The Enthusiast's Guide to Travel: Working around uncontrollable conditions — 2 of 2 North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
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Rocky Nook

The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel: Working around uncontrollable conditions, part two

Sometimes all your planning will go to hell — continued. Part 1 was about dealing hoards of tourists. Now, on to nature.

Bad Weather

Nasty weather for being out and about can still be beautiful weather for photographing. I travel with rain gear for myself and my camera, so I won’t be tempted to hide indoors when things get sloppy. I’ve shot in heavy rain and massive snow, and both conditions resulted in incredible photographic opportunities. Plus, you’re less likely to fight crowds if the weather is particularly gross. Trips to tropical locations can feel particularly wasted in bad weather. My first instinct on a rainy Caribbean day is to hide inside with a book, but, as they say, fortune favors the brave. I’ve had great luck with the dramatic skies of heavy storms in the tropics. Dark, ominous clouds can still yield great, contrasty light, and fast shutter speeds help capture the violence of strong waves crashing on rocks. Nighttime long exposures can pick up some serious lightning off the coast. Puddles can result in amazing perspectives through repetition and reflection.

A fast-moving storm front over Lake Nicaragua lit up beautifully as the sun set. Ometepe, Nicaragua ISO 1250; 1/160 sec.; f/5.0; 18mm
A fast-moving storm front over Lake Nicaragua lit up beautifully as the sunset. Ometepe, Nicaragua
1/160 sec. f/5.0 ISO 1250 18mm

On one trip to the British Virgin Islands, a continuous, uninteresting drizzle made a day of shooting seem pointless, but through a little exploration, and by driving to a higher altitude, I found an atmospheric sweet spot—a rare, tropical fog befitting a fairy tale (Figure 12.6). I’ve visited the same spot many times, and I’ve never seen it that way again. So get used to the idea of being physically uncomfortable for a little while, prep your camera for wet conditions, and capture the rare atmosphere bad weather brings.

North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands ISO 400; 1/100 sec.; f/8.0; 30mm
North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands 1/100 sec. f/8.0 ISO 400 30mm

Boring Light

"Constitution

Uninteresting lighting can be one of the more difficult conditions to work around. Uniformly overcast skies yield flat, boring light for traditional landscapes. Rather than resorting to Photoshop sky swapping, I like to shift my subject matter slightly to accommodate the light. Even lighting from an overcast day can be perfect for shooting in woods (fewer hotspots and deep shadows) or portraiture (even lighting is quite flattering). Instead of shooting the overall scene, I like to focus on the textures, patterns, and details when the light is boring. I had high hopes for a late afternoon shoot in the marshes of the Hudson River near Cold Spring, New York, but when I finally got through the woods to the boardwalks of the marsh, the day had grayed out considerably (Figure 12.7). Traditional vistas and landscapes were out. Instead, I focused on the colors below the horizon line.

Travel photography is hard work. This series of excerpts from “The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel Photography” by Jordana Wright is published by Rocky Nook.

See all of the great photographic skills books from Rocky Nook.

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