This advice from Henry Carroll's new book will help budding travel photographers take better shots
Published: Monday 20th February 2017
1. Softly, softly
The flat light of an overcast day makes images feel 'quieter'
It’s as if that split arrow is the road’s only defence against the advancing desert. Inch by inch, year by year, the sands of time are determined to reclaim the landscape and erase man’s efforts to tarmac the terrain. In this photograph Philippe Chancel makes use of flat light to cast an air of subdued indifference over the situation. Without the dramatic contrast caused by bright highlights and dark shadows everything seems slower and more contemplative. Here, the light suggests the passive inevitability of time.
Philippe Chancel, Untitled from the series 'Desert Spirit – Dubai 2007-11'
2. High and mighty
An elevated point of view physically and emotionally separates you from the world
Massimo Vitali is well accustomed to the realities of Mediterranean beaches. People flock to the chalky white sands and clear blue waters only to find that their beach paradise is more densely populated than the city they're trying to escape. Vitali often photographs these overcrowded playgrounds from the top of a scaffold tower that he builds in the water. This elevated point of view creates order and allows him, and us, to make sense of the scene in its entirety. Here it means that the juxtaposition of the power station and the beach is impossible for us to ignore. Yet, from ground level, the bathers’ understanding of the environment is limited to the bronzed bodies immediately surrounding them.
Massimo Vitali, 'Rosinano Culona', 1995
3. Morning Glory
The golden hour occurs a few moments after sunrise or before sunset
Landscape photographers are early risers. They are attracted to the rising sun, with its golden-hour hues and texture-defining shadows. It’s a distinctive light, which radiates a comforting sense of well-being. And there’s more. A misty morning will imbue your pictures with atmosphere. This heightens depth, as far-off subjects fade away into the distance. Oh, and one final thing. The light is always best just before the ‘official’ sunrise. So to make the most of your gift from the golden hour, arrive half an hour early.
Harry Cory Wright, 'Journey Through the British Isles'. June 2006
4. In the mix
When you are part of the scene, so is the viewer
Meyerowitz’s style is unlike traditional street photography, which tends to home in on a singular subject. For him, people and place are inseparable, and here both elements share equal importance within the frame. When photographing cities, the transient flow of people is as much a part of the environment as the more permanent features. So rather than pretend the people don’t exist, choose your spot carefully and make them an integral part of your composition.
Joel Meyerowitz, New York City, 1976
5. Solid foundations
Let your eyes find the right spot
Shulman’s position draws out the lines in the scene, which lead us into the image to create a kind of visual narrative. In the foreground the lines of a sun lounger lead us up to the house. Even the placement of the cushion acts like a discreet pointed finger. Then the architecture guides us inwards to the women, before the canopy escorts us outwards again, along the boulevards of Los Angeles, all the way to the horizon. From the foreground to the background, always look for the leading lines. They can be subtle or overt, but without an underlying structure to your composition, the viewer will be lost.
Julius Shulman, Case Study House #22, Pierre Koenig, Architect, Los Angeles, 1960
6. Right here, right now
Fast shutter speeds arrest time and arrest attention
Photography duo Floto + Warner use non-toxic coloured liquids to inject an element of spontaneous beauty into the lifeless landscape of the Nevada Desert. With photography, what goes up does not have to come down. When frozen with a fast shutter speed of around 1/3200, the green liquid appears solid and organic, like some peculiar cactus growing out of the desert floor. This abstract oddity, impossible to discern with the naked eye, is something only made visible through the magic of photography.
Floto + Warner, Green, from the series Colourant, 2014
7. The human touch
Including people in your composition radically alters the viewer's relationship to a place
19th-century geological surveyor William Henry Jackson would often use people in his photographs to communicate scale, but that wasn’t all. Their presence also manipulated his audience’s perception of the landscape. People are political, so it’s important to think about what they are doing, who they are and how much space they are occupying in the frame. These two men are tiny in Jackson’s composition, but they are placed dead centre. Like the indelible legacy of exploitation they left on the American West, these harbingers of change are impossible to ignore.
William Henry Jackson, Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, 1883
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If dimly lit landscapes and awkwardly cropped close-ups are ruining your Instagram, never fear – Henry Carroll's new book, Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs of Places, does exactly what it says on the tin. And what a tin it is.
Arming you with a little technical know-how and the secrets behind some of the most staggering travel photos in the history of, well, travel photography, you'll be snapping killer city scenes and shimmering shots of salt flats faster than you can say 'cheese'.
Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs of Places, by Henry Carroll is out now, laurenceking.com