1. Head out on safari
For most people, an African safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Safaris usually include early morning and late afternoon game drives that catch animals at their most active (this is also when the light is at its golden best for photography). Keen photographers will bring a selection of lenses but the good news for everyone else is that modern point-and-shoot cameras can feature zoom lenses powerful enough to catch that lioness yawning in the distance, the eyeballs of a hippo peeking out of the water or that lilac-breasted roller perched high up in a tree. No zooming is required to catch the main attraction at Botswana’s Chobe National Park, home to an estimated 70,000 elephants. One other tip: try your best to avoid being squeezed into the middle seat of a safari vehicle. Rather, aim for a side seat with an unobstructed view.
2. Waddle over the ice
Sydney-based travel writer and photographer, David McGonigal, has travelled to Antarctica more than 100 times and taken countless photographs of the icy southern continent. He says: “The two photos you want to come home with from Antarctica are of penguins and of ice. The most likely great image of ice is either of a towering iceberg, preferably with dramatic lighting, or a close-up taken from a Zodiac cruise of an ethereal blue crack in an iceberg, preferably with icicles in the foreground. For penguins, put on a wide-angle lens, lie on a beach and wait for an inquisitive penguin to disregard the five-metre rule and waddle over to tower above you and, ideally, take a curious peck at your lens.”
3. See the northern lights
Melbourne’s Gina Milicia, a professional photographer, recently road-tripped around Iceland, capturing the cosmic light show known as the northern lights along the way. Her tips are to bring a good, sturdy tripod and a torch, which she says is “essential for stumbling around in the dark”. “But be mindful of other photographers and try to keep it dimmed so you don’t pollute their shots,” she says. “Allow your camera to get used to the cold before you start shooting. Set the ISO to 400 to 1000, and have the aperture wide open. Pre-focus on a light in the far distance and then switch the camera to manual focus. Start at a 15-second exposure and tweak up or down depending on how bright the lights are. A remote trigger, cable release or delayed shutter setting will minimise camera shake.” She also recommends keeping spare camera batteries in a coat pocket because freezing temperatures and long exposures drain battery power.
4. Australia’s Red Centre
Uluru’s colours change dramatically over the course of a day. At sunrise it could be deep purple; by sunset it’s that famous blazing red. Take photographs of the monolith from afar and from its base (there’s a 10km walking track around the rock). Remember that the local Anangu people ask visitors to respect their wishes, culture and law by not climbing Uluru. For something different, see Uluru from the hump of a camel (there are daily rides at a nearby farm). Don’t forget to explore other nearby formations: the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta also make for striking photographs.
5. Fifty shades of blue
Bora Bora just might be the world’s most beautiful island. The French Polynesian island’s lagoon is an astonishing shade of blue, the main island is draped in lush rainforest and the outer motus (or islets) feature glaring white sand. Oh – and the airport is on one of these motus, which means that a glamorous speedboat will whisk you and your luggage to your overwater bungalow. With such astounding natural beauty, no photographic tips or tricks are needed to capture Bora Bora in all its glory but one of the most photogenic tours is joining locals on an outrigger canoe to swim with sharks and stingrays.
6. Shifting sands
Epic sand dunes make great photos but require a little preparation. Firstly, don’t expect to change lenses as blowing sand can easily ruin a camera. Secondly, stretch those calf muscles before setting out because good dune photography requires strenuous walking. Think about whether you want footprints or pristine ripples before stepping onto a dune. Early morning or late afternoon light will cast strong shadows across the sand, creating great shapes, curves and lines. Practise sand-dune photography in places such as Queensland’s Moreton Island (there’s a spot called The Desert tucked into the island’s interior) before heading off to the epic sandscapes of Morocco or Namibia.
7. Cosmopolitan compositions
Many people feel inspired to pull out the camera only when they see a technicolour sunset, cute animals or a breathtaking landscape. Take a fresh look at your own everyday surroundings. Cities and towns offer great opportunities for urban photography. Practise your composition skills by trying for a new take on an overly familiar sight such as the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne’s Flinders Street station or Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Visit them at an unfamiliar hour (such as sunrise), try incorporating passers-by into the shot, use shadows to greater effect or photograph the icon in a reflection.
8. Capture India’s vibrant colours
Sydney professional photographer, Marco Del Grande, was in the midst of travelling around India taking photographs when he issued this advice. To best capture the country’s vibrant colours, he says, “firstly, try focusing on one subject that’s incredibly colourful in a sea of colour using a shallow depth of field so the result is beautiful colour without it looking too messy. Secondly, early morning or late afternoon light will give a more saturated look to the photographs.” He also advises that “when approaching people, I always smile and indicate I want to take a photo. If they say no, smile and walk away. I never thrust a camera in someone’s face because I want a picture. Also clasp your hands in prayer position and say ‘Namaste’, which is Hindi for hello. Ask or indicate that you want to take photographs. They might just move their head to one side, similar to a half-no in our culture. It’s actually a yes, especially if it’s accompanied by a smile.”
9. Take a peek underwater
Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are famous for birds – the blue-footed booby is on every souvenir T-shirt – but it’s also the place to bring an underwater camera. Most expedition cruises around the archipelago include daily snorkelling in the brisk equatorial waters where frolicking with the playful sea lions can be an unexpected highlight. Capture a sea lion’s big brown eyes and long whiskers with a few casual snaps on an underwater camera. Also bring a regular camera to snap the marine iguanas, giant tortoises and those famous finches that led Charles Darwin to rewrite man’s ideas on evolution.
10. Where every peak’s a postcard
Visitors are drawn to the Swiss Alps for their sheer beauty – but it can be easy for all mountain photographs to look the same. Try varying the composition: add a trekker or a cow in the frame to emphasis the sheer magnitude of the mountains. Focus on a wildflower in the foreground, leaving the background peaks out of focus. Wake up early to see the rising sun gild the peaks golden.
“Northern Lights” photo courtesy of Gina Milicia
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