Digital Masters: Travel Photography

Author: Bob Krist

Publisher: Lark Books (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as travel photography. Isn’t what the travel photographer does already covered by such genres as landscape, architectural and portrait photography, among other things?

Bob Krist obviously doesn’t think so. He’s been taking wonderful photographs during his travels and writing about travel photography for years. In his latest book he discusses the gear to use for travel photography; the workflow of a digital photographer on the road; the nature of light; composition; what he calls “moment” which seems to be the picture element that deals with exciting or interesting content; the use of flash; portraits; archiving and sharing; and survival tips. He even includes an afterward that stresses that exciting content is far more important than technique.

Krist emphasizes the importance of doing research before traveling so that one has some idea of subjects to photograph, and in the chapter on sharing he emphasizes the importance of planning the categories of shots one might want to capture. I was reminded that after at least one trip, I realized that, although I had some magnificent pictures, I had failed to capture a few images that would have allowed me to tie those pictures into a story.

His chapter on portraits emphasized the method of getting people to pose for the photographer rather then camera techniques, and included a discussion of tipping. I suspect that many travelers have missed good portraits because they didn’t know how to approach a possible subject.

Experienced photographers probably can skim much of this book. If you know how to take landscape, architectural and portrait photos there is not a lot you will learn about these subjects from Krist’s writing that will improve those skills (although his tips on protecting your equipment in far-off places may be helpful). On the other hand looking at his photographs may provide a wealth of ideas. The author’s images adorn every page, but often there is no explanation of the individual picture, although one can usually draw a connection between the text and the picture, Still, I would have liked a little technical data and often wondered where the picture had been taken.

For the inexperienced photographer, who expects to go on vacation and wants to get ready to capture more than just snapshots, and who doesn’t want to spend the time to read several books, the book may provide a needed boost. But, and Krist doesn’t say this, that individual should also spend time learning about his or her camera and actually taking pictures to see what needs to be learned. The middle of an exciting event in an exotic location is no time to find out that you don’t know how to use your flash.

The book is a curious blend of topics. For example, Krist spends time describing the differences between point-and-shot cameras and digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR’s), which is really a very fundamental issue, and then presumes the reader knows how to control depth-of-field. My guess is that anyone who knows about depth-of-field doesn’t need information about the advantages of DSLR’s over point-and-shoots. Similarly, he suggests using a graduated neutral density filter, without providing any further instruction, and then details what fill flash is. Some books are aimed at beginners and some at experienced photographers, and it’s probably a mistake to try to appeal to folks at both skill levels in a short book.

This book will provide a nice introduction and over-view for a person who plans to take a photographic vacation, but no one should think he or she is going to capture pictures like the author by reading just this one book.