting, and, and remind myself of that. Do you feel that sometimes even with portrait stuff, that not every portrait always comes back a winner? >> No, of course. I mean, you know, I mean I wish it was true, that everyone was a winner. But it's not, you know. I mean, because you're also dealing with human beings, you know, I mean sometimes they're in a bad mood or you know. Either you're or they're affected by their emotions. Of course, you can use that. >> Right. >> Depending on you know, my favorite picture, I think, of Marilyn Monroe ever is the Avedon where she just looks incredibly sad.

You know? And I'm sure that wasn't the intention but it just happened and it's like. You know sadness can be incredibly powerful too depending on, you know, what you're looking for. >> What you're going for, yeah. I think it's tricky as photographers because we produce what always appear to be finished perfect results even if they're flawed and so. It's really easy to go, well, I've got all these bad pictures. Remember, it's okay to just be practicing. It's okay to just be trying things. So I would challenge you, get in your car and head out to some small town you've never been in before and try either one of these approaches.

Troy got out of the car with a really directed idea of going and getting a portrait. Doesn't have to be a portrait, you could say, I'm going to go take pictures of dogs or fire hydrants or whatever. Give yourself some kind of focus just to narrow down the complexity of the world. Or, get out and go, heh, I don't know, I'm not feeling anything. I'm just going to go shoot and I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just here to practice. And I think either one of those approaches might get you out of your head a little bit, and get you more back into the seeing space that makes for good photos.

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