Jacob James: 6 tips for exciting travel photography
(August, 2017) - Having started as a photographer of ‘anything really’, Jacob James discovered travel photography some six years ago. It soon became his gateway to learning more about cultures and meeting interesting people. Today he is so enthusiastic about what travel photography offers him that he wants everyone to explore the world and make the best images they can. Consequently, he gives workshops and lectures around the world and you can even travel with him to learn on the spot (www.intrepidexposures. com). Start improving your travel pics right here and now by reading Jacob’s six tips.
#1 Get closer
If I weren’t a photographer I would still travel because to me exploring places and meeting people is my greatest passion. It is the human aspect that I find the most fascinating. So my first tip would be to get closer to people. I often travel with a local person who can speak the language, or I befriend someone while I’m somewhere to help me communicate with the people and to understand the area in which I’m travelling. Take an extra step to build up some kind of relationship with your subject, so that you can get beneath their skin. I think we generally pick up on other people’s emotions and feelings so you should approach people with confidence. If you show signs of nervousness, the chances are that the other person will feel uncom-fortable too. There is usually nothing really to be worried about because the worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn't want a particular photo to be taken. And even that is very rare: 99 per cent of the time people are friendly and happy for you to take their photograph.
The early morning sun in Song Kul, Kyrgyzstan, breaks through the roof of the yurt, creating a magical shaft of light through the cooking steam.
LUMIX GX8 with Leica 15mm f/1.7 shot at ISO 500 1/50 sec f/1.7
#2 Use burst mode
Stick a camera in front of people and they freeze; this is the same whether you’re in Mumbai or in London. Often when I shoot portraits of people, I shoot in burst mode. I hold my finger down on the shutter to take multiple images in one go and usually the third, fourth or fifth image into the sequence is the best. Generally, there is a split second between when your subject thinks the picture is being taken and when the next will come. In that moment, they relax a tiny bit and that’s when you’ll capture the best facial expression, the best look for people.
#3 Be creative
A lot of people go into a situation, take one or two images and then leave. In my experience, my best images were often taken after I got the image I thought I wanted. You go into a situation with an idea, capture the idea and then creatively you kind of relax. That’s when I start experimenting with the composition, try out different things and usually that is when the better image is made. Work the theme, keep shooting, do more than you think you need to do. Play around, be creative, try something different.
As the sun set behind the church in Breb, Maramures, the golden light began to glisten through the smoke rising from the village houses.
LUMIX GX7 with LUMIX 35-100mm f/2.8 shot at ISO 200 1/640 sec f/5.6
A bad subject with good light generally results in a better image than a good subject with bad light. I find the light to be definitely more important than the subject. It is when you have them both together that you can take a striking image. The kind of light you need depends on what you want to shoot. A lot of people suggest photographing at sunrise or sunset, which I think is good for a certain kind of beautiful image. But if you for instance want to photograph miners or other people doing rough work, you could choose to do it in the middle of the day. The harsh light will then reflect the subject matter. There is no such thing as good or bad light; it is whether it is right for the situation.
Colour and light are probably the two most important elements. With complementary colours like blues and oranges, or greens and reds, you can add contrast to an image. While shooting in India, I took a portrait of an elderly Indian man wearing an orange turban against a blue wall. The orange and blue had a very strong contrast. On the other hand, you can use similar colours, like browns and oranges, if you want to concentrate on the light. Light or colour can add contrast and a different direction to your image. I think understanding how colours work together can lead to more interesting images.
Travel and cultural documentary photographer Jacob James has a passion for new cultures and experiences. His work centres on capturing the human aspect of life for people across the globe and has been published in well-known magazines and photography journals.